The power of a post: Social media leads to support for CCL

Donor Jim Lilienthal stands on a deck overlooking a lush green valley and foreign village. He wears a light colored hat and a brown sweater.

Donor Jim Lilienthal on one of his trips.

The power of a post: Social media leads to support for CCL

By Katie Zakrzewski

The impact that CCLers have in their community is vast, and that impact often impresses non-CCLers too. You never know the impact that you might have by sharing information about CCL with your friends. The story of Kaye and her friend Jim is a fantastic example of how something as simple as a social media post can lead to a $100,000 donation

Kaye McKleroy is not a CCL volunteer, but she’s friends with one — CCLer Jim Ferguson in California. Jim Ferguson posted about CCL on his social media, and our hard work stood out to Kaye. Kaye would keep this in the back of her mind when helping a childhood friend, James Robert Lilienthal, also called Jim, settle his estate. 

“Jim was a childhood friend of my husband and became my friend as well when I got married. Jim grew up in San Francisco, went to Yale, and graduated from U.C. Berkeley,” Kaye said. 

Kaye explained that Jim had never married or had children and inherited a large estate from his parents. He often used this money to travel or to do good in his community after he graduated from college, visiting roughly 50 countries and working to make a difference wherever he went. 

“He spent the next 20 years of his life traveling in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America…He was very involved in the cultural events in San Francisco and had a keen mind for learning new things via all the forums the city had to offer,” Kaye said. “He was very invested in learning about the important issues facing society, our nation, and the world. Climate change was a major interest and concern.”

Donor Jim Lilienthal stands on the Great Wall of China. He is an older white man in a light colored baseball cap, shirt, and pants.

Donor Jim Lilienthal stands on the Great Wall of China.

But when Jim returned from a trip to Southern Italy in October of 2022, his doctors informed him that his cancer had returned. Determined to make a final difference, Jim began to add people and organizations to his will and trust so his loved ones and community could benefit for years to come. 

In his will and trust, called the James R. Lilienthal Revocable Trust, Jim chose to donate to over 30 people and 30 organizations. 

Jim had placed a need for a climate change organization at the top of his list and said that Kaye could choose one. 

“I picked Citizens’ Climate because I had heard about their work from my friend Jim Ferguson via social media articles,” Kaye explained to the CCL Development Team. “It is the kind of organization that Jim would approve of in that you work on both the national and local levels and rely on devoted volunteers. He wasn’t interested in a famous slick group. He was a grassroots sort of guy.  He would also have approved of your points of view.”

Kaye McKleroy, left, a friend of donor Jim Lilienthal and Jim Ferguson, has white hair and is wearing a dark shirt. She stands beside her daughter, a blonde woman in a hot pink blouse.

Kaye McKleroy, left, a friend of donor Jim Lilienthal and Jim Ferguson, stands beside her daughter.

When Jim’s estate is sold, Kaye explains, the money will be distributed first to individuals and then to the organizations, which will get a percentage of what is left once stocks are finalized. 

“Citizens’ Climate is at the top of the list,” Kaye said.

Just two months after returning from Southern Italy, Jim peacefully passed away on December 28, 2022, surrounded by loved ones. He was 81 years old. 

“I am so grateful that he got to go on that last trip and that he had an amazing time,” Kaye said. 

CCL is thankful for Jim’s generosity in leaving a lasting impact, for Kaye in suggesting our organization to Jim, and to CCLer Jim Ferguson, who made all of this possible by sharing CCL’s work with his friends. Don’t forget to share CCL’s work with your friends, too.

Katie Zakrzewski, CCL Communications Coordinator, is an avid reader, writer and policy wonk. With published pieces, as well as podcast and radio appearances spanning the country, Zakrzewski looks forward to using her talents to create a healthier planet of tomorrow.