Sam and Betz Miller met when Sam worked in sales for West Publishing, and Betz worked as a cataloging librarian for a Bay Area library. Married for the past 31 years, Betz and Sam have loved making their home in Santa Rosa and, after retiring early, have spent the past few decades giving back to the community they love.
Betz explains that their drive to give springs from the values they gained through their faith: “While we grew up in different faiths, our approach to giving is complementary. We take care of the people around us first.”
Together, they prioritize giving to local causes close to their hearts, including support for organizations such as Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), the Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB), and the YWCA.
Sam adds that while he always had enough food on the table growing up, his parents—Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Russia—struggled to afford more than the bare necessities. “I remember getting help from charitable organizations when I was growing up,” he says.
Now, Sam shares their gratitude at being able to give back: “Our families are taken care of, and we didn’t have any children, but we see people suffering from homelessness, with housing—people are struggling to afford the cost of living here.”
To support their giving, opening a donor advised fund—and leaving a legacy gift to the Community Foundation—made sense to the Millers. Sam recalls first hearing about CFSC when he learned that a community member he admired had left a gift to the Foundation in his estate. Sam explains, “Hearing about that felt inspiring.” They began thinking about their estate plans, and Sam knew they would want to do something similar.
“It feels good to know that people here will continue to receive help from us, long after we can make gifts directly,” Sam shares.
TAILORED PHILANTHROPIC SUPPORT
Because they created their planned giving agreement long ago, it’s become time for them to re-visit their estate plan—a practice CFSC encourages donors to do from time to time.
In partnership with Kristin Nelson, their philanthropic advisor, they’ll have a chance to reflect on their values and the community’s needs to identify whether there are any specific organizations or issue areas they want to support.
CFSC also offers donors the opportunity to maximize their impact by giving alongside other donors to one of our Community Impact funds that target specific areas of need—such as our Foster Youth grants program.
In addition to their legacy giving plans, Sam and Betz have a donor advised fund with Community Foundation Sonoma County. They’ve come to rely on the personalized advice they receive from CFSC.
“In February, when things in Ukraine got worse, we immediately reached out to Kristin for support on where to give,” ” Betz shares.
Kristin wrote back quickly, offering a short list of organizations doing work in the region, tailored to their interests and giving history.
“It’s so helpful to know that I can trust Kristin to offer that support—and trust that I can rely on the advice she gives,” Betz shares.
HONORING THEIR LEGACIES
Betz and Sam bring a rich history to their lives in Sonoma County.
Betz grew up in a town outside of Pasadena, “it was tough for me to give up Dodger blue when I moved up to Northern California!” and is an avid hat collector, enjoying high-tea and social events of all occasions. After a career working in public libraries, Betz stays active by researching genealogy and participating in the Impact 100 Redwood Circle and her Quaker community.
Sam grew up in Los Angeles, the son of Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia and Ukraine. He grew up attending Dodgers games but quickly adopted the Giants and the Oakland A’s when he made Northern California his permanent home. Sam also enjoyed collecting baseball memorabilia—until it took over their home. “I’m selling it now!”
Sam and Betz share an inveterate love for socializing and entertaining and are avid travelers, enjoying opportunities to see the world beyond Sonoma County while always looking forward to coming home.
Thinking about their love for this community, Betz shares, “We like knowing that people will continue to be helped even past our time on Earth.”