Presque Isle estate planner Brian Hamel explains how connecting with people in his community, including a team of Special Olympians, inspires him and other donors to give back.
MaineCF: You're not originally from The County. How did you end up in Aroostook?
Brian Hamel: I've been in Maine since 1994. I came here specifically to redevelop the former Loring Air Force Base [in Limestone]. That's what brought me to Maine - the professional opportunity. I said no to the governor three times; to be honest, I couldn't see bringing my wife and three young daughters to what I thought was "the end of the earth" Those 11 years that I was president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority were some of the most rewarding times in my professional life.
What has kept me here are the people. And that's why I still call this home. The people of Aroostook County and the sense of community are what have kept us in northern Maine. I'm glad we made the decision to relocate to The County. It has been a gratifying 22 years in Maine.
MaineCF: You're active in a lot of community activities. Can you tell us about that?
Brian Hamel: My favorite thing to do in the world, other than being with my family, is spending time with my Special Olympians. I'm the volunteer head coach for the Aroostook County Snowdogs basketball team. We have 35 members on our team, ranging from 15 to 57 years old.
This is my fifth year as the head coach and it has been a life-altering experience. It is continually fulfilling to watch the respect the athletes have for themselves and for each other and the self-confidence they gain from playing on a basketball team. Coaching them has brought to life the importance of giving back to my community.
MaineCF: In your role as a professional advisor, what sort of conversations do you have with clients around charitable giving?
Brian Hamel: I know how it has made my wife and I feel, giving back to our community, and so I always ask my clients about charitable giving.
There's rarely a meeting with a client, when we're going over estate plans, that I don't ask, "What is your charitable intent during your lifetime or when you're gone?" I believe my contributions to the community have allowed me to probe a bit into what my clients' interests are philanthropically.
Do you have any stories related to the community foundation that you'd like to share?
Brian Hamel: I have clients who have set up a donor-advised fund at the Maine Community Foundation. The fund is fairly substantial during their lifetime, and it will be far more when they're gone. They got excited about the foundation. The couple, who don't have children, wanted to give back to the community throughout their lives and beyond. To provide that kind of commitment when they weren't originally from here - that was a nice gesture.
My wife and I recently created a donor-advised fund of our own to support individuals with intellectual disabilities, which was a direct result of our involvement in Special Olympics. Those individuals who haven't had an opportunity in their lives to participate in activities or events - they all have a special place in my heart. They've taught me a lot of things.
Is there anything you'd like to share with other professional advisors?
We owe it to the members of our individual communities to let them know what the Maine Community Foundation does on a day-to-day basis and where the money they manage goes: to nonprofits throughout Maine or to statewide initiatives. I recognize the role the foundation plays on a business level, but for me, personally, it is not about estate planning. It's about how MaineCF helps me and my clients figure out how we can support causes we care about a lot.
Brian Hamel is managing partner of Thompson-Hamel, LLC, in Presque Isle. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Hamel has received several honors for his development and economic growth work as former president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority of Maine. He was named the State of Maine's Champion for Economic Growth by the Maine Development Foundation and Citizen of the Year by the Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce. Hamel has served on several boards, including the Maine Community Foundation, Northern Maine Community College Foundation, Maine Winter Sports Center, and Maine Community College System. He also served on MaineCF's Finance Committee. Hamel and his wife, Gail, have three daughters and five grandchildren.
Head coach Brian Hamel (left) with Team Maine at the Special Olympics USA Nationals held in Princeton, New Jersey, in June 2014. Team Maine won a bronze medal.