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Former Bank of America CEO gives $1 million to school for abused children

A planned expansion of The Crossnore School for abused and neglected children in Avery County has received a $1 million boost from former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis and his wife, Donna.

The couple, who live in Charlotte, donated the money to help the century-old school kick off a campaign that seeks to raise $6.3 million this year. The money will build housing for 30 additional children and a new school building.

Brett Loftis, chief executive officer of the school, said the expansion will allow Crossnore to increase its capacity about one third to 120 children. The school, about 100 miles northwest of Charlotte, specializes in helping children who have suffered physical or sexual abuse, or severe neglect.

Loftis said the Lewises notified him of the gift after they took a tour of the residential boarding school last fall. The couple could not be reached for comment.

“When I got the call, I may have stood with my mouth open a little while, and then there was a tear or two,” said Loftis, who is the former head of the Charlotte-based Council for Children’s Rights.

“It’s an example of the generosity of folks when they believe in taking care of children who other people have forgotten.”

It’s not the first time the largely private couple have stepped up to help a nonprofit cause in recent years. In 2011, they mailed a $250,000 check to Charlotte’s American Red Cross with a simple a Post-it note attached that read: “Thanks for all that you do.”

The check came in response to a $250,000 challenge grant given to the Red Cross by Howard Levine, CEO of Family Dollar. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson also sent a $250,000 donation to the charity in response to the challenge.

In the case of The Crossnore School, Loftis said he never actually asked the couple for money. However, he told them of the school’s needs during their tour and its plans for a Young Children’s Village for abused kids ranging between 18 months and 12 years of age.

Included in the plans are three cottages that will house 10 children each and a couple who’ll serve as “professional foster parents.”

The money will also pay for a new school building for Crossnore’s high school students. Currently, all students in kindergarten through grade 12 attend classes in the same building. The school hopes to finish the project in 2015.

Crossnore maintains a 100 percent graduation rate for high school students and a 100 percent college acceptance rate, Loftis said.

“The traditional (foster care) system is so broken, only one third of foster kids graduate from high school and less than 3 percent graduate from college,” Loftis said.

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