- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - The future looks brighter for seven local nonprofits thanks to a series of generous bequests.

Robert and Elizabeth Rhoads, better known as Bob and Betty, left nearly $1 million total in gifts to the Wayne County Historical Society, Reid Foundation, HELP the Animals, Girls Inc. of Wayne County, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Richmond, United Way of Whitewater Valley and the Wayne County Foundation.

Bob Rhoads died in 2008, and Betty died in March of this year.

All seven organizations recently received checks for $126,580 from a trust fund in Bob Rhoads’ estate, said Douglas Oler, an attorney with Boston, Bever, Klinge, Cross & Chidester. The fund was left to Betty until her death, the Palladium-Item reported (https://pinews.co/1vVUE8l ).

Oler said the historical society, Reid and HELP soon will get another $30,000 to $35,000 from Betty’s own estate - adding up to at least $976,000.

There are no restrictions on the gifts, so organizations are free to use them as needed.

“An unrestricted gift is a tremendous statement of confidence by the donor in the organization,” said Randy Kirk, president of the Reid Foundation.

“It allows us to find the greatest need,” said Beth Harrick, co-executive director of Girls Inc. “For our size organization, it’s going to make a huge impact.”

Other groups responded similarly.

“When we get a large gift like that, it helps us do things that will sustain us,” said Mindy Reece, chief executive officer of Habitat.

“Since we operate on a very tight budget, this gift will provide us the opportunity to invest in infrastructure and other capital improvements,” said a statement from the HELP board of directors.

The historical society board plans to put half of its bequest into projects and half into an endowment, said Wayne County Historical Museum director Jim Harlan.

Harlan got to know the Rhoadses in the 1960s and ‘70s, when Bob Rhoads’ company, Gateway Builders, put up the reproductions of the O.H. Little Livery Stable, Richmond Baking Co. and Palladium Printing Office on the museum grounds. Bob, an active volunteer and board member, offered his services at a significant discount, Harlan said.

“When we found out Bob had left us something, I was pleased but not surprised,” Harlan said.

Betty Rhoads also helped at the museum, but the majority of her volunteer time went to Reid Hospital, where she spent more than 5,000 hours over a span of 38 years.

“Working with Betty out here was just a treat always,” said Kirk.

Kirk, too, was unsurprised by the Rhoades’ gift and the way in which it was given.

“It mattered more to them to have an impact than to have recognition, which goes hand-in-hand with who Bob and Betty were - quiet, caring, compassionate, community-minded people,” he said.

Others weren’t so sure about the “quiet” part.

Lois McMahan of Richmond described Betty as “quite a talker.” Harlan agreed. Bob, too, had plenty to say, he said.

“He was opinionated, but most people of action are opinionated,” said Harlan.

But the couple’s love for their adopted hometown - both were born in Haddonfield, New Jersey - is undeniable.

“These (seven) institutions really represent Richmond and touch Richmond at a lot of different levels,” said United Way president Scott Zimmerman.

The United Way board is considering endowing a managed fund. “We will try to figure out how this best fits their wishes,” said Zimmerman.

“They were very passionate about perpetuity. That in itself is a remarkable understanding.”

The Wayne County Foundation plans to put its gift into a permanent endowment. “It will be used for many, many years to come,” said executive director Steve Borchers.

Harlan hopes more people will consider putting such gifts in their wills.

“These bequests are what have fueled the growth of the museum and kept it financially secure,” he said. “Everybody can win. There are ways you can structure things so that nobody loses.”

The museum receives only $18,000 a year from the county toward its $160,000 annual budget. “If somebody sees something going on down here, chances are it was paid for … by a bequest,” said Harlan.

Harrick said the timing of the gift couldn’t be better, as Girls Inc. is in the midst of strategic planning for its future.

“This is allowing us to dream bigger and brighter and bolder than we ever have before, without impacting the day-to-day bottom line for our operational expenses,” she said. “This can be a game-changer for us.”

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Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com

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