Salvation Army donor remembered for legacy of giving to do the most good
Even though Colonel Kyle Smith is now the Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army in Singapore, he still remembers meeting Karin Larson when he first visited her office in West LA years ago, back when he was the General Secretary for Los Angeles.
“I’d never met her before, and I felt right at home,” Smith said, recalling an afternoon spent talking about Larson’s love of music and her experience with a Salvation Army string band when she was growing up in Minnesota.
“She was very positive, optimistic,” he said. “She was excited to talk about what she did.”
Throughout her life, Larson was a faithful donor to The Salvation Army in addition to a number of other causes. Upon her death in 2021, her generosity was demonstrated once again through a significant legacy gift to The Salvation Army.
Southern California Director of Donor Relations MaBel Turner will never forget the moment she opened the envelope at a lunch with Larson’s financial advisor. Turner said she had been told the advisor had good news for her, but she said the gift blew her away.
“We both teared up because we knew her. We knew her personality,” Turner said. “It was just a surreal moment.”
Turner first met Larson when she began working for The Salvation Army in 2013 and inherited another director’s caseload of donors. She learned of Larson’s career success at Capital Group, where she worked her way up from a secretary position to become an analyst, portfolio manager and the first female research director there.
Turner said she’d regularly visit Larson, and they’d go on tours of various Salvation Army programs throughout the Los Angeles area.
Over the years, the relationship deepened, and Turner recalls Larson regularly giving to support programs, including The Way In, a program in Hollywood The Salvation Army runs to help youth experiencing homelessness escape street life.
A gift by Larson funded renovations to the Oxford Apartments at The Way In, which allow youth ages 18-21 to experience independent living while still receiving case management.
“She was a very, humble person,” Turner said. “Recognition was not her thing.”
Larson’s final individual gift was in 2020, when she pledged enough to sustain the Southeast Communities Corps, which serves nine communities in Metro LA: Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Vernon, Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Cudahy, South Gate and Downey.
Major Osei Stewart, then the General Secretary for Los Angeles Metro Coordination, remembers the impact of the gift, and how it ensured the services of The Salvation Army Southeast Communities Corps would remain open and available to help people experiencing homelessness, families and seniors who were in need.
“Without Ms. Larson’s gift, we would have had to close our doors, causing many families to go without daily essentials, causing the homeless population to be without the regular hot meals, personal hygiene supplies, clothing and blankets for their basic needs,” Stewart said.
“Without Ms. Larson’s gift, the families of those communities would not have had access to our food pantry, which fed countless many, and our rent and utility assistance, that helped during the toughest of times of the pandemic.”
All of Larson’s philanthropy throughout her lifetime stemmed from who she was, Smith said.
“If, in your heart, you love something and want to do something good, you’re going to do it. And that’s what she did. This is from her heart…wanting to leave a legacy, caring for others,” he said.
“We were one of the organizations in which she chose to invest her legacy…saying, ‘I want to leave something good. I want the world to be a better place because I was here.’ And that’s why she did it. Not because we asked her to.”
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