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VOL. 8 | NO. 24 | Saturday, June 6, 2015

Local Wealth Managers Put Service Above Self

K. Denise Jennings | Special to The Memphis News

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Service over self is the Rotarian creed, and one that local wealth manager William (Bill) Pickens, has embraced in his life.

As founder of Gift of Life International’s local chapter, Gift of Life Mid-South – an organization that brings children with congenital heart defects from developing countries to Memphis to undergo lifesaving surgery – Pickens has put his mantra to work in tangible ways.

Bill Pickens, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Advisors, and Tracy Chism, vice president at Trustmark National Bank, are volunteers for Gift of Life Mid-South, a Rotary-based progam that provides financing for life-saving heart surgeries at Le Bonheur Children's Hosptial.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

“I’ve been very blessed in my business, I’ve always felt; blessed way beyond what I deserve,” said Pickens, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Advisors. “In (Gift of Life) you get to do something for someone else that has no ability to do anything for you.”

Pickens, a longtime Rotary member, found out about Gift of Life through a Rotary chapter in New York and brought the program to Memphis in 2007 with the crucial partnership of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Since that time, Gift of Life Mid-South has facilitated lifesaving surgeries for 60 children from all over the world.

The program is funded by grants from Rotary Club International, gifts from local sponsors and individuals, and fundraising by the local Memphis chapter. Le Bonheur donates the health care portion of the program.

“We have world-class cardiovascular surgeons here in Memphis,” Pickens said. “The tough cases come here and The Cleveland Clinic.”

Sometimes, surgeries repair a hole in the heart, and other times they are more involved, but generally the patients recover quickly – within a week to 10 days – with good follow-up care.

“We provide what Le Bonheur can’t,” Pickens said. “They can provide the healing and surgery, but they don’t have a network of people to provide hospitality and support.”

Memphis Rotarians and local sponsors provide travel logistics and hospitality. Patients’ family members stay at the FedExFamilyHouse, and each day someone reaches out to touch the family, attending appointments, providing emotional and faith support, bringing them food and taking them to run errands. The FedExFamilyHouse and Le Bonheur also are equipped with a blue phone system, which provides translation of any language so parents who do not speak English can communicate directly with their children’s doctors.

While Pickens is proud of Gift of Life and enjoys being involved, he is quick to point out that its success is due to many hardworking colleagues, including Tracy Chism, two-time chairman of Gift of Life Mid-South’s board and vice president at Trustmark National Bank.

“I do my best work behind the scenes,” Pickens said. “Tracy is a bright girl and is our board chairman for the second time.”

Chism has been involved in Gift of Life since the beginning, helping to provide hospitality for the first patient of the program in 2007.

She was tapped to serve as the board’s first president from 2009 to 2012 and revived her role in 2015.

As an active professional and mother, Chism has been involved in numerous professional, school and community organizations, but Gift of Life is her passion.

“It was great to be at a place in my life and have the time and resources to really be involved with something that touched my heart, Chism said. “Having a part in saving someone’s life is pretty extraordinary.”

Chism credits her employer, Trustmark, with supporting her involvement in Gift of Life and adopting the program.

“They have poured financial resources into Gift of Life and I have recruited several of my co-workers to volunteer,” Chism said. “If you can find a profession and employer that allows you to bring your passion for giving to work, it’s a really good mix.”

Another popular ambassador for Gift of Life is Pickens’ 8-year-old granddaughter Sara Grace, who visits the patients and their families after surgery and brings a stack of get-well cards from her class at school.

“It’s a great way to involve your family,” said Pickens, who took his family to Honduras on a follow-up mission trip, where he reconnected with some of the families Gift of Life has helped.

“It’s the most humbling experience I have ever encountered; 10 to 12 families and kids so happy to see us and Sara Grace,” Pickens said. “It gave me the sense that something we did helped those kids to have a full life that they didn’t have before.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0