By Lydian Bernhardt
As a child, Steve Ganss spent many happy hours with his father, Ed, at their church, New Dorp Moravian Church in Staten Island, N.Y. Ed Ganss was, in turn, a member of that church’s boards of elders and trustees, and keeping a close watch on the church’s buildings and grounds was part of those roles. But it was also the elder Ganss’s pleasure, and he shared his enjoyment of the church work with his son.
“I loved that time,” Ganss said. “I’d go to the church with him and we got into all kinds of fun, refurnishing the parish house for a new minister, or climbing up in the organ pipes. Spending that time with him was the best time of my childhood.”
When they weren’t working at church, Steve and his father could be walking the trails at the Staten Island Boy Scouts Camp.
“We had a Sunday routine: we’d go to church, have lunch, and go for a walk. We could walk for hours. I’d bring friends from the neighborhood. That time was great for bonding and becoming good men.”
When the family moved to New Jersey in Ganss’s freshman year of high school, they didn’t get to go to New Dorp very often, and their town of Locust, N.J. did not have a Moravian church. But if the church was out of sight, it was never out of mind.
“My father always talked about the Moravian church,” Ganss said. “It was rare, when we were together, that he wouldn’t bring up something about New Dorp. The years and the distance kept my parents from going back much, but they always went if they had the chance.
“I enjoyed talking about it with him, too. It was still my parents’ church and part of my upbringing.”
Ganss’s mother died in 2007; his father, in May 2020. In the process of reconciling his family’s affairs, Ganss, who now lives in Forked River, N.J., realized that he would have to create a spreadsheet to keep track of the 33 charities to which his father contributed.
“My father was a very generous person,” Ganss said. “We had talked about his estate plan, of which the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America was a part.”
In keeping with his father’s values, Ganss established a donor advised fund through the MMFA which will contribute to Camp Hope, the year-round camp and conference center for the Moravian church’s Eastern district. The 125-acre camp includes forests with hiking trails, lakes for boating, and other amenities to help visitors leave city life behind.
“My father had seen inner-city life in Yonkers and Queens, N.Y., and he always loved giving city kids the chance to get out into the country,” he said.
The fund also includes Moravian University, the liberal arts college in Bethlehem, PA, and the Moravian church in general. These provisions continued Ganss’s habit of generosity to the church, which he had started years earlier; upon his retirement from General Motors, Ed Ganss had left his life insurance policy to Moravian Manor, the retirement community in Lancaster, PA.
Through the foundation, Steve Ganss was able to stipulate a percentage of the fund’s earnings to go to the institutions and a percentage to return to grow the fund. He also followed through with his father’ intent to make provisions for his cousins.
Through the MMFA, Ed Ganss had set up an annuity fund to provide for his monthly income. Upon his passing, that anunity became the “Ed and Sue Ganss Ministries Foundation,” with monies to be used for the church’s benefit.
“Dad gave me a very detailed folder of what to do, and that included involving the MMFA,” Ganss says. “This is his money, not mine. I want to do things to sustain what he started with it.”
Steve Ganss, now working as the turbine services manager for the Eastern U.S. for Exelon Generation Nuclear, a Fortune 100 company which owns the largest fleet of nuclear power plant in the country, says that he is thankful for the MMFA’s guidance in establishing the fund and settling his father’s estate. He is also thankful for Camp Hope’s place in his childhood, a place to which he hopes to one day return.
“I enjoy fishing, and I was thrilled to hear that they had a fishing event,” he says. “I would love to go back for that.
“It was such a special part of my childhood, and a place I spent time with my dad. I appreciate the MMFA’s work to help me honor him.”