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The legacy of Lale Estes

Lale next to Marcel the Moose, which was funded by a grant from the T&T Family Foundation donor-advised fund.

Jun 01, 2022

 The Community Foundation of Abilene deeply misses a most familiar and beloved face, Lale Estes.

Lale was a longtime CFA fundholder who, while no longer physically on this earth, leaves an undeniably stellar legacy of compassion, kindness, and love for her Abilene community.

For decades, Lale and husband Dr. B.J. Estes supported a wide variety of charitable causes in Abilene through their multiple funds at CFA, notably the T&T Family Foundation Donor-Advised Fund, through which Lale made more than $2-million in grants to local nonprofits. Lale’s out-of-town family members established this fund specifically so that Lale could make grants each year to the Abilene causes she so dearly loved.

Lale especially had a heart for children and youth. She was a regular contributor to the Future Fund grant cycle—an annual grant opportunity for nonprofit programs supporting local kids—and loved to make grants from her donor-advised funds to support the applicants’ programs.

“I want to help the children get started in life in a good way…I want them all to be taken care of,” Lale stated in a 2018 CFA newsletter. “They’re little, innocent people learning, and we’re adults, and we ought to be taking care of them.”

Perhaps Lale’s most distinctive trait was her sincere humility. She consistently deflected public recognition for her philanthropy and always preferred the nonprofit beneficiaries be recognized for their great work.

To honor Lale for her milestone of making $2-million in grants through the T&T fund, the CFA team arranged a surprise gift presentation at the 2021 Children’s Art and Literacy Festival (CALF) donor dinner. It had to be a surprise, or we might never have gotten the chance to publicly thank her. We hope you’ve forgiven us, Lale.

While she was known for her love of children, Lale also silently supported many other causes in Abilene, including nonprofits serving people in need of food and shelter, the arts, educational programs, and others.

Lale and B.J. were Friends of the Community Foundation and were regulars at CFA’s annual Friends Breakfast. They were also members of CFA’s Legacy Society, which means they arranged to make a planned gift upon their passing, ensuring their charitable impact will last for years to come.

On one hand, it might seem that Abilene shines a little less brightly without Lale Estes here to ride the train at CALF, join the CFA team for a visit to the zoo, or light up a breakfast table with her southern charm. The truth is, our community actually shines more brightly than ever because of the immeasurable impact Lale made during her life and, through her inspiring legacy, will continue to make for many, many years to come.

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