When local photographer Robert Pence died two years ago, he bequeathed $1 million to the ACRES Land Trust.
In a statement released Wednesday, ACRES Executive Director Jason Kissel said the gift will enable the trust to indefinitely maintain its 5,700 acres of land.
“Mr. Pence’s unrestricted $1 million gift allows ACRES to reach a milestone level of financial sustainability – an endowment exceeding $3 million,” Kissel said. “This provides the financial stability necessary for ACRES to preserve land forever.”
Since the bequest is unrestricted, the organization could have used the money however it deemed necessary, said Lettie Haver, outreach manager for ACRES Land Trust. The trust decided to put the money toward its more long-term goals.
“Because we have that strategic goal that says when we protect land, we’re doing it forever, we put (Pence’s bequest) toward the endowment so we can back that goal up financially,” Haver said.
Pence, a longtime resident of Fort Wayne’s West Central neighborhood, died Dec. 8, 2012, and left half his estate to ACRES – Indiana’s oldest and largest local land trust.
ACRES Land Trust is dedicated to preserving significant natural areas in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan. The organization currently protects 94 properties and hopes to expand the amount of land under its protection to 7,500 acres by 2017 – a goal Haver said the trust is on track to complete through strong community support.
“We’re so happy, so honored to be able to steward community support in such a meaningful way,” she said.