Harrell donates $1.39 million to local causes, groups
Gifts of more than $30,000 to organizations around town in December capped $1.39 million in community donations made by resident Lucy Harrell in 2015.
In an interview this week, Harrell, 91, confirmed making the donations and the larger, combined amount. Word of the gifts spread around town Dec. 16 after Harrell presented gifts of $10,000 each to the Sheldon Museum and Haines Friends of the Library.
“If you have more available, you can give more (money) away,” Harrell said Tuesday at her Haines Assisted Living apartment.
“Money is for spending. It’s just another tool. When you look at this place and what (my donations) have done for the town, you can see the value of it… I’ve given enough to put a pretty good dent in the economy of Haines, I think,” Harrell said.
Recipients of Harrell’s gifts include public radio station KHNS, Haines Assisted Living, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Haines Arts Council, Haines Dolphins Swim Team, Haines Animal Rescue Kennel, Becky’s Place, Hospice of Haines, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Salvation Army. She donated $5,000 to the Haines Borough for relocating Lookout Park.
She has gave to about two dozen causes around Alaska and in the Lower 48, including three colleges she attended and a gift of 600 acres for an Oregon forest preserve.
On giving her check to the Sheldon Museum board, Harrell said, “This building looks marvelously new and different and I wanted to say thank you in a way that you can hold in your fingers.”
Friend Jim Studley said Harrell has given generously to Haines Assisted Living for seven years and has started to spread her money around town to favorite groups and facilities.
“These are things that are very important to her. She’s been involved in those groups or their activities ever since she moved to Haines,” Studley said. A former president of Haines Woman’s Club, Harrell served five years on the Haines Borough Assembly.
Harrell’s donations of land and cash have helped build HAL into an $18 million corporation with 14 employees, Studley said.
Studley said Harrell calls philanthropic giving “enlightened selfishness.” “If we help everyone around us, we help ourselves,” he said. “I hope the example Lucy sets inspires others to be more generous with their gifts and talents.”
Harrell said she started out buying small properties with cash, and was “blessed by events,” including the surge in California property values and a rising stock market.
“It wasn’t brilliance on my part but the economic conditions of my time. I got lucky, basically,” she said.
Harrell is a former school teacher, rancher, sailor, and airplane pilot. In a 1999 newspaper profile, she described herself as a “businessperson and tightwad.” She moved here in 1984.
In Haines, she advocated for merging the former city and borough and for designing an expanded harbor to attract pleasure boats.