Trading new toys for God's work

Trading new toys for God's work

For the generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, few experiences can compare to memories of time spent behind the wheel of a cool car, alongside your best girl.

Car enthusiast L.J. “Van” Van Lancker still remembers the 1978 Camaro he was driving when he met his wife, Joan, at a Florida beach in 1985. Today the Ormond Beach couple enjoys a 1978 Corvette pace car, one of a limited edition designed in celebration of the classic muscle car’s 25th anniversary.

“I’m a car nut. Anything that looks sharp, I enjoy,” said Van.

The Van Lanckers are part of a generation that is coming to terms with a lesson learned over six decades of post-war prosperity marked by periods of severe economic decline: the things you have are a part of you, but they don’t define you.

“Toys are nice, and I enjoy them, but in the end, it doesn’t mean anything. I still enjoy them, but I know that when I am dead, they won’t mean anything.”

For Van, who worked in finance for General Electric, and Joan, a retired nurse, the first challenge came during the Alive in Christ Campaign at their parish, Prince of Peace. They had just made a donation to Father Lopez High School, and Van felt they had done enough. He wanted another car, but his pastor, Father William Zamborksy, wanted to build a new Social Services Ministry Center to house the parish’s thrift shop, food pantry, and case management services. He asked the Van Lanckers for a gift that would put that new car out of the budget. The couple chose to give a lesser amount than initially requested.

“When we made our pledge, I was still thinking ‘I deserve this and that,’” he admitted.

Then God planted second thoughts.

“We became more and more aware of the need. We saw how much good is done. Thousands of people are helped through the Social Services Ministry at Prince of Peace,” said Joan.

Van felt the same way. “We needed more space for the ministry. We have a food pantry, with food stored in classrooms. Families are reluctant to come for help because they have to line up in the hallways. They feel embarrassed.”

The Van Lanckers made the decision- not once but twice - to build their pledge into a larger gift, one that eventually surpassed their pastor’s original request.

“If your situation or your way of thinking changes and you have the opportunity to make a larger gift, you can always give more, and you can give more than once,” noted Joan.

After reviewing their options, they worked with the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, Inc. to set up a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA). An increasingly popular giving option, the CGA will provide the couple with lifetime income payments in exchange for a gift that will ultimately benefit the Social Services Ministry at Prince of Peace.

“We are doing something gratifying, something we feel is important, while also taking care of our own needs,” said Van. “Part of the reason we chose this method of giving is because it benefits Prince of Peace, and if something happens to me, I know my wife can count on this income stream.”

Happily posing with Joan in their beloved Corvette, Van isn’t reluctant to admit that while he still loves fast cars, the wisdom of time and prayer has permanently changed his thinking. These days he is just as happy to spend his free time volunteering for the Prince of Peace “Like New” Thrift Shop. The parish finished construction on the new Social Services Ministry Center in 2014, and the thrift shop has blossomed in its new home.

“I never did volunteer work before. That’s changed too. It is easy to write a check from your excess, but to give of your time and emotions is something more. I really feel good about this,” he said.

“When you decide to change what is most important in your life, you start giving back. This is what we want to leave behind. We don’t do without, but what’s most important to us is that our church prosper.”

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