Renz bequest seeded matching fund drive

Inspiration and $10,000 in seed money for the “Leap of Faith” fundraising campaign came from Lee Renz, a member of PEACE Lutheran Church in Grass Valley.

When she died in May 2014, Renz left a generous bequest to PEACE. In keeping with the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition of tithing – that is, giving a tenth of one’s earnings back to God – members of PEACE’s congregational council designated a portion of that bequest to Hospitality House and the Salvation Army’s Booth Family Center. In addition, church leaders wanted to challenge the larger community to double Renz’s gift of love.

We are awed and humbled to report that community members contributed $16,250 to “Leap of Faith”! All proceeds of the “Leap of Faith” campaign (minus a small transaction fee for online donations) will be shared equally by these two organizations to benefit homeless men, women and children in western Nevada County.

This campaign also will help fill a budget shortfall of $276,000, created by California lawmakers shifting federal grant money from rural to urban areas in fiscal 2016.

“She’d be all for this fundraiser,” said Renz’ long-time friend, Gail (Leitzel) Sherman, now living in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Daughter of immigrants

Renz was born in Illinois to Lithuanian immigrants. Her husband, William Renz, made a career in the United States Air Force. They built a house in Alta Sierra when the development was new.

“She loved the birds, raccoons and deer in her yard… and was interested in conservation,” Sherman said. Renz also had a dog of her own and supported the idea of a no-kill shelter.

Sherman described Renz as a “positive person” and “gracious hostess” who made a memorable chicken pate, offered a ready smile and enjoyed a good joke. She was elegant, educated, plain-spoken and kind.

And stylish.

“Lee always wore a hat to church,” added Myrna Heppe, of PEACE Lutheran Church, where Renz attended regularly in her later years. She wore bold jewelry of silver, turquoise and coral that she acquired during her many travels.  Her clothes in shades of orange and brown complemented her hair which, until her death at age 95, she kept a soft orange hue.

Tradition of church support

Renz would have been aware of PEACE’s long-standing support for Hospitality House and the Salvation Army’s Booth Family Center.

PEACE Lutheran Church was among the original congregations that offered its campus as an overnight refuge, and church members cooked meals at least once monthly in the church kitchen, when Hospitality House was a nomadic shelter from 2005 to 2013. Peace volunteers continue to organize and prepare meals for residents of Hospitality House’s permanent shelter, Utah’s Place, in Grass Valley.

Other PEACE organizations, including the Mission Endowment Fund and PEACE Lutheran Church Women, have donated at least $1,500 in recent years to the Booth Family Center, which houses families on their way from homelessness to stability.

PEACE members consider the guests of these organizations “our brothers and sisters,” said congregation President Perry Studt.

“The work of Hospitality House and Booth Family Center is now threatened by action of our state government,” Studt added. “Through a gracious gift from Lee Renz, and with our community’s help, we can help sustain this essential work.  It’s a small step, but it could lead us all down a much better path.”


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