10 years later: The impact of one man's multi-million dollar gift to his hometown

By  | 

MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) -- A man who many say lived a humble life gifted his community with an endowment fund after his death 10 years ago.

Felix E. Martin, Jr. left $50 million to Muhlenberg County to go toward bettering the lives of community members.

"He never married and didn't have any children and what he did was he left the bulk of his estate to the good of the citizens of Muhlenberg County," said Alyssa Manning, president of the Felix E. Martin, Jr. Foundation.

The foundation was created after his passing to decide how to best divide up the money for the county.

"Since that time we've actually distributed $27.3 million in the community and at the anniversary date (in Dec. 2018), which was the last time we put the numbers together, we had just about $60.4 million left. So it's become about an $84 million gift," said Manning.

These funds have gone to create an extremely successful performing arts center and a county-wide parks system. Money has also gone to local teachers to help with classroom supplies, and to fire departments, just to name a few.

"We have over 30,000 people per year who sit in those seats now and over 300 events per year that take place," said Manning, talking about the performing arts center, Felix E. Martin, Jr. Hall.

She said the park has also helped with economic growth in the community.

"During the week days in the summer, you can see 1,000 people there most weeknights for little league games."

She said Mr. Martin was a wise investor and the kind of man who did his own home repairs and lived a quiet life.

"I think people were very, very surprised when they heard he had given this kind of a gift to Muhlenberg County. No one expected it," she said.

If they didn't know his name before, community members certainly do now, as his endowment has continued to provide opportunities for growth over the last 10 years.

"The gift was actually set up as an endowment, so it will last forever," added Manning.

She said the gift has also brought the community together. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary in December, the foundation focused on '10 Days of Giving' where they gave away $100,000 in surprise grants over a 10-day period to various community projects.

They say it's only a matter of time to see what all this endowment creates. They're already planning phase two of the county park system, and continuously talking to community members about grants and ideas for growth.