As a pastor, “loving thy neighbor” was an integral part of the job for the Rev. Nancy Talbott of Wolfeboro. But for Nancy and her husband, Steve Cole, it’s also an amazingly generous way of life that has helped countless families.
Inspired by the giving spirit of Nancy’s parents, Jim and Billie Talbott, Steve established a fund in their name at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. He presented it to Nancy as a Christmas gift in 2012.
“It was the most amazing gift,” said Nancy, retired long-time pastor of the Congregational Church of North Barnstead. It’s a gift that continues helping those in need in New Hampshire and in Florida, where Nancy and Steve spend the winter.
Through the Jim and Billie Talbott Charitable Fund, they have helped clothe, house and feed families; helped children further their education or attend summer camp; enabled families to pay soaring utility bills; welcomed immigrants and refugees; sheltered families in crisis; provided COVID-19 relief; supported hurricane rebuilding; and provided for numerous childcare, youth and senior programs.
“There is a need around every corner,” Nancy said.
Before retiring, Steve owned E.D. Swett Contractors in Concord. After transferring ownership to employees, he and Nancy realized they could use their proceeds to help others.
“After a number of years, we came into having more money that we felt we really needed to get through life,” Steve said. “Then it occurred to me that putting some into a fund would help honor the memory of Nancy’s parents as well as being a great Christmas gift idea.”
Nancy and Steve also give their time and talent, building a personal connection to the organizations they support. Steve volunteers at a food pantry in Wolfeboro and Nancy helps with the Families in Transition Program. In Florida, both volunteer at a second-hand furniture store that supports their Florida church’s community ministries. Nancy also helps organize a two-day Celtic festival that attracts about 4,000 people and supports the church’s free after-school and summer day camp program.
“This is our retirement gig,” Nancy said. “But we don’t do much sitting by the pool. We are out in the community doing things, trying to be part of the fabric of the community… same thing in Wolfeboro.”
Through their volunteer work and church experience, Nancy and Steve see first-hand the kinds of challenges that sometimes make it difficult for their neighbors to thrive.
“We like to help organizations that are local to us and where our contributions make a difference, have a real impact,” said Steve, who particularly enjoys supporting summer camp programs because they had a positive impact on him as a child.
“I like to see kids have an opportunity to benefit from that,” he said.
Through the Talbott Fund, Nancy and Steve offer substantial support to their church in Florida and the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ to help programs such as food pantries, thrift shops and camps.
They search for new opportunities to help, sometimes designating surprise grants to organizations or pitching in when Foundation staff reach out with funding opportunities.
They complete each other’s sentences in explaining their generosity:
“If you’ve got more than you need,” Nancy began, “You should be sharing some of it,” Steve added.
Nancy and Steve had shared their generosity long before the Talbott Fund was established, but it offered more opportunities to provide even more help to others and for them to experience the extraordinary gift of giving.
“There is just deep joy in it,” Nancy said. “We are so blessed to be able to do this and the people — you can see the difference it makes.”
Nancy and Steve acknowledge the fund has made a difference in many lives, but say the organizations they support deserve the most credit.
“To have somebody say ‘Yes, we can help you,’ is a huge deal and that’s what these nonprofits are doing,” Nancy said. “They are there when you need them, providing shelter, food, utilities, helping people find a job, preparing resumes. It is so life-changing.”
Grants from the Talbott Fund generally are designated for unrestricted operating support, so nonprofits may use the support where it’s needed most.
“We trust them to do with it what they need to do with it,” Nancy said.
Making grants in the name of Nancy’s parents offers a level of privacy for Nancy and Steve, who donated anonymously for years. But they are happy to make organizations and other potential donors aware of the fund and the benefits of donating.
“Being private about giving doesn’t help others give,” she said.
And giving, for those who are able, Steve said, is very fulfilling.
“There is a lot of joy and satisfaction in being able to give and actually do it,” he said. “When you see how much good it does, you can say ‘I’m glad I spent that money for a place where it can do so much good instead of spending it on myself.’”