Secret millionaire gives money to church camp project - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Secret millionaire gives money to church camp project

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A vision for building a church camp on the Cahaba River near Montevallo will soon come to fruition. It's because of a surprise left in one woman's will, a surprise that may touch many generations.

Cabins will soon be going up at Living River, a Retreat on the Cahaba. It will become the camp and conference center for Presbyterian Church USA. There will be six buildings put up on the property first.

Benga Harrison, Living River Director of Development says , "From the time we started our fund raising, we've had dips and mountains and valleys I guess I should say."

For several years, campaigning has been going on to create this vision, a vision that caught the eye of an Avondale widow who made a donation with her church congregation in 2007.

But, she wanted to do even more to support the retreat.

Robert Hay with the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley says "Spring of 2011, Bette Wilson, walked into my office to talk about leaving Living River in her will."

After Bette Wilson died November 20th 2012, Hay thought the 81-year-old had left her 2 bedroom house to support Living River. Turns out - this secret millionaire - left more than 2 million dollars. Hay says not even her friends knew about her assets.

"It was like winning the lottery. I never experienced anything like it. It was shocking."

The Living River Board had set a 2 million dollar goal to get this project going and one year after her death the prayer was answered. "God knew where it was all along, it was in Bette Wilson's estate."

Wilson did not have any children - but her donation will help transform lives for generations.

Harrison says, "We still have a lot of work to do, we're excited, we're thrilled, but our job is not done."

Wilson only had one simple request that an appreciation plaque be placed at the retreat remembering her, her husband, and her parents. Construction is expected to be begin December 16th.

Wilson's church was closed and sold and those proceeds were also donated to the retreat. Construction will be finished by the end of Summer.

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