Gathering celebrates couple's big gift

John and Cindy Barnhardt delivered meals to the homebound each week. They volunteered at All Saints Episcopal Church, at the CVAN shelter for battered women and other charitable organizations.

They were pillars of the community, longtime friend and neighbor Mark Shelley said.

John Barnhardt died of lung cancer in 2006 and his wife of ovarian cancer about two years later, Shelley said.

Last week, about 70 people gathered at the historic Matthew O. Beatty House on Cabarrus Avenue, which formerly housed the advertising agency of which John Barnhardt was managing principal.

They were celebrating a lasting gift of more than $1million from the Barnhardts' trust that will annually benefit the Cabarrus Community Free Clinic, Cabarrus Meals on Wheels, CVAN, All Saints Episcopal and Cindy's home church in Wichita, Kan., Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church.

The donation is one of the largest to the Cabarrus County Community Foundation, an affiliate of Charlotte-based Foundation for the Carolinas. It will create an endowment known as the Barnhardt Fund, which will give money annually to the three charities and two churches.

The Cabarrus County Community Foundation will manage the fund. Founded in 1989 to increase charitable giving resources in Cabarrus County, the foundation now holds 32 such funds.

Shelley is the Barnhardt Trust attorney who will establish the fund. Shortly after her diagnosis, Cindy Barnhardt had expressed her desire to leave most of the couple's assets to the charities that had meant the most to them, Shelley told the gathering.

"Cindy was a businesswoman in many ways, and she wanted to establish a fund that would be a dependable source of income long after she and John were gone," Shelley said.

Each charity will receive a fifth of the Barnhardt Fund's earnings, in accordance with the foundation's spending policy, Shelley said.

That policy at present provides for a 4percent annual payout of the value of the fund, based on a one-year average, he said.

Anne Barnhardt Ridenhour, John Barnhardt's sister, and Brittany and Kayla Barnhardt, John and Cindy's granddaughters, unveiled a gigantic $1million check to the group last week. An actual check representing most of the fund has already been issued to the foundation so it can put the money to work for the charities, Shelley said.

He said the couple had invested their money wisely over the years. They owned the Belk store property in downtown Concord, he said, and John was part of a successful agency.

Shelley said $1million was a conservative initial value of the Barnhardt Fund, which will grow once the Matthew O. Beatty House is sold. It's on the market for $490,000, he said.

"None of you has become rich tonight," Shelley told representatives of the charities gathered at the home last week. "Your richness lies in the good work that you do every day and every week and in the dedication of your volunteers."