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Read About Lee Phillip Bell and Be Inspired

When William and Lee Phillip Bell created their popular daytime drama, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” presumably they sought a name that would lure potential viewers. Unintentionally they selected one that perfectly describes Ms. Bell. 

A woman of striking beauty, she and her husband took a bold step and created, co-produced and launched their first daytime drama, “The Young and the Restless” in 1973. “The Bold and the Beautiful” followed 14 years later. The Bell’s two successful dramas earned them 18 Emmy Awards and it also enabled them to reside in a mansion whose prior owners included Cary Grant and Howard Hughes. (Since her death this February, the home has been purchased by LeBron James of NBA fame.)

Sadly, Lee Phillip Bell died in February at the age of 91; her husband died in 2005. The American Floral Endowment honors their memories by sharing the story of their successes and generosity – encouraging others to give as Ms. Bell gave.

In 2008, Lee Phillip Bell established the James and Helen Phillip Floral Design Grant with a gift of $500,000 to the American Floral Endowment (AFE). Her ties to the floral industry stem from her parents who founded “Phillip’s Flowers,” a very successful retail florist in Chicago. The business continues to be owned and operated by second, third and fourth generation family members. When establishing the grant, Ms. Bell noted, It’s a joy to honor James and Helen Phillip by helping people prepare to earn a livelihood in the flower business, which has meant so much to our family.

To simply focus on Ms. Bell’s obvious wealth would miss who she truly was.  Warm and gracious with an easy smile, she made visitors feel comfortable and glad to be in her presence. This certainly was the case in 2007 when her nephew, Jim Phillip, and I visited her to discuss a possible gift to AFE. Yes, she was “warm and gracious,” but only a fool would take Lee Bell for granted and she did not suffer fools lightly.  One does not acquire such wealth without the savvy to steward it wisely.

So, when we approached her about a gift to honor her parents, she asked numerous questions: How much money does AFE currently invest? Who invests the funds and how? How much is distributed for charitable purposes annually? How does AFE identify scholarship recipients? And the questions went on… After a thorough vetting, Ms. Bell determined her parents would indeed be honored if she invested in the Endowment.  Because her gift is endowed, the James and Helen Phillip Floral Design Grant will live on in perpetuity, honoring her parents forevermore.

Lee Phillip Bell is not alone. Others have been inspired to invest generously in AFE. A former trustee designated 5% of his estate to the Endowment in his will. Asked if his generosity might upset his heirs he responded, “Look, if my heirs cannot get along with 95% of my estate something else is very wrong. The floral industry has provided the means to support our whole family. My heirs will be very happy we expressed our gratitude through this gift.”

The future of our industry depends on advancements through research and the access students can gain through scholarships and grants. But it won’t happen without broad industry support.

The good news is that there are many easy and tax-wise ways to support AFE:

  • Gifts of cash are tax deductible.Donate to AFE
  • If you have an IRA, by working with your account administrator, you can rollover funds directly to AFE and thereby exempt them from taxable income.
  • If you have an old life insurance policy you no longer need, you can make AFE the owner and beneficiary of the policy and receive an immediate tax credit.
  • If you own appreciated stock, you can gift the stock to AFE. By doing so you avoid all capital gains taxes AND you can declare a charitable gift deduction for the market value of the stock.
  • Specific to this year, the 2020 Congressional CARES Act provides the following enhanced charitable contributions incentives:
    • First, it provides for a deduction for cash donations for nonitemizers of up to $300. That is, taxpayers can deduct these amounts even if they elect the standard deduction.
    • Second, it eliminates the limit on cash gifts of individuals to public charities (but not to donor advised funds, supporting organizations, or private foundations).
    • Third, it increases the limit on charitable contributions from corporations to 25% of taxable income.

As year-end approaches, we should all reflect on our lives and the benefits we have received through the floral industry, then give generously to AFE in the spirit of Lee Phillip Bell.

Sten Crissey

To donate today visit:

For more information on tax-wise ways to support the floral industry through AFE, contact Debi Chedester at 703-838-5239 or

By Sten Crissey, Past Trustee