Tom Vernon was born in Aiken, SC. He graduated from Davidson College, and he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina, School of Law in 1975. Tom was a highly respected attorney by his colleagues and his clients.

Tom was a devoted member of Trinity Cathedral for more than 25 years. He gave up his law practice to serve as the Canon for Administration for Trinity in 2002, and he provided the leadership for the building of the Trinity Mission and Ministry Center. Tom was a generous support of Trinity during his lifetime and had a major impact on the Trinity Bicentennial Restoration Campaign. He followed up with his bequest of his entire estate to Trinity. The South Courtyard is dedicated to his memory.

Tom continues to have a major impact on Trinity with funds dedicated to Christian Formation, Mission and Outreach, and Facilities. Perhaps the best-known program is the Vernon Scholars Program featured in the following article.
The Reverend Susan Blackburn Heath
The Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops Coordinator of Bishops’ Public Education Initiative

Anyone who knew Tom Vernon celebrates that part of his generous bequest to Trinity Cathedral provides the funds for the Vernon Scholars Program. In his lifetime, Tom taught high school Christian Education classes, chaperoned work trips to Camp Baskerville, anonymously donated to offset the costs of these trips, and prayed for the young people involved.
Tom was committed to being part of a community of faith that welcomes the questions and the energy of young adults while making sure they know their ideas and participation are essential to the vitality of the community. The Vernon Scholars Program, so named to honor Tom and his gift, contributes to that welcome.
The vision of the Vernon Scholars program is to build a bridge between the Cathedral and the University of South Carolina. We are all aware that USC is our neighbor and that Trinity is positioned to be the neighborhood church for students. We also know that while college is a time of great growth and exploration for students, this might not include connection to a community of faith without orchestration. Trinity wants to open the door for undergraduates to take part in this community. The Vernon Scholars Program is a creative and exciting way to do this.

Following an application process and interview, up to five students per year are invited to become Vernon Scholars. The Scholars are asked to make a commitment to take part in the life of the Cathedral during the academic year. Some do this by attending church. Others take part in some of the outreach or education offerings. They are asked to devote time to a project allowing them to explore an interest. Others devote the time to an avocation.

Each Scholar is given a no strings attached stipend. The hope is that this money will allow them to do something they would not have been able to do otherwise. Some make pilgrimages and mission trips, some devote their time to an interest instead of working a part-time job, others have come up with fascinating ways to try out an idea related to their studies. One project example was a Vernon Scholar who wanted to learn more about sacred music as well as teaching, directing, and managing choristers. The experience working with Dr. Jed Johnson, the Trinity Choir, and other
mentors was a major factor in his securing a job as Associate Director of Choristers at All Saints Episcopal Church in Phoenix.

Each Scholar is provided with a mentor group. The relationships developed in these groups may be the greatest impact of the program. The mentors are members of the Cathedral who agree to serve as hosts to an individual Scholar, helping him or her navigate this complex place. Groups meet monthly for dinner and conversation about something the Scholar wants to discuss. The conversations are wide ranging, often probing questions around vocation and call, a topic which is a key component of the program. Mentors offer their own experiences of discerning a call as well as feedback to the Scholar.

The mentor group is a sounding board and resource for the Scholar. Each group has a convener to keep things on track. Adults who serve as mentors are delighted to offer their insights and support to a young adult at a formative stage of life. The Scholars welcome a place to develop relationships with adults who care about them but do not have the role of a parent or boss or teacher. Bonds of friendship and fellowship are formed. To date, about thirty adult members of the congregation have served each year as mentors. Many will tell you it is one of the most rewarding things they have done in their time at Trinity. (Several people have served every year of the program.) This year three of the mentors are the adult children of people who have served as mentors in other years. Not only do mentors encourage an interesting young adult, but the monthly dinners also provide a place to know members of the Cathedral they might not have encountered otherwise. People give of themselves and are blessed in the process. The Vernon Scholars Program is one way we at Trinity keep the feast.
“My father was a Legacy Builder long before we gave it that name.”

