Many benefit from woman's bequests

Many benefit from woman's bequests

Charities surprised by gifts from lady they didn't know

CHAMPAIGN — Betty Kaufmann lived in a modest Champaign home with her cat, and before she died last year, she made arrangements to leave a church in Buckley and six local service agencies a windfall.

Sharing in her bequests totaling $1,075,106 are Developmental Services Center, the Champaign County Humane Society, Cunningham Children's Home, Disabled American Veterans of Champaign, Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County, the United Way of Champaign County and her home church, St. John's Lutheran in Buckley.

Ms. Kaufmann wasn't married, didn't have children, and became ill with cancer before she died at age 71, according to her attorney, Shayla Maatuka, managing partner at Dodd & Maatuka.

Ms. Kaufmann was "a quiet woman who just stayed to herself," Maatuka said.

She was also highly organized, planning everything from where she wanted to be buried to hiring a friend to give away all her furniture before she died, Maatuka said.

The money Ms. Kaufmann left to the agencies came largely from the sale of her three-bedroom home on Winchester Drive in Champaign and farmland in the Ford County area that she had inherited from her parents, the attorney said.

Ms. Kaufmann had grown up on a farm, and both her parents died when she was in her 20s, Maatuka said.

"She knew she wanted to give to the church and she knew she wanted to give to the Humane Society," Maatuka said, adding Ms. Kaufmann selected the other beneficiaries from a list of agencies that could benefit from a gift.

Ms. Kaufmann also left a handful of small bequests to some cousins and a neighborhood friend, Maatuka said.

Ms. Kaufmann's bequests stunned the local agencies that hadn't had any contact with her during her life.

"We weren't expecting it," said Janice McAteer, development director for DSC, a Champaign-based agency that serves people with developmental disabilities.

DSC's board and management is reviewing how the agency will use the $182,000 it received from Ms. Kaufmann's will, McAteer said.

The Champaign County Humane Society also didn't know Ms. Kaufmann and was surprised to be remembered in her will, according to Mary Tiefenbrunn, its executive director. It's because of generous gifts such as these that the Humane Society never has to turn animals away, she said.

Kelly Hill, development director of Habitat for Humanity, said Ms. Kaufmann had been a supporter of that organization during her lifetime, but the gift still came as a surprise.

"We are just really grateful to be a part of such an amazing gift, and we will be using it to help our efforts here to help our local families move into homes," she said.

A statement from DSC expressing gratitude on behalf of all the organizations for the bequests said St. John's Lutheran Church will be using the money to help pay for an extensive school renovation and to buy a 14-passenger bus to be used for field trips and sporting events.

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