A 95-year-old librarian who died in 2014 has willed $1.6 million to her Hanover, Pennsylvania, church in the form of an endowment that will be distributed to the congregation through yearly payments.
Caroline John, who was a dedicated member of Hanover's Emanuel United Church of Christ, gave the church a gift that will hopefully last a lifetime when she decided to leave the congregation a $1.6 million endowment fund that was organized through the York County Community Foundation.
According to The Evening Sun, the church had become like a family to John after her husband, Adolf, died in 2009. In planning for her own death, John wanted to continue giving back to the church and community she loved.
With the help of lawyer Steven McKonly, a member of the church and former president of the church consistory, John set up the Caroline and Adolf John Fund with the York County Community Foundation and listed the church as the beneficiary.
With the hope that the fund will last a lifetime, the foundation will grant the church about 4.5 percent of the endowment's total every year while the rest of the money is invested to help the endowment grow. The York Dispatch reports that the church will start out receiving about $72,000 per year and if the endowment grows, so will the annual distribution.
The church's pastor, Rev. Russell D. Clark, told The Christian Post that most of the congregation was in utter shock when news of John's endowment circulated.
"I think most of our jaws hit the floor," Clark said. "I don't think anybody had any clue that the money was coming except perhaps the lawyer involved. We just are so pleased that we get the opportunity to do some good things with the money she worked so hard to accumulate."
Even though John grew up in the Hanover area, her career as a librarian took her to different areas of the country. According to her obituary in The Evening Sun, she worked in libraries in Pennsylvania, Ohio and even at the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, but spent most of her career at libraries in Long Island, New York. After her retirement, she got married to Adolf at the age of 68. Along with her husband, John moved back to Hanover in 1987.
But after her husband died in 2009, Clark told CP that John embraced the church as if it were her own family.
"I am fairly new here but in dealing with the whole thing and talking to people, I think the key elements in the whole thing is that while she had a few relatives around the edges, the church kind of became a family to her," Clark explained. "In her old age, they were there for her to support her physically and emotionally and she felt very gratified by that and wanted to do something big and she did something big for us."
Clark assured that the church will make a concentrated effort to ensure that the money is used wisely and the church does not rely too heavily on the endowment for basic church needs. He said there will be a meeting this fall between the church board members to decide how to best handle the proceeds from the fund.
"I have been at this for about 30 years and the best thing churches can do is make a plan to begin with and steer as much away from everyday use and set it up so that the facilities are taken care of and that we are able to reach out into the community in a way that we are called upon to do that," Clark said.
"It can be a two-edged sword. If churches begin to rely on these kinds of things for their everyday upkeep, it can become a spiral," he continued. "We want to continue to encourage our folks to be stewards of the money that they give to the church. We definitely want to make some special plans so that we can do some good things for Caroline and the community."