Norah Grimball’s path to becoming a Trinity Legacy Builder began at an early age. She was entering the third grade when her father, Peyton Teague, accepted a position at the University of South Carolina and moved the family to Columbia and to what was then Trinity Episcopal Church. Her participation in the life of the church began immediately with the Children’s Choir despite the fact, she laughingly relates, that she couldn’t carry a tune!

Within a few years, following the example of her parents, Norah asked for her own pledge envelopes and began tithing her allowance. This became a habit that gave her much joy as she grew up at Trinity, continuing her involvement in many aspects of church life, including being pianist for the Sunday School worship service. Following her graduation from the University of South Carolina, Norah was married at Trinity and moved away from Columbia for a time.

Upon her return to Columbia in 1970, Norah immediately renewed her commitment to service by joining Trinity’s Altar Guild and went on to become involved in a variety of activities and service, including Eucharistic Minister, Senior Warden, Needlework Guild, and, most recently, the Trinity Recovery and Support Ministry. She encouraged her three children to be active in the life of the church, as well.

Norah said that, for a short period after becoming a single mom, she believed the tithe to be an unreachable goal; however, she soon realized that she had operated out of a fear rather than abundance mentality and successfully implemented a plan to get back to the tithe by increasing her pledge each year until she reached, and later surpassed, her goal. At the same time, Norah, like her father before her, became a Legacy Builder by naming Trinity in her will, a move that she says was effortless. “It’s very easy to include Trinity in your will, whether you are writing a new will or changing or adding a codicil to an existing one. All you have to do is pick up your phone and call an attorney.” Her bequest, along with others, helps to ensure future ministries of the Cathedral.

What Norah would like to convey to others is that “the more you participate and give, the more nourishment and joy you receive in your faith and in your life.” She wants to reassure people to “not be afraid that giving is going to leave them without.” Norah truly considers Trinity Cathedral to be her second home, and her faith community to be her extended family. “Trinity means so much to me – and it is a privilege to be a part of it all.
In our last edition of The Cornerstone, we provided information about using tax-deferred retirement plans and IRAs for charitable gifts after your death. This article will focus on making Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCDs) for charitable gifts during your lifetime.

QCDs are a unique tax strategy that allow individuals who are at least age 70½ and have Traditional and/or Inherited IRAs to distribute up to $100,000 per year directly from their IRA to a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with no federal income tax consequences. QCDs cannot be made to grant-making foundations, donor advised funds, or charitable gift annuities but gifts to other public charities are permitted.

Key Considerations
  • QCDs may satisfy all or part of your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) or exceed it.
  • If you are considering a QCD strategy and you have already taken your RMD for the year, that amount cannot be rolled back into your IRA with the idea to then have the distribution made payable to a charity. This is because the IRS considers the first dollars out of your IRA as your RMD and you cannot rollover an RMD.
  • However, if you still wish to take advantage of the QCD strategy, you can request a distribution, up to $100,000, from your IRA made payable to a qualifying nonprofit without any additional tax consequences.
  • QCDs are IRA distributions that would otherwise be taxable; therefore, this technique is most effective for non-Roth IRA distributions.
  • QCDs are not included in your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), so using this strategy can lower your income and may possibly decrease the tax you pay on your Social Security income. This may also have a positive effect on your taxes with regard to deductions, exemptions, and tax credits. Check with your tax advisor to determine how lowering your AGI may benefit you.
  • Although you cannot take a charitable deduction for a QCD, reducing your AGI may provide a better tax benefit. If you normally make donations to charities anyway, you may want to consider making those donations from your IRA using the QCD technique.
  • QCDs are generally not available from SEP or SIMPLE IRAs where contributions are still being made.
  • Remember that the financial institution will need to make the check payable directly from your IRA to a qualifying charity to have this strategy work for you. You may want to mail the check to the charity yourself, instead of your brokerage firm or bank mailing it, to ensure that the charity acknowledges the gift is from you.
  • QCDs require no special reporting by your IRA custodian; you will receive an IRS Form 1099-R for the distribution. Please provide this form to your tax advisor during tax preparation time.
  • I know many Trinity parishioners would welcome the opportunity to make a difference at our Cathedral. This is a unique tax strategy that could not only benefit you but would benefit the Trinity Foundation as well.
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