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Linda S Maris

President

National Christian Foundation WI

Location: Waukesha County, WI

Founded: 2000

Industry: Nonprofit

Linda S. Maris’ life took a dramatic turn on December 13, 1996, a Friday.

The attorney, wife and mother of three small children was in a car accident three blocks from her home. X-rays revealed she fractured the two bones in her vertebrae closest to her skull. It was the same injury that actor Christopher Reeve suffered just a year earlier, and it was still fresh in everyone’s memory.

A few hours later, Maris lay on a gurney at Milwaukee’s Froedtert Hospital, where she saw a sign that read “Spinal Cord Trauma Unit.” It was then that she recognized the seriousness of her injury, she said.

The man pushing the gurney leaned in and said in a deep voice, “Honey, most people believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but for you it is the luckiest day of your life. You will walk out of here one day, but most people in this unit don’t.”

Maris’ spinal column was not severed. She later learned her spinal column is unusually large, saving her from paralysis. The man pushing the gurney with the inspirational words of encouragement was right.

“I never saw him again, but call him my angel because he delivered a powerful message,” Maris said. “At that instant I knew that I would be OK. Before I could develop a bitter heart, it focused my mind and heart on gratitude.”

The accident inspired Maris to search for deeper meaning and purpose for her life. Her legal work, she said, was a career, not a calling. In 2008, she made the professional move to follow her calling at the National Christian Foundation Wisconsin, where she serves as president.

NCF WI is a nonprofit group supporting charitable organizations in Wisconsin and helping to find creative and tax-smart giving solutions for donors. NCF WI granted $15 million to charity in 2021, and it expects to double that number to $30 million within five years.

Maris helped build and engage the board for NCF WI, hired and trained new staff, managed volunteer teams in Madison and Wausau and developed the nonprofit’s vision for the future.

“We seek to inspire generosity in those we serve,” Maris said. “This is the heart component of our mission. When we inspire a family, professional advisor or business, we witness an increase in charitable gifts to the organizations that they are passionate about.

“The other part of our mission is creative and tax-smart giving solutions. Many people have a financial strategy, but they don’t have a giving strategy. They are missing opportunities and may be paying too much in taxes. We help individuals create a giving strategy so they can be wise stewards of all they have and experience the joy of greater generosity.”

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Did you know?

My husband is half Greek. I love our Greek family and everything Greek. We have visited Greece twice and were able to reunite with family. It has a welcoming and generous culture, deep history, beautiful, great food, and 100s of islands to visit. I encourage everyone to visit Greece!

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