The Ottumwa Courier

May 14, 2014

Parting gift will go a long way

Courier staff writer

---- — ELDON — A parting gift from a former Eldon resident has been an overwhelming surprise for two area organizations.

Vera Bacon, who was born in Eldon in 1924, passed away in early February. She had moved to Des Moines, but she had a special place in her heart for her hometown. This was never more evident than last week when a presentation was made to both the Eldon Public Library and McHaffey Opera House by representatives from Bacon's estate.

Library and opera house officials were shocked when they were given $102,000 and $51,000 respectively.

"We were told she had left us something in her will, but we had no idea what that would be," Library Director Suzanne Streeby said. "The amount was such a surprise, and we're so appreciative."

Bacon left money to seven organizations, the library being the first, then her church in Des Moines and the Opera House was the third.

The funds for both organizations are probably going to go to practical things, but greatly needed projects will now get attention much more quickly than they could ever have imagined.

"We were already in the process of trying to figure out how we were going to get grants to do repairs on the library because some grants need matching money, and now we have that backup to find matching money," Streeby said. "Obviously our steps need repaired. We have major projects that need to be done, and this is a God-send."

The library is on the National Register of Historic Places, so renovations have to be done correctly to stay true to the period and materials and use builders who work on historic buildings. All of these considerations add up when making financial decisions.

In much the same way, the McHaffey Opera House will also use their funds for some of the basic upkeep that has been put off due to lack of money. Jo Eddy says that has been the most exciting part of learning of the gift.

"Say we were going to do the stage lighting or something, we would raise enough money for that, then do that work. Instead of going project by project like that, now we have a nice buffer," she said.

There is wiring yet to do and curtains are needed for the windows, Eddy explained, and the doors need refinished and maintained to combat weathering. Bacon's gift will go a long way to completing these projects, she said.

— Follow reporter Laura Carrell on Twitter @CourierLauraC