Non-profits benefit from area woman's legacy

By Anna Carrera

Published 08/29 2014 05:59PM

Updated 08/29 2014 06:10PM

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- A Champaign woman is leaving her mark on the community with a $1 million gift. But, many of the recipients never knew her at all. Her name is Betty Kaufmann and she died last year, but non-profits are just now finding out about her generosity. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera has more about the mystery woman.

Her friends say she was valedictorian when she graduated from Buckley-Loda in 1960, but besides that, she kept to herself. At some point, she decided to give what she ended up with to seven very different non-profits.

These people have a lot in common; all surprised, all excited and all a little better off because of a generous donation.

"We have the benefit of knowing several of our donors. Ms. Kaufmann was not one that we knew."

But, she knew who they were, or at least the organizations they represent.

"Thousands of kids and families in Champaign County will be affected because of her very generous gift."

And not just people; animals too.

"We did not know Ms. Kaufmann at all. I know she owned a cat."

That cat may have been her closest companion. She grew up as an only child in Buckley. Her parents died while she was in her 20's. Her ashes are buried next to theirs in a cardboard box, in an unmarked grave. Ms. Kaufann never married or had kids, but one connection she had seems to have made a big difference.

"Another former resident that was very well-known in the community was Robert Dodd. He was Ms. Kaufmann's original attorney. He recommended and helped assist her in saying, 'Hey, these are good organizations that are doing things to help people live more independent lives and higher quality lives in this community.'"

If that's all they know, people who have heard of her now, say it's enough.

"Obviously, somebody with a very, sharp sense of awareness about the importance of community engagement, community involvement."

So, even though we don't know what she looks like, her legacy will continue through the lives of those she's helped.

"We like to think that she's looking down and she's going to be able to see the works of her gift."

Apparently, the reason she doesn't have a gravestone, or even an urn for her ashes, is she never set aside that money for herself. But, people from the church in Buckley, which is getting some of her money, say they'll make sure that gets fixed.

Her total gifts add up to about $1.75 million. Most of the non-profits which will split the money are in the Champaign-Urbana area. It includes the Champaign County Humane Society, Cunningham Children's Home, Habitat for Humanity, United Way, the Developmental Services Center and Disabled American Veterans of Champaign. She also left money for her home church, St. John's Lutheran, in Buckley.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.