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$60M windfall – Congregation stunned

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When he died in 1988, a man who hadn’t attended his hometown church for more than 24 years left it his share of a phone company his family had established in 1927.

Last month, Warren Bailey’s share of Camden Telephone Co. was sold, generating $60 million for the United Methodist Church in St. Mary’s, Ga., The New York Times reported Nov. 9.

The 200-year-old church, the oldest in town, draws 350 people every Sunday and has an annual budget of $285,000.

The budget of St. Mary’s, a coastal town of 15,000, is one-third of Bailey’s gift.

For much of his life, Bailey was president, co-owner and night watchman at Camden Telephone, which began as a manual switchboard and grew to be Camden County’s main carrier.

Bailey, who owned 49 percent of the firm, lived alone in a one-room apartment in back of his office, partly so he wouldn’t have to hire a security guard.

He had no children and few friends and stayed unmarried after two years of marriage. He contributed $100,000 a year to the church, but said little about his plans for the bulk of his money.

Church trustees have decided not to use the gift for operating costs but won’t decide how to spend it until after a committee makes recommendations and congregation members vote on them.

For full story, go to The New York Times.

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