Couple embeds lessons of faith and giving into family life
It’s a non-stop adventure at Jesse and Jessica Nelson’s home in West St. Paul where school, sports, and activities fill the family calendar. With four children ages eight to 13, plus an infant born in December, combined with Jessica’s work as an attorney at Spencer Fane, LLP, their days are full — full of blessings they intentionally pay forward.
Sharing their financial gifts started as a conversation during the couple’s engagement. When they married, they developed a practice of giving together. Now, philanthropy is an important lesson they share with their children.
“We truly believe that what we’re given is not ours. It’s all God,” says Jesse, a stay-at-home dad. “He’s been very generous in providing for us, so we want to give back what we can.”
The couple volunteered separately with St. Paul’s Outreach during their undergraduate college years and later met while working for NET Ministries. Their deep Catholic faith, these ministry experiences, and lessons learned growing up instilled in them the importance of giving both their money and their time.
Members of the Church of St. Joseph in West St. Paul, the Nelsons learned about the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) through a friend. Because the family’s income comes in lump sums rather than recurring paychecks, they needed a creative option for tithing.
With CCF, they’re able to make one donation at the end of the year and wait to decide which specific causes to support over the next year. The couple also explored “bunching” last year by making two years’ worth of charitable contributions to exceed the standard deduction. Then, by itemizing deductions every other year, it may lead to tax savings over time.
“Working with CCF is a really great option if you want to streamline your charitable giving, take advantage of potential tax benefits, and maximize your giving dollars through prudent investing,” Jessica says.
They focus their giving on organizations that further the mission of the Church, like Food for the Poor, Sharing and Caring Hands, their parish, and other service groups.
The profound impact giving has on the global Church, and the importance of developing life-long habits early, drive the Nelsons to teach and show their children the importance of philanthropy.
“The goal with teaching our kids to practice it now is that charitable giving will become natural to them when they are out on their own,” Jessica says. “Even during times when finances are tight, if it becomes an engrained practice, you just continue to do it because it’s important.”
Their two oldest children receive an allowance, of which they allocate 10 percent to their parish or other organizations. As a family, they put their faith and generosity into practice by volunteering at Feed My Starving Children and Joseph’s Coat.
“If you have a heart for giving financially, it lends itself to a heart for giving of your time,” Jesse says.
They encourage other couples to adopt a spirit of giving long before establishing a career or having children, when other priorities quickly emerge. By taking that first step in faith, whether individually or through the help of CCF, they believe each couple’s financial sacrifices will ultimately translate into more joy and blessings.
And that’s what they work to show their children through their relationship with CCF: Acts of service and a trust that their needs will always be taken care of.
“God can’t be outdone in generosity.”