Pauline Wright ‘Walked the Walk’

By Sandy Semans Ross

Pauline Wright died on Sept. 3, 2011 at the age of 93, but her dedication to her community will continue for countless generations to come, thanks to a bequest left in the care of the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

“Mrs. Wright loved life, art, music and had a compassion for people — especially children,” said attorney John Gaw, who provided legal representation to Mrs. Wright when she was alive and became the trustee of her estate. “She had a profound awareness of her value system and walked the walk. She lived what she believed in.”

As part of her estate plans, Mrs. Wright left a house in Southern Shores to her revocable trust, which sold the property, made a few specific bequests to a few specific individuals, and donated the remaining proceeds to the Community Foundation, for charitable purposes selected by Mrs. Wright.

“She did a good job focusing on what she wanted to achieve,” said Mr. Gaw. “She was smart and had a mind of her own and could quickly get to the crux of an issue.”

Her total bequest to the Community Foundation will total about $500,000. It will be the third largest bequest in the Community Foundation’s history. The Community Foundation will hold her bequest in five separate charitable endowment funds that will be invested in perpetuity.

Mr. Gaw said that Mrs. Wright loved the arts and felt that they add to the community’s quality of life. “She felt that support of the arts was important and that the arts are especially important in schools, where they might ignite an undiscovered talent. She collected local art, listened to music from plays, jazz, opera, and was a prolific reader.”

One of the five new funds set up at the Community Foundation is the Pauline Wright Endowment of the Dare County Arts Council. The money will be used to support the Art Council’s operations and art programs in Dare County.

“This extraordinary gift gives the Dare County Arts Council a unique opportunity to plan stable, long-term arts initiatives that reach several underserved populations, including young artists with developmental disabilities,” said Kip Tabb, President of the Arts Council. “We are humbled by Ms. Wright’s generosity.”

Mrs. Wright’s love of reading was translated into a perpetual endowment for the Currituck County Public Library Foundation for the benefit of Currituck’s public libraries.

Vicky Hagemeister, Currituck librarian, said that discussions are just beginning about how best to use the gift. “One of the ideas is to hold a reading contest for third graders in all the Currituck County schools. If children are to become good readers, they must be reading at grade level by the third grade. We could give the winner of the contest $100 and, of course, we would keep Mrs. Wright’s name alive by naming the contest after her,” said Ms. Hagemeister.

Mrs. Wright was also an animal lover and enjoyed the company of her beloved Sheltie, Daco. “She wanted a fund that could not be used to pay to euthanize animals, but, instead would help make sure that homes were found for them and that their medical needs were met,” said Mr. Gaw.

The Pauline Wright Endowment for the Currituck Animal Shelter will be a permanent endowment for the primary animal shelter of Currituck County that has, as its mission, the rescue, humane care, treatment, and adoption of stray and/or homeless pets. Currently, the Animal Lovers Assistance League operates the shelter, so the fund will provide the League with financial support for food, shelter, medical care, adoption programs, education programs, and spay/neuter programs for stray and/or homeless animals.

“We are very grateful for her gift,” said Ginger Sikes, the shelter director. “We have three funds that could use the additional money. The first is the one used to pay for spaying and neutering; the second is to pay for heartworm prevention and treatment; and the third is for emergency vet care.

“Recently, a puppy was brought in that needed medical help,” said Ms. Sikes. “Someone had poured some type of acid on its back, and the acid had eaten all the way down to the bone. The puppy received emergency medical treatment from a veterinarian … It is now full of life and is waiting for someone to adopt it.”

The Pauline Wright Endowment for Dare County Individuals with Special Needs, and the Pauline Wright Endowment for Educational and Developmental Needs in Currituck, are the last two endowments created by the bequest. These will be field-of-interest funds that will be available for programs benefiting those with special needs.

“Pauline had concerns about children with special needs,” said Mr. Gaw. “She knew that they needed help in developing areas such as social skills in their formative years. The programs needed to address issues that are lacking in schools, and so she wanted to help fund such programs.

“She had seen young people with special needs working in grocery stores and saw that they did a good job. She felt that was good for them and good for the community.”

The Community Foundation will use these two funds targeting the respective counties to award annual grants on a competitive basis to nonprofits for educational, cultural, social, and developmental programs for individuals with Down syndrome and/other similar special educational and/or developmental needs. Priority emphasis will be given to programs in schools, programs benefitting children, and/or job-training and life skills programs. Grant awards will be available to any qualifying 501c3 charity or government agency. Grant proposals for this fund will be due on the first Friday of May each year, with awards announced on the first Thursday of June.

“When we were setting up the bequest, we looked at several groups and felt that the Community Foundation was the best choice to meet her wishes and needs,” said Mr. Gaw. “I’ve always been impressed by how the Community Foundation handles such funds, and she was very comfortable with the choice.”

Now in its fourth decade of philanthropy, the Outer Banks Community Foundation is a public charity that connects people who care with causes that matter. The Community Foundation manages 125 charitable funds for individuals and agencies, makes charitable grants, administers over 40 scholarship programs, and provides tailored services to help individuals, families, and businesses pursue their charitable goals. Since its founding in 1982, the Community Foundation has awarded over $5 million in grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students across the Outer Banks.

Donations to any of the Pauline Wright Endowments may be mailed to the Outer Banks Community Foundation, 13 Skyline Road, Southern Shores, NC 27949, or can be made online at For more information about the Pauline Wright Endowments, or how to establish any type of charitable fund of your own, call 252-261-8839.