The Alzheimer's Association of Orange County in Irvine, California, has received a $27 million bequest from Helen Banas, a Laguna Woods resident whose mother had suffered from Alzheimer's disease, the Orange County Register reports.
About $10 million of the gift — the largest ever received by the Alzheimer's Association — will go to the national organization, while the rest will be directed to the Orange County chapter, which has an annual budget of $3.8 million and helps approximately thirty-six thousand people a year — or 26 percent of the Orange County residents who either have or are at risk of developing the disease. With Banas' gift, the chapter expects to boost its outreach to seventy-two thousand people over the next two years, Jim McAleer, the local chapter's CEO, told the OC Register, with some of the funding being used to expand marketing of the chapter's services to underserved groups in the county, including speakers of Spanish and Vietnamese.
Banas, who died last August of congestive heart failure at the age of 95, and her husband amassed their fortune in the East, where he worked for pharmaceutical giant Merck and as a stockbroker in New York — and where she owned a beauty supply business after his death in 1958. She subsequently moved to Orange County in the 1980s with her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years later. Although Banas reached out to the association to learn about the disease and how to help her mother, she was not actively engaged with the local chapter. According to Lydia Rojas, a longtime friend and the trust officer responsible for overseeing the estate, Banas lived modestly, kept meticulous records of her investments, and valued her privacy.