By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — When he decided to close his software marketing office, Bill Giegerich was faced with an engineering dilemma: what to do with all the antiques in it.
"It was fully decorated in antiques, really old family things," said Giegerich, who didn't have enough room in his house — a Glen Arbor cottage that has been in his wife's family for years — either. "We asked our daughter, who was the only one with any interest, if she wanted any of the furniture, and she said no."
The couple considered selling the collection, but decided it was more hassle than it was worth. So after having it appraised by Traverse City appraiser and antiques dealer Don Butkovich, they decided to donate more than a dozen pieces — worth between $17,000 and $18,000 — to the Cherryland Humane Society.
"It was a memorial gift to my wife, because it was her idea," said Giegerich, who carried out the donation shortly after his wife, Suzanne, died in October. "That was the charity that we supported for years. My wife and I were both very interested in animal issues and animal welfare, particularly humane society and other animal charities. We've always had a very deep affection for animals."
The unusual gift caught humane society director Mike Cherry by surprise.
"We had a house donated one time and some property, but nothing like this," said Cherry, who wasn't sure at first what to do with the gift. "Personal property is always something people don't think about."
After hearing Giegerich's idea, Cherry met with Adair Correll of the Cherryland Antique Mall and Consignment Center and agreed to place the collection on consignment there. Now the antique mall is selling the pieces, including a French quarter-sawn table of European oak, a secretary desk with wavy glass doors, a Scottish-style rocking chair from the 19th century and two sailing ship prints by renowned maritime and seascape artist Charles Vickery.
In exchange, the humane society gets to keep 50 percent of the sale prices.
"Honestly that's the first time that anybody has done something like that and we've been here three years," said Kim Streeter, a cashier at the mall and an animal advocate who has worked with trap-neuter-return programs for outdoor cats. "A lot of people will put things in consignment but they don't (earmark) them for charity."
She said tags on the pieces identify them as part of the Cherryland Humane Society lot.
This was hardly the couple's first charitable donation. Others included a collection of 2,000 rare and other books to a private school in Atlanta and a collection of 1,800 classical music recordings and boxes of sheet music going back to the 1930s, to an Atlanta university.
Besides donating to animal causes over the years, the couple also rescued several pets, including stray pregnant cats.
"We'd feed the mother and get her through having her litter and then, using (humane) traps, we would trap the kittens and the mother, take them to the humane society and later pay for spaying and neutering and provide their first shots," Giegerich said.
He said the latest donation, made with the help of a CPA, is a win-win-win situation. He gets a tax write-off and helps his favorite charity, while ridding himself of unwanted furniture. The antique store gets 50 percent of the sales without paying for merchandise up front. And the humane society gets much-needed funding to help with its pet adoption, sheltering and humane education services.
"This is tax time and people are desperately trying to figure out how to save money," he said. "This was far more sophisticated than I thought it would be and it was fun."