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Mitchell's United Way and Abbott House each get $196K donations in farmer's will

A farmer from rural Stickney who died late last year left a total of nearly $785,000 to four organizations, including Mitchell United Way and Abbott House.

Before Alton Schuldt died last December at a nursing home in Mitchell, he arranged to leave $196,073.39 each to Mitchell United Way and Abbott House, both in Mitchell, as well as the Children’s Care Hospital and School in Sioux Falls, and the American Diabetes Association, according to Charlie Huff, Schuldt’s personal representative. Huff is also the husband of Schuldt’s stepdaughter, Janice.

Schuldt farmed west of Stickney for most of his life, until he and his wife, Hazel, retired and moved to Mitchell in 1994, according to Schuldt’s obituary, which was published in the Jan. 4 edition of The Daily Republic. Schuldt’s wife died in 2000.

Dave Stevens, executive director of Mitchell United Way, said Schuldt’s gift is the single largest donation the organization has ever received.

“When we received it, we were flabbergasted that someone would make that kind of a contribution,” he said.

Mitchell United Way was notified of the donation several months ago, but wasn’t made aware of the amount until Saturday, Stevens said. Huff told The Daily Republic on Tuesday of Schuldt’s four donations.

The donations won’t be distributed until they’re made final by a judge at a hearing in June, according to Stevens.

Stevens said Mitchell United Way’s 24-member board of directors will work carefully to use the money in a responsible manner. “I firmly believe Mitchell United Way will invest and distribute that wisely,” he said. Despite the donation, Stevens said Mitchell United Way will still need donations this year to help reach its fundraising goal to help the 29 different agencies it supports. Calls made Tuesday to Abbott House, a residential treatment home for girls, were not immediately returned. Stevens said he doesn’t know why Schuldt chose to donate to Mitchell United Way. “This gift came out of the blue,” he said. The reasons for Schuldt’s donations appear to be unknown even to those close to him. “I had never seen the will until he died,” Huff said. “He never told me anything about what he wanted to do with his money.”