A donation of $1.38 million from the estate of Bob and Aileen Harris has been gifted to The Sunrise Foundation, in what is the fledgling organisations largest bequest since it was established four years ago.
Bob and Aileen’s son Mike Harris says his parents were “the salt of the earth” who worked hard for what they achieved and this donation continues a lifetime of giving to the community.
“Mum and Dad gave very generously to the charities that were close to their heart. They volunteered their time to help a variety of different causes and have been giving significant donations to charity for some time.”
Aileen was born in Tokomaru Bay and qualified as a registered nurse. Her family moved to Te Karaka, where on her own she worked to save a deposit, which the young couple would later use to build their first home.
Bob, the oldest of eight boys and two girls, left school at the age of twelve to work with his grandmother on her farm at Waerenga-o-kuri.
Farming was his passion and it was while managing a farm in Dannevirke that Bob and Aileen won the Lands and Survey Ballot which gave them the opportunity to buy their first farm.
They went on to buy the neighbouring farm, eventually selling both to retire and move back to Gisborne when Bob was just 45 years old.
Mike’s wife Trish says early retirement didn’t work for a man with Bob’s tireless work ethic.
“It was only six months until Aileen had enough of him under her feet and kicked him back out to work!”
They bought a farm in Otoko and later the Lynsar’s old farm at Okitu, as Bob had always wanted a farm by the sea. After a zoning change they developed the land, which includes Sirrah Street (Harris spelt backwards).
Mike says his parents were hard workers, lived carefully and were very astute.
“Dad had vision and I admired him for that. They worked hard for what they had.”
An endowment fund has been established at Sunrise in Bob and Aileen’s name and their donation has been invested in perpetuity (forever). Every year some of the investment income will be retained to ensure their gift grows in line with inflation and is protected from future market fluctuations. The balance of the income from their endowment fund will be granted to causes that were important to them.
Bob and Aileen requested that half the income from their fund be included in Sunrise’s annual funding round.
Once a year Sunrise invites charities and community organisations with a charitable purpose in the Tairawhiti-Gisborne District to apply for grants. Applications are assessed by the Sunrise Grants Committee and distributed on a most needy basis. This means grants from Bob and Aileen’s endowment fund will adapt to meet our communities needs as they change over time. They also nominated Waipaoa Farm Cadet Training Trust and Eastland Rescue Helicopter as beneficiaries of the remaining income.
Mike and Trish say they are chuffed Bob and Aileen’s hard work will continue to benefit the community now they’ve gone.
“We know they wanted the capital to stay intact and grow, which it will with Sunrise.”
Mike says they aren’t surprised his parents nominated Waipaoa as one of the beneficiaries of their fund as investing in young people was important to them.
“They wanted to help young people out, just like they were helped with the ballot when they were young.”
Glenda Stokes, Sunrise Executive Officer, would like to acknowledge Bob and Aileen’s incredible generosity and what their donation will mean to the Tairawhiti-Gisborne community.
“Bob and Aileen’s bequest will be an immense legacy, that will make a significant difference to the cadet scheme at Waipaoa, our rescue helicopter and the many causes that will benefit through the general funding round every year.”
Bob and Aileen are survived by their son Mike who lives in Gisborne with his wife Trish, their daughters Sue Rush and Dianne Green who live in Australia, 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.