A local family has donated a staggering and unexpected $1.75 million to three nonprofit organizations.
Russell and Grace Brooks, along with their sons Danny and Leonard – all of whom are now deceased – have donated the money to be split evenly among Habitat for Humanity of Missoula, the Foundation for Community Health and Missoula Food Bank.
According to Dorcy Dvarishkis, the executive director of the Foundation for Community Health, the family is leaving a legacy for shelter, nourishment and health in the region.
"It was a surprise to us, in terms of magnitude," she said. "Each of us had worked with the family for quite some time, but the magnitude really came to life when each of us received the final accounting."
The Foundation for Community Health, which is the successor organization of the Community Medical Center Foundation, will use the money for its leadership of the Safe Kids Missoula Coalition.
Dvarishkis said they host over 20 events a year, including the Safe Kids Fair, and focus on child passenger safety, teen driving behaviors, sports safety and medication safety.
Habitat for Humanity will honor the family's building legacy by constructing homes for low-income families, and the Missoula Food Bank will honor Grace Brooks' passion for gardening, cooking and baking by naming the commercial kitchen in its new building in her honor. The Food Bank is in the process of constructing a new headquarters in central Missoula.
Russell and Grace Brooks came to Missoula in 1957 with their young sons and Russell established Brooks Construction Co. in 1962, eventually leading work on more than 70 homes. Leonard was a carpenter for the company and drove the bus for the Mission Mountain Wood Band before passing away in 2003.
Russell passed away in 2011, and Grace died in 2013. Danny was a Vietnam veteran, a jack of many trades and a hat collector. It was his untimely death in February of this year that revealed the depth of the family's generosity back to the community.
“The extent of their estate surprised most people, as Russell and Grace were ultra-conservative in their lifestyle and spending," said Bill Bouchee, a personal representative for the family and their estate. "They trusted in these organizations to care for our neighbors as they did.”