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The Daily Tar Heel

Married green thumbs nurture a legacy in the soil

The Allens planned an $8 million donation to the garden.

The UNC volleyball team held their annual blue and white scrimmage in Carmichael arena on Friday night.
The UNC volleyball team held their annual blue and white scrimmage in Carmichael arena on Friday night.

It was the North Carolina Botanical Garden that made him stay.

He was sitting on a bench one day at the Coker Arboretum — one of many parts of the garden — when he made up his mind that he wanted to stay at UNC.

Allen went on to teach 30 years at the School of Public Health. His wife, Delight, came to Chapel Hill about 10 years ago and recognizes the impact the botanical garden had on her husband.

From then on, the Allens were in love with the botanical garden at UNC.

From that love sprouted another big decision. The Allens pledged an $8 million planned gift in the 2015 fundraising year, which ended June 30. It will be given to the garden as an endowment as part of their estate after their passing.

The garden exceeded its 2015 fundraising goals by 1,200 percent largely because of that gift.

Jim Allen said the idea to leave part of their estate to the garden really sprung from his study of population.

He said the two basic issues of the world currently are overpopulation and addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which is due to the large population and the burning of fossil fuels.

“As far as we were concerned, the plants are very much endangered by this whole process,” he said. “Plants will need all the help they can get, so we decided, for what little good it would do, we would just leave our estate to the garden and to the plants.”

Charlotte Jones-Roe, director of development, said she expects the Allens’ endowment to generate $350,000 to $400,000 in interest per year for the garden.

She said in addition to its large planned gift, the Allen family makes other gifts frequently.

Just this summer, the Allens funded an internship at the gardens for a UNC student.

“They didn’t know the student. They just wanted to be sure that we were able to engage a Carolina student for the summer and be able to pay them for their hard work,” she said.

Damon Waitt, director of the garden since April, said it was exciting to hear the garden had exceeded its fundraising goals in his first year.

“It’s wonderful to have their support in this life and in the afterlife,” Waitt said.

Jones-Roe said she hopes the Allens, who visit almost daily, will live a long time, as she said most garden members do.

And although the gift is a wonderful gesture, she said she hopes the garden won’t see it anytime soon.

“We are happy that the Allens have adopted us as their heirs,” she said. “They know that it takes generations to build a great garden.”

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