Executive Director Terry Maddox with Great Smoky Mountains Association announced this past week that an anonymous donor has named the non-profit organization as the recipient of one of the largest cash donations given in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “I have unprecedented news to share with you,” Maddox wrote in an email to the GSMA board of directors. “I was approached recently by a long-time GSMA member who wished to make a designated gift to GSMA. The total amount of the donation is $2,185,000.” According to a memorandum of understanding between GSMA and the donor, the funds are contingent on two stipulations. First, the donation is to be applied to the existing Oconaluftee Visitor Center loan and a new loan secured by GSMA to assist in the construction of the Collections Preservation Center. Secondly, Maddox said, the identity of the donor must not be disclosed to anyone other than GSMA’s executive director. “I agreed to these conditions without hesitation,” Maddox told board members. The donation will be made in five annual installments between April 2014 and 2018. “GSMA can now dramatically accelerate the pay-down of our line of credit and begin building a previously-approved future projects fund,” he said. The motivation to make a charitable gift of any size is often rooted in the donor’s belief in and love of a cause or place with which he or she feels an emotional connection. That is certainly the case with this donor, Maddox said.“I am overwhelmed by gratitude to this selfless donor whose generosity reflects a deep and abiding love for the Great Smokies,” said William Hart, chairman of GSMA’s board of directors. “This donation will allow GSMA to redouble its efforts to carry out its mission and allow funds that would have formerly been directed to debt to be employed toward the broader aims of the organization. “In effect, this donor leaves a legacy that will positively benefit millions of future visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” he continued. Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies jointly provided the $3.7 million required to construct the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., which opened to the public in April 2011. The facility fulfilled the National Park Service wish to replace an old CCC structure that was intended only to be a ranger station and replace it with a state-of-the-art museum, visitor center and bookstore on the North Carolina side of the park. Just last month, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that GSMA would once again be stepping up with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center to financially support construction of the new Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, Tenn., where the National Park Service will care for more than 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee. “This donation not only speaks to the genuine care people have for their Smoky Mountains, but also the trust and confidence we all have in our partners at GSMA to continue a 60-year tradition of supporting the park in meaningful ways well into the future,” said Pedro Ramos, acting superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. GSMA experienced one of its most financially trying years ever in 2013, when a major road washout closed U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road for three months early in the year and a government shutdown prevented it from opening its national park stores for 15 days in October. Even with a record membership recruitment year, these two factors caused the non-profit more than its share of angst. This contribution qualifies as a game changer, according to Lisa Duff, GSMA’s marketing and membership director. “We have always valued the contributions of our members and shared in their enthusiasm for this national park,” Duff said. “While this single gift illustrates the extraordinary generosity of one of our members in rather a large fashion, all who contribute time and money to this national park should count themselves among its greatest supporters.” Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $31.5 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA. For more information about GSMA, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888.898.9102.