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Large Bequest Helps W. Irondequoit's Helmer Nature Center Continue

There's a reprieve for an area educational preserve, thanks to a large bequest.

West  Irondequoit School District officials say a woman who died earlier this year left a total of $600,000 to go toward operation of the Helmer Nature Center.

The future of the facility was in jeopardy after the school budget was rejected twice earlier this year. But this week, School Board President Chuck Perreaud says they learned that Elizabeth Merz, who died in March at the age of 91, left the large donation. Officials say she had visited the nearby Pinegrove Community Center and learned of the Helmer center while attending programs at Pinegrove.

He says the Helmer Center has not totally been closed. With the help of donations, it has been operating in a limited fashion. He says people in West Irondequoit have been giving money for continued operation of the center and other programs that faced budget cuts.

"These funds are only for the nature center so we're still raising money for field trips in particular for the spring, and a lot of those field trips end up coming to Helmer's, so it'll be a great, great, opportunity."

The Helmer Nature Center includes 45 acres of land with trails, and has also had classroom based programs.

Officials expect the Helmer Nature Center to be running in some capacity as of January.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.