IMPACT

Humble Teacher Shocks Community By Leaving $8.4 Million To Charity

Jan 31, 2014 | Updated Feb 05, 2014

A retired teacher who worked with special-needs kids, the late Margaret Southern drove a 1980s Cadillac, lived in a modest home and had just one indulgence in life: taking her friends out to eat from time to time.

So when the Greenville, S.C., community learned that the humble resident, who died at age 94 in 2012, had left $8.4 million to the Community Foundation of Greenville, a group that provides grants to targeted programs, they were pretty shocked to say the least, Greenville S.C. News reported.

The donation was made public this week as the first of the annual grant distributions will be doled out this month, the foundation announced.

"It's a wonderful surprise to wake up and find a very unassuming woman who cares greatly for our community and its children," Susan Shi, founder and executive director of the Institute for Child Success, told Greenville S.C. News.

Shi’s advocacy group, which works to improve services to children across the state, will get $25,000 from Southern’s donation.

Southern grew up in Sans Souci, S.C., and eventually moved with her husband to Des Moines, Iowa, where she worked as a teacher. When her husband passed away in the 80s, he left his estate to her. Southern then moved to Greenville where she cared for her brother, who had Parkinson’s disease, until he died, according to the Community Foundation of Greenville.

She also started to invest in a number of stocks that helped grow her fortune -- a hobby few knew about.

It's the largest gift the Community Foundation of Greenville has ever received in its 56-year history and Southern requested that the money be spent on the causes she cared about most -- children’s education, special needs programs and the humane treatment of animals, the organization said on its website.

Half of the funds will be given to the Greenville Humane Society, a no-kill adoption center, and the rest will be distributed among a number of other organizations.

The Greenville Humane Society was particularly grateful for the gift since it hasn’t been able to keep up with public demand since it opened a new facility, Director Kim Pitman told the Greenville Journal.

Pitman just regrets not having had the opportunity to meet Southern.

"She strikes me as a kind of person I would like,” Pitman told Greenville S.C. News, “doesn't put on airs, smart, loves her animals."

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