Gifts for the Future

Neal and Nancy Cheek turned their love of North Carolina’s rugged landscapes into a legacy that will preserve those wild places.

The Cheeks created a legacy that will preserve the rugged North Carolina landscapes they love.
Nancy and Neal Cheek The Cheeks created a legacy that will preserve the rugged North Carolina landscapes they love. © Liz Nemeth

A Gift of the Outdoors

The story of their gift begins in two separate childhoods. Growing up, Neal and Nancy Cheek each spent endless hours outdoors in North Carolina, building forts in the woods and catching crawfish in the creeks. It was these memories of days spent in the mountains and on beaches that inspired the couple to think about protecting wild places, so that such experiences would be available to future generations, especially their three granddaughters. “We didn’t sit in front of a television or with a smartphone,” says Nancy. “But today, worries about safety and other distractions keep kids from enjoying the outdoors like they used to.” The Cheeks joined The Nature Conservancy in 1979, and for years Neal helped monitor invasive plants at TNC preserves and coordinated volunteers. These days, he helps by reaching out to other long-term donors living in the state. “I call to thank them for their years of giving, share my own story and see if they’d like to get more involved,” he says. The Cheeks dedicated proceeds from the sale of their share in a family beach house to a gift that will provide sustained support for conservation efforts. “In retirement, we have more time and resources to give,” says Neal. Helping protect nature in North Carolina “is a good use of both.” 

As first published in Nature Conservancy magazine.

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The Legacy Club is a group of more than 26,000 people who, like Rachel Carson, chose to make a git to benefit nature after their lifetimes. Many members make a gift through their wills, retirement accounts or life insurance plans.