An unprecedented initiative is about to take place in Portage County and throughout all of Northeastern Ohio. It is an effort that, according to its participants, will help educate children, fight catastrophic illness, feed the hungry, care for older adults, sustain the arts, mentor at-risk youth and much more. The initiative is know as Leave A Legacy and it is the largest collaborative, community-wide philanthropic effort in Portage, Summit and Medina counties. Similar efforts are taking place in Cuyahoga and Stark counties and throughout the state and nation. The mission of Leave A Legacy is to encourage, educate and inspire people from all walks of life to make gifts to charity, any charity, in their wills, said Marlene Dunford, project manager. This effort is being coordinated by Leave A Legacy Summit/Portage, which has been endorsed and supported by more than 100 local, non-profit organizations, financial planners, bankers and attorneys. According to Leave A Legacy organizers, about 72 percent of Americans make annual financial contributions to charitable organizations. However, only about eight percent leave a bequest to their favorite charity or non-profit organization. There are at least seven ways individuals can leave a legacy including: visiting with local charities to see what a potential gift can do; preparing or amending a will or living trust, naming charities that have made a difference in life; changing a portion of the beneficiary designation on a retirement plan, life insurance policy or tax-deferred annuity to a non-profit organization. Other ways include giving appreciated assets to a charity during ones lifetime; remembering loved ones with memorial gifts; encouraging family members and friends to leave gifts to non-profit organizations in their wills; or asking a financial adviser to include charitable giving as part of his or her counsel to other clients. The Leave A Legacy kick-off for Summit, Portage and Medina counties will take place beginning with a reception at 11:30 a.m. and lunch at noon May 1 at Tangier Restaurant and Cabaret, 532 W. Market St., in Akron. Ronald Brown, an Akron native and founder of Leave A Legacy in New Jersey, will speak at an Akron Roundtable luncheon and will meet with Leave A Legacy supporters following the luncheon. The luncheon is open to the public. Tickets are $10 and tables of 10 are $100. Reservations may be made by sending a check for the number of tickets desired to Akron Roundtable, 22 Scenic View, Copley 44321-1348. The members of the Leave A Legacy Summit/Portage/Medina encourage non-profit organizations, board members, attorneys, financial planners and all of those interested in their communities to attend the May 1 luncheon to learn more about this worthwhile effort, Dunford said. Our aim is simple, according to Dunford. We want people to know they can make a difference in their community and at the same time preserve their values and make their lives count even after they are gone. Its all about leaving a legacy, she said. Leave A Legacy is a program of the National Committee on Planned Giving to promote interest in charitable giving through a will or from an estate. Leave A Legacy works hand in hand with non-profit groups including social service and arts organizations, churches, hospitals, educational institutions and other philanthropic groups. For more information, call the Leave A Legacy hotline at (330) 633-6995 or visit their Web site at www.leavealegacyspm.org Portage County organizations participating in the Leave A Legacy program include: Family and Community Services of Portage County, Inc., Habitat for Humanity of Portage County, Hiram College, Kent State University, Kevin Coleman Foundation, Kline Financial Group, Planned Parenthood of Summit, Portage and Medina, Portage Area Development Corp., Reed Memorial Library, Robinson Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Portage Foundation, Townhall II, and United Way of Portage County.