GOSHEN — When the Elkhart County Community Foundation announced a gift from Guy David Gundlach in August, they estimated the number to be a history-making $125 million.
It turns out that it will be more like $150 million, now that some of the real estate has sold, and it hasn’t been an easy process to get the money here in the 51 weeks since Gundlach’s sudden death.
That was the news from Pete McCown, head of the community foundation, at a meeting Tuesday afternoon at Goshen College.
That means the foundation’s 21-member volunteer board will spend the bulk of the next year figuring out how to prioritize giving $7.5 million a year.
“I’ve had about 5,000 calls, emails and visits. I’m not exaggerating,” he said, when a chuckle rippled through the people gathered for the meeting, part of the Afternoon Sabbatical series at the college.
He explained that since the news broke in The Elkhart Truth and on etruth.com, the story has been on CNN, the BBC and in the Wall Street Journal. He said he gets 300 to 400 emails a day, “from people not asking for resources, but in a very positive way,” offering suggestions for priorities for the gift’s proceeds.
As he guides the foundation, McCown told the audience that he’s been nervous as he’s been guided by a verse in the Gospel of Luke: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
McCown said, “We have been thinking carefully about how we can be the stewards of this man’s gift.”
Liz Borger, a friend of Gundlach who has been settling the estate, said it wasn’t easy to fulfill Gundlach’s wishes to have his estate come home.
She detailed the year of international legal struggles, the sacrifices and help from her husband, the 18 filing cabinets filled with records and the huge amounts of emails she and a team sorted through to figure things out. “David’s affairs were extremely complex,” she said.
“There were times when it was completely threadbare and unraveling,” Borger said, By August, they were able to deposit $114 million in the community foundation’s account.
Now that Borger’s work is nearly finished — all the real estate should be liquidated or transferred to the community foundation within two months — “100 percent of David’s assets are coming here to Elkhart County,” she said. The last year has been a challenge, but “what’s important is what comes next,” she said.
McCown said he’s encouraging the foundation’s board to put controls in place to keep the staff from having too much control at any point in the future.