A woman who died nearly a year ago left a gift that has astounded the Douglas County 4-H program.
Helen Dreher, a lifelong county resident who never married and had no children, bequeathed at least $670,000 from her estate to the program. That announcement was made during Wednesday night's Douglas County Commission meeting by attorney George Catt, executor of the estate.
All Dreher asked was that the money be used to pay for a building for 4-H clubs at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds and that a plaque be placed on it bearing the Dreher family name.
Dreher worked as a legal secretary, at Lawrence Feed and Seed and for several doctors and dentists.
"She was very frugal," Catt said.
Her savings will have long-term benefits for the county's 4-H program.
"It is amazing that one person could accumulate this amount of money during a lifetime from a modest career," said Marilyn Colgan, president of the Douglas County 4-H Foundation. "The fact that she has chosen to give the money to a youth organization is a great way to focus on the future."
The announcement came after Commissioners Bob Johnson, Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones signed a proclamation observing National 4-H Week. It also came as the year celebrating 4-H's 100th anniversary nears an end.
"This is a wonderful way to honor the 4-H programs of the past, present and future," said Trudy Rice, director of K-State Research and Extension for Douglas County.
Dreher's wishes will be met, Colgan said. A building will be constructed at the fairgrounds that will meet all of the 4-H program's needs, she said. It will benefit more than 400 community 4-H club members and about 1,000 who participate in the 4-H after-school program.
"It will be a pleasure to name the building after the Dreher family," Colgan said.
Fred Six, who owns the former Dreher family property in rural Douglas County, spoke about his memories of Helen Dreher.
"So much good has yet to come from the generosity of this gracious lady," the former Kansas Supreme Court justice said.
Dreher died Dec. 14, 2005, at the age of 88.
Commissioners also praised Dreher and the 4-H program.
"This is certainly one of the more pleasant things we do as commissioners," Johnson said.