Ecumen has received a $5 million gift from Debbie and Robert Cervenka of Duluth — the largest private gift in Ecumen’s 150-plus-year history.

“We are deeply grateful for the Cervenkas’ generosity and their belief in our mission to empower older adults to live richer and fuller lives,” said Ecumen President & CEO Kathryn Roberts. The Cervenkas’gift will be invested by Ecumen in its newly created Benevolence Fund and is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The Benevolence Fund will assist Ecumen residents who have exhausted their savings, helping them to stay in their Ecumen home and community, while continuing to provide all residents the highest quality care and services.

“Ecumen will spend the next several years ensuring the Benevolence Fund will be ready to meet the growing needs of older adults,” said Judy Blaseg, Ecumen’s Executive Vice President of Philanthropy. “The Cervenkas’ lead gift is a wonderful example of strategic giving.”

Debbie Cervenka serves on Ecumen’s board. Robert became a resident of Ecumen’s Lakeshore community in Duluth after a life-altering accident. [Their story is at this link.]

“Ecumen thinks outside the box,” Debbie Cervenka said in making the gift announcement. “As they did with Bob, they look at people as individuals, not as a number on a bed.” 

Larry Minnix, President and CEO of LeadingAge, the national trade association for senior services nonprofits, praised the Cervenkas, saying: “At a time when the number of economically vulnerable older people – especially women – is growing, and public programs are becoming tighter, philanthropy will make THE big different to countless seniors who need services they can’t afford and that the public programs will not pay for. Therefore, the $5 million gift is a philanthropic leadership example of what will be greatly need in the future by Ecumen and other organizations with a strong charitable mission. Debbie and Bob Cervenka should be praised for their generosity as well as their vision. And Ecumen should be praised for the type of organization that earns this type of generous support.”