$1,731,533.91. That's how much Elinor Sauerwein of Modesto, Calif., amassed during her 96 years by investing carefully and living frugally, doing things such as hanging her laundry out to dry, growing her own vegetables and mowing her own lawn.
Sauerwein passed away in 2010 at the age of 96, but her legacy will live on. She donated her frugal fortune to the Salvation Army.
It took more than a year to fully liquidate her assets and her donation was finally delivered this past Christmas Eve by her friend and financial advisor, John Bullock. "I picked up the cashier's check and I wanted to drop it in the kettle the Salvation Army has and walk away and not say a word," he told Sacramento's Fox40. "The estate attorney says it's not a real good idea."
Even so, the donation was still a huge surprise. "It was like one of those cartoon moments, where the eyes go out and they come back in," Salvation Army volunteer Brian Arid told the news station.
Sauerwein's neighbors thought she was poor, but she was really just saving her money for her intended donation. "She said every dollar I save is another dollar that could go to the Salvation Army." Bullock told ABC News. "Her goal for years and years was to amass as much as she could so it would go to the Salvation Army. She did an excellent job at it."
According to Salvation Army policies, half of the donation will stay in the Modesto chapter's endowment. The remainder must be put toward building physical structures, such as new homeless shelters. Michael Paugh, Captain of the Salvation Army Captain in Modesto, said her endowment will continue to benefit the community for decades to come and may eventually touch as many as 100,000 people.
Paugh knew Sauerwein while she was alive and was aware of her conservative finances. "She did buy carpet for her house one year, which took an act of God," he told CBN News.
After living through the Great Depression, Elinor Sauerwein met her husband Harold in 1945. He worked as a contractor and built their home. They both believed in living frugally; she continued her husband's investments after he died in 1994.
Watch CBN's report here: