Ken McLernon’s life story begins August 1942 as a baby in a basket on the doorstep of a neighborhood police station in Chicago.
His biological mother made the difficult decision to give up her child. She wrapped him in blankets, pinned a note to him asking for help, rang the doorbell and fled.
The police brought Ken to the nearby St. Vincent’s Orphanage run by the Daughters of Charity, who helped connect him to his adopted parents. That’s how Ken came to his family and to the St. Vincent de Paul family as well.
When they took him in, he weighed eight and a half pounds.
“I was knee-high to a grasshopper, so to speak,” says Ken, who has theories about the timing of his birth and adoption.
Almost perfectly nine months earlier the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Sometimes he wonders if his biological mother was a young lady involved with a young man who got called off to war. Given those circumstances, maybe she couldn’t handle a child alone.
“I feel very, very lucky that the police department was good enough and smart enough to take me to St. Vincent’s,” Ken says. “And I thank your organization because some way, somehow they must have contacted someone to orchestrate my parents coming to see me.”
Ken’s adoption happened quickly — within a matter of a week or so of his arrival. Unsure of his exact birthday, his parents picked it to be Aug. 15 because of the holy day of the Feast of the Assumption.
Ken came to learn of his adoption as a young boy. His mother read him the book “The Chosen Baby.” Sometimes she worried about how his adoption might affect him later.
“But it never really affected me negatively at all,” he says. “I was always very happy, very thankful.”
He was raised an only child. Ken’s mother couldn’t bear children, and his parents never sought further adoptions.
Ken went on to lead a full life. After graduating from East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois, he was drafted into the Army for two years and fought in Vietnam. When he returned, he began driving for the United Parcel Service. He would work his way up to management and eventually meet his wife Ann at the company. She, too, was adopted — something that instantly bonded them.
Later in life, Ann’s health inspired their transfer and permanent move to Phoenix. Ken continued working for UPS in the Valley and retired after 29 years of service. In 2002, Ann passed away.
Now Ken lives in Sun Lakes, Arizona. He never returned to the St. Vincent’s Orphanage.
“I never had any desire to go back,” he says.
It wasn’t until he started to consider his house, belongings and downsizing that Ken would make contact with SVdP again.
“I don’t want anything sold at an estate sale or garage sale,” says Ken, who doesn’t have children. “I want it to go to a charity organization. And with the bond I have, it was immediately St. Vincent de Paul.”
That’s why Ken has included SVdP in his trust on top of the several generous donations he’s already made.
“I’m not talking millions of dollars,” he says, “but what I do have will go to St. Vincent de Paul with the goal of helping the community and being able to share what I have. In some little way through the donations I’ve made and will continue doing through my trust it’s my way of trying to say thank you.”
Ken McLernon has shared his legacy giving story in the hopes that it will inspire others to stand alongside him in support of SVdP’s mission to feed, clothe, house and heal. Thank you, Ken, for your lasting words and gift.
Endowment funds are critical to the long-term health and stability of nonprofit organizations like St. Vincent de Paul. They can be given toward general funds or designated for a specific program. They enable us to level out our funding sources over good times and bad. Your gift of any amount, whether $50, or $50,000, will insure that SVdP is here today, tomorrow, next year and forever.