PINELLAS COUNTY (WFLA) – A handful of organizations across Tampa Bay were surprised to receive millions of dollars from a man who passed away in 2021.
David Baldwin gifted $63 million of his estate to seven Tampa Bay nonprofits including Metropolitan Ministries, R’Club Child Care, and St. Pete Free Clinic to name a few.
“We were completely stunned. This is what we would call an amazing legacy gift. Mr. Baldwin knew the difference he was making, but kept it to himself in his own humble way,” said Molly James with Metropolitan Ministries.
“Mr. Baldwin’s donations over the years were always received with heartfelt thanks and sincere appreciation. We were astonished and honored to learn of his great and enduring legacy. His bequest was, by far, the most substantial gift that R’Club has ever received, and words alone cannot express our gratitude,” said Executive Director for R’Club Debra Ballinger.
“Mr. Baldwin’s gift will ensure that St. Pete Free Clinic can continue to meet the pressing needs of our community through these expansions and by endowing our future for decades to come. We miss him dearly,” said CEO Jennifer Yeagley.
Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg also received a generous gift from the 96-year-old’s estate. It was a record-breaking donation for the nonprofit middle school and its 140 students.
“We received word shortly after his passing that we had been included in his estate. We were deeply touched and very grateful, but had no idea the size of the gift that he had left for us, no idea,” explained director of development Lacey Miller. “We knew that he had substantial means, we had no idea just quite to the degree. This was beyond our wildest dreams and expectation. $10,000 would have been wonderful; $9.5 million was beyond comprehension,” she continued.
Miller describes the gift from Baldwin’s estate as a ‘gift of sustainability’ for the school. It’s something she says brought faculty and staff to tears.
“[It is] deeply emotional. I have been with Academy Prep for 10 years. I didn’t really expect to see a gift of that size in my career in development and to have it come at this time after really a couple of hard, trying years was overwhelming, it is still overwhelming. I still feel like I have to pinch myself,” said Miller.
Baldwin had been donating to the nonprofit middle school since 2012 and attended their Breakfast for Scholars events every year up until the pandemic. His first gift in 2012 was $5,000, according to Miller.
Miller described the 96-year-old as humble; she said he would drive to the school for tours in an old Lincoln car.
“He was kind and gentle and soft-spoken, said Miller.
Folks at Community Foundation Tampa Bay got to know Baldwin well over the years. CEO Marlene Spalten tells 8 On Your Side he earned his wealth as a businessman in the tech industry.
“He was a very content and happy person. He was brilliant and extraordinarily generous to others,” said Spalten. “He was very successful and accumulated a lot obviously, but he got his real joy in sharing that with people whose circumstances are not as positive,” she continued.
Spalten described the 96-year-old as a ‘bright star who didn’t need any credit’ for all of his generosity.
“He was a people person. He had what he needed, a car that was reliable and he lived very comfortably in a cottage on the water, but he didn’t need to be surrounded by stuff. He needed to be surrounded by people and that is what he did throughout his life and brought joy to all of us who knew him,” said Spalten.
The nonprofit CEO says his life and death should serve as a lesson to others.
“He can stand as a model that what truly makes us happy is maybe not a new couch, but knowing that whatever you’ve done has helped someone else live a life that is more suited for their talents,” Spalten said.