Fayetteville teacher leaves millions to charity

Posted June 27, 2009 2:19 p.m. EDT
Updated June 27, 2009 2:33 p.m. EDT

— A retired Fayetteville teacher left $2.7 million in her will to help fund education, health care and other programs, the Cumberland Community Foundation announced Friday.

Flora Cornelia "Neill" Bullock Wilkins made the gift to the foundation, which helps philanthropists create endowments for local charities, in her 2006 will. She passed away June 6, 2007, and her estate was settled nearly two years later.

“We are honored to be part of Mrs. Wilkins’ generosity to the community,” said Mary Holmes, the foundation's executive director. “We look forward to carrying on her wishes – forever.”

The endowment created in her name will be split equally among programs senior citizens, health care and education and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

Wilkins was born on a farm near Autryville Aug. 31, 1918, and was the youngest of five daughters. She got an education degree from Campbell College, now Campbell University, and then taught in the Fayetteville City School System until she married Dr. Samuel B. Wilkins.

The couple retired in Fayetteville in the mid 1970s, and Wilkins stayed there for many years after her husband's death. She was an active member of First Baptist Church.

"She lived quietly and frugally, enjoying her church, family and old friends," according to biographical information provided by her family to the foundation.

“The largest gifts usually come from good people who lived quietly in service to family, church and community,” Holmes said. “More and more, the foundation is receiving large gifts from individuals who put a few words in their wills and change the world.”

Wilkins' interest in education never died, and she helped teach her nieces and nephews and followed the careers of her seventh-grade English students at Alexander Graham Junior High School.

"She had a deep sense of family and area history, always believing that the preservation of the best of the past was essential to assuring a successful future," her family wrote. "She believed in helping deserving individuals get ahead, and it was in this spirit that she left this bequest to the Cumberland Community Foundation."

Her gift helped push the foundation raise a record $7.1 million in the fiscal year ending June 30. The gifts from Wilkins and other large donors were supplemented by smaller donors; 68 percent of gifts were under $250, Holmes said.

“The large gifts get more attention from the public, but every gift is important to the community foundation," Holmes said. "There are more people who can give $100 than there are that can give $100,000. It is a very generous community. Together, everyone can make this a better place to live.”