Shriners Hospital for Children in Oregon benefits from donation
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — How would you spend a half-million dollars at once?
If you’re Duke Mitchell, you give it away.
Mitchell, a 96-year-old retired welder from Springfield, took the spotlight Monday at a ceremony held to recognize a $500,000 donation he recently made to ç. The international, nonprofit network of medical centers provides care to youngsters with spinal cord injuries as well as other bone, muscle and limb problems.
“This is not a common occurrence,” Kathy Park, development director for Shriners’ pediatric hospital in Portland, said of the big contribution after she posed for photographs with Mitchell and an oversized check.
Park said the hospital will install a plaque recognizing Mitchell’s support.
Mitchell is not a Shriner — one of the fez-wearing, community service-oriented men one might see driving tiny cars in a parade. He said he became inspired to give to the group’s hospitals after learning about them on television sometime after Lucy Mitchell, his wife of 72 years, died in 2014.
The Mitchells had money in the bank for some time, and agreed they’d eventually donate it to an organization that could use it for good. Duke Mitchell decided that he wanted to “help little kids” who receive care through the Shriners hospitals.
“I thought, ‘My God, what a wonderful thing that is,’” he said during Monday’s ceremony. “What could you do that’s any greater than that?”
Mitchell said he appreciates being a longtime, wage-earning member of a local union chartered by the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters. (The group’s Springfield training center hosted Monday’s gathering.) He also said that he’s “fortunate” to have made much of his money in the stock market.
He predicts big returns on his latest venture.
“I think this is the greatest investment I’ve made in my life,” he said.
Mitchell, who recalled sleeping on the ground with his family in Texas during the Great Depression, moved to Lane County more than 50 years ago and raised three children with his wife. He now lives in a Springfield trailer court.
One of his daughters, Sharon Stiener, accompanied him to Monday’s ceremony. She said Mitchell’s relatives are glad that he has decided to give his money to Shriners.
“My dad has taken care of his family,” Stiener said. “I think (the money) is going to a good cause.”
Charity Navigator, which evaluates and rates charitable organizations across the United States, gives Shriners Hospitals for Children a four-star, or “exceptional” rating. Park, the Portland hospital’s development director, said 12 pediatric orthopedic surgeons work at the Portland medical center, the largest such team in the Northwest.
Mitchell’s generosity touched the heart of Mike Carmickle, the local’s former business agent. He spoke Monday about the day earlier this year in which Mitchell summoned him to the union training center to tell him that he wanted to give a half-million dollars to Shriners.
“It was mind-boggling,” Carmickle recalled. “I don’t know who was bawling more, me or him.”
Jack Moran is a staff writer for The Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.