How we managed a $5.8M cheese plant estate gift
Community Foundation takes on unique challenge
By Curt Detjen
For the first time in the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region’s 33-year history, we were named the sole beneficiary of an operating business: a long-standing cheese manufacturer with 60 employees.
While we knew the Community Foundation wasn’t actively going into the cheese-making business, we wanted to be at our best to honor the final wishes of Wohlt Cheese owner and longtime area resident Marilynn Taylor. Our role needed to reflect the Community Foundation’s core values of integrity, respect and teamwork, which provides the basis of how we serve everyone.
Creating the best plan for selling the New London company would take significant wisdom and experience. We enlisted the expertise of foundation board members along with outside legal help to form a combined task force of 11 experts in 2017 to carry out the plan.
The team included two vital partners from Herrling Clark Law Firm who know the Foundation very well: Chuck Hartzheim, Taylor’s estate administrator, and Chuck Koehler, who administered the sale of Wohlt Cheese and its assets. They expertly managed the many details to maximize Taylor’s estate to support her philanthropy.
“I was honored to be part of this multi-talented team of current and former Community Foundation board members to guide this effort,” said another member of the team, John Hogerty, executive vice president and general counsel for Bergstrom Corporation. “We believe the end result accomplished our important objectives to honor Marilynn’s wishes.”
Taylor was a hands-on owner who ran her business independently doing many administrative and leadership duties herself. She considered her employees to be like family, so we made business sustainability a top priority.
As we’ve seen so often in our foundation’s history, it’s the right people showing up at the right time to do exactly the right thing
Not only did everyone bring incredible expertise and excellent judgment, they shared their valuable resources and network connections to carry out the purpose in a way very few others can do.
I’m overwhelmingly proud of this team that Taylor, for the most part, never met, and can only imagine what her reaction would be if she could see how well it worked out. She would be thrilled, no doubt. And we are too!
About Marilynn Taylor
Taylor died in 2017 at age 71. She was president of Wohlt Creamery LLC of New London, a manufacturer of processed cheeses and one of the 10 largest employers in the city.
Taylor left her entire business, including the building, equipment and care of her 60 employees, to her estate representative and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery purchased the business in August 2018, retaining all of the employees and keeping Wohlt Cheese intact.
The sale of the cheese processing business and manufacturing facility will net the Community Foundation an estimated $5.8 million, plus an additional $2.5 million in additional assets from Taylor.
Her gift established the Marilynn W. Taylor/Wohlt Cheese Fund within the Community Foundation, an endowment that will award grants forever to reflect the charitable interests of Taylor:
- Lawrence University (her alma mater) in Appleton, for scholarships awarded to students from northeast Wisconsin with preference given to students from New London, Weyauwega and Fremont.
- The communities of New London, Fremont and nearby townships for the purpose of fulfilling community needs and benefiting its residents.
The first grants will be distributed beginning July 2019.
Curt Detjen is president and CEO of Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.