Dollars from Heaven

seven oaks churchA local church received a gift that honored their members, their mission, and their beliefs.

Many dream of it. Some hope for it. Others may pray for it. “It” is the improbable phone call delivering news that a stranger has named you the sole beneficiary of a trust sufficient to retire all your debt.

Seven Oaks Church of Christ on Highway 97 in Mayfield was on the receiving end of just such a phone call in October of 2015.

The congregation had made a leap of faith in 2014, adding a 4,000-plus square foot educational annex to the existing church facility to allow for a growing congregation. Included in the project were two new canopies, LED parking lot lights, and other minor improvements bringing the total cost of the project to approximately $600,000. Through quarterly “Fifth Sunday” contributions, the debt had been reduced to $338,000 but was still costing the church about $1,000 per month in interest alone.

One phone call from Paducah Bank’s Melanie McNeill changed the entire financial situation of the church. Seven Oaks was the sole beneficiary of a trust valued at $367,000, enough to retire the church’s $338,000 debt. As Seven Oaks Minister Josh Ketchum communicated, “When we found out the amount of money, we were fully convinced in the providence of God.”

Asked if he felt the church had received pennies from heaven, Elder Don Sparks responded, “No, not pennies, dollars from heaven.”

The bequest was left to the church by Graves County native Elizabeth Allene Morris who was not a member of Seven Oaks Church and known by few in the church. Her nephew, Mike Mabry, describes his aunt as a strong-willed, independent woman with a sense of adventure which led her to California in the 1930’s where she spent most of her life.

Mabry fondly recalled, “My Aunt Allene had a good head for figures and probably saw something she liked about Seven Oaks Church.”

She created her will in 1994 which included a trust to go into effect at her death to benefit her sister, Estelle Seay. Paducah Bank became the trustee and was responsible for managing the funds and distributing designated principle and monthly payments to Seay for as long as she lived. At Seay’s death, the remaining value of the trust was to be paid out to the church. Seay was a member of Seven Oaks but had moved away years ago to be cared for by family. Like Mrs. Morris, few people in the church knew her.

Mabry, who lives in northern Kentucky, cared for his Aunt Estelle in her declining health and dealt with Paducah Bank in regard to the trust. He describes dealings with the Bank and Melanie McNeill in particular. “Melanie worked really well with us and was right on top of things. She made us feel comfortable, and we believed she always had the best interest of her client in mind. She always had time to talk to us, and I never felt that she was rushing me or trying to cut a conversation short.”

Seeing no obstacles in his remote dealings from outside the geographical region of Paducah Bank, he offered the ultimate compliment. “If I were in the position to establish a trust, it would be done through Paducah Bank.” Seven Oaks’ Josh Ketchum and Don Sparks remember Melanie McNeill’s response when they filled her in on the details of how the amount of the unexpected bequest related to the church debt. She said, “This is a God thing.”

Whether you consider it a God thing, providence of God, or a happy coincidence, it was made possible by a wise woman doing prudent estate planning with a local bank.