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Steuben estate gives $1.1 million

Council on Aging, Habitat, RISE get share of generosity

A gift of $1.1 million has been granted to three charitable organizations through the Steuben County Community Foundation

Presented Thursday, the gift from the estate of Martha Rogers is the largest contribution the foundation has received since it began in 1991, said Jennifer Danic, president and CEO of the Steuben County Community Foundation.

Rogers, 88, died in August and her husband, Don Rogers, died in 2002.

Pending the sale of Rogers’ residence on Lake James, the foundation is expected to receive an additional $1.5 million, said Craig Benson, a personal representative and attorney for Rogers’ estate.

Rogers’ gift will create a permanently endowed fund with investment earnings granted to three of the Rogers’ favorite organizations:

•RISE Inc., an employment training and rehabilitation center for adolescents and adults with disabilities, will receive 45 percent of the investment earnings for operational expenses.

•Steuben County Council on Aging will receive 35 percent for transportation-related expenses.

•The remaining 20 percent will go to Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Indiana for building housing in Steuben County.

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, the couple owned a thriving auto auction business in Montpelier and also briefly owned a similar business in Fort Wayne, Benson said.

“They liked to donate cars to RISE and the Council on Aging, but never wanted any kind of attention or recognition for their generosity,” Benson said.

Martha Rogers felt those two groups were doing a good job and wanted to continue to help them, even after death, Benson said.

Don Rogers was active with many service clubs, in particular the Angola Rotary and Elks clubs. In December, the community foundation established a $300,000 scholarship from the estate to benefit Steuben County high school graduates who will pursue vocational training.

The couple were left childless after Don Rogers’ only daughter died about 40 years ago, Benson said.

“We are honored that Don and Martha trusted the community foundation with their lasting legacy,” Danic said. “We are humbled by the opportunity ahead of us to steward this gift for the benefit of three very deserving organizations while honoring the lives of Don and Martha.”

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