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‘Santa Claus’ makes gift of grain: John & Shelley Thaemert

During the Christmas season, you may not recognize the usually clean-shaven John Thaemert as he grows a beard preparing to portray Santa Claus at a dozen or so celebrations. One thing that does stay the same during this season for John and his wife Shelley is a commitment of giving to their favorite charities.

John and Shelley prefer to support their favorite non-profit organizations by gifting grain. The transaction is relatively simple. Recently, John called the Kansas Wheat Commission Research Foundation (KWCRF) and asked that an account be set up at Cargill in Salina where he planned to deliver his grain from on-farm storage. Key to completing the in-kind contribution is that John did not sell the grain, rather he gifted the grain to the KWCRF at the delivery point by putting a selected number of bushels into an account held by the Foundation.

John is especially qualified to talk through the process of in-kind contributions as he is Vice President and a Trust Officer at Citizens State Bank and Trust Company in Ellsworth. The Bank also has branches in Lincoln, Delphos, Glasco and Minneapolis. John and Shelley live on and operate his family’s third-generation farm south of Sylvan Grove on Twin Creek. They grow wheat, grain sorghum, and soybeans with the help of hired man Steve Boor.

John and Shelley also own Precious Pals Preschool in Ellsworth where Shelley teaches. “It’s almost like being married to a rock star whenever we go somewhere here in Ellsworth with small children. They have ways of just mobbing her; she’ll be walking with children hanging onto each leg,” said John.

Besides utilizing in-kind gifting, John also encourages his clients to utilize their IRA Required Minimum Distribution as a tool for giving. Donors can give to the KWCRF and other public charities by taking advantage of the IRA gift rules made permanent in 2015. Now, on April 1 of the year a donor turns 70 ½ they must take a required minimum distribution from their IRA. If transferred directly to a public charity, donors are able to realize a tax savings. Donors should talk to their IRA custodian and tax advisor to donate using their Minimum Required Distribution. As in making an in-kind contribution, the funds must go directly from the IRA custodian to the public charity. The donor cannot take possession of the funds.

“A lot of people think it’s easier to take the distribution and write the check. It will affect your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), if you take the distribution. When you totally bypass that, you avoid those tax issues,” said John.

As a Trust Officer, John has been involved managing some endowments and foundations. “The neat thing about an endowment is that you can manage your assets and distribute money to support the work of a foundation. If money is invested wisely, you can continue to grow and payout annually,” says John.

“When you can become self-sufficient and self-funded, it’s a very good thing. I really think that is a goal that many charitable entities should have. I don’t know why, but in the past, it’s been the mind set of some charities to spend the money they raise right away. It doesn’t have to be spent right away.

“As federal funding of research declines, if we’re going to improve our crop, we’re going to have to do it ourselves,” says John. “I like to think we’re at the point that it’s our responsibility to make things happen.”

John and Shelley have two children, daughter Rachel and son James. John served as National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President in 2007-2008; Kansas Association of Wheat Growers (KAWG) President in 2001; and was a participant of the Kansas Agriculture Rural Leadership (KARL) Class I.