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Bee and Sharon celebrate the lives of their loved ones by continuing their legacies of giving.

Giving is a part of Bee and Sharon’s legacy. As the duo behind the Hmong Elders Center, the mother and daughter have made it their mission to ensure the Hmong community has what it needs to succeed during all stages of life.

“My mom grew up in Laos so our cultural background is naturally very giving,” said Sharon. “My father was always raised with the value of people above resources. Even though he grew up with very little, he shared what little he had. It's been something that our whole family has adopted, my mother especially, because she has a very big family.”

My father was always raised with the value of people above resources. Even though he grew up with very little, he shared what little he had.

Sharon

This value of giving is one that Bee and her husband Chad passed on to their five children, including Sharon and their daughter Ilean, who served as executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, as well as a Regent of the University of Minnesota. She also led the Hmong Elders Center up until her passing in 2021.

“Ilean was a bit of a titan in the community,” Sharon said. “She was a huge advocate, and started countless organizations, including her program at the Hmong Elders Center.”

One of the things Ilean helped establish for her family was a personal relationship with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. It’s because of the connections she made that the family decided to open up a donor advised fund.

“We’d been giving money to the church and to individuals, but my daughter, Ilean, said to us ‘you know, your impact could go further with the Foundation,’” said Bee. “She was a lawyer, so she researched things very deeply. She was aware of the tax benefits. She wanted us to have a bigger vision for our giving. That’s how we started our fund in 2009.”

Building a Lasting Relationship with the Foundation

In addition to their family’s donor advised fund, Bee and Sharon are connected to another fund at the Foundation.

In honor of Ilean’s memory, they worked with her friends and colleagues at Hnub Tshiab - Hmong Women Achieving Together to establish the Kao Ly Ilean Her Endowment. This fund awards grants and scholarships to Hmong women and girls striving to better their communities and “live their best lives.”

“My mom and I agree that the Foundation has a lasting impact and has the same values as we do,” Sharon said.

With their family’s fund, Bee hopes that she can continue her husband’s legacy of giving. By partnering with the Foundation, the mother and daughter have been able to focus less on their fund’s management and more on their giving. Thanks to help from their philanthropic advisor, they have been able to expand their giving to support a variety of organizations and issues that align with their values.

“For me, the most important step is having somebody sit down with you and really talk through your options, and that’s what the Foundation did,” said Bee. “I told Sharon, when I give with the Foundation, I see the money grow. I put money toward the Foundation because they can help my money grow so I can help more people that need it.”

When I give with the Foundation, I see the money grow. I put money toward the Foundation because they can help my money grow so I can help more people that need it.

Bee

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