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Lee and John Lamson (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

Lee and John Lamson (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

How an apartment building became health care, education…and more

Lee and John Lamson gave a building. The proceeds went into their donor-advised fund to support critical community needs

John and Lee Lamson took an apartment house and transformed it: into medical care for low-income families and ecology education on the Piscataqua River and services for homeless people on the Seacoast and education for children in Africa – and more.

It wasn’t magic. They gave the building – which they had bought and repaired – to the Charitable Foundation. The money from the sale went into their donor-advised fund at the Foundation, from which grants are being made regularly.

“Giving the house turned out to be very practical,” Lee said.

The couple started their fund originally with a gift of appreciated stock. The gift of the apartment building was a way for them to grow the fund and increase their giving. The federal charitable giving incentive meant that the full value of the building went into the Lamsons’ philanthropic fund to be given to charitable organizations. “I don’t feel like we lost any money,” John said. “The full appraised value all went into the donor-advised fund. It’s all in there doing good work now.”

The real estate sale went quickly, from appraisal to environmental study, and Lee said the entire process “was much easier than we expected.”

The apartments – which are within walking distance of downtown Portsmouth – were bought by a local business owner who is committed to maintaining them as affordable housing for working families.

The Lamsons live on the same land in Newington that John’s family bought right around the end of World War II (John’s father and grandfather both worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard). They returned to the Seacoast after their work in the Foreign Service brought them to postings in five different African and European countries. One of the New Hampshire-based charities to which they give is Rain for the Sahel and Sahara, founded by a friend of the Lamsons after she visited them when they were working in Niger. The organization provides education for children of nomadic tribes in the region.

The Lamsons have worked with the Foundation’s Jenifer Cannon to learn about a variety of giving opportunities – visiting local organizations and meeting with nonprofit directors.

“We don’t always know,” about the work that nonprofits are doing, Lee said. “Seeing them helps. There are so many things out there that deserve support.”

The Lamsons said it was clear that they could choose to spend down their fund or let it build for future giving. They “are not committed to having it last forever,” Lee said, and are enjoying giving now.

As they do, the apartment building continues to be converted into good works – in the Lamsons’ backyard and around the world.


The Charitable Foundation is committed to helping families achieve their philanthropic goals. For more information on how the Foundation can help, contact Laura Rauscher, Director of Philanthropy, at 800-464-6641 ext. 274 or ynhen.enhfpure@aups.bet.