Two sisters who understood the needs of their community have left bequests totaling more than $750,000 to three local charitable organizations, agency leaders say.

Two sisters who understood the needs of their community have left bequests totaling more than $750,000 to three local charitable organizations, agency leaders say.

United Way of Jackson County, the Children's Advocacy Center and the Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation each received a check for $233,000 from the estates of Elizabeth and Ann Rice. The two sisters died last year. The probate of their estate was finally completed last week. The checks were delivered to the delight of the directors of the three agencies.

"It's like manna from heaven. And it couldn't come at a better time," said Marlene Mish, executive director of the CAC.

Ann Rice was one of five Medford real estate agents who joined together in 1970 to form the Rogue Valley's largest real estate firm. Elizabeth I.

Rice was a teacher at the Southern Oregon Normal School, the Oak Grove School and at Hedrick Middle School, says Dee Anne Everson, United Way executive director.

The sisters' assets will help subsidize low income housing, protect abused children and underwrite an agency that provides a "huge safety net."

"They left the bulk of their estate to the three (agencies) with no restrictions," said Miranda. "It's a remarkable gift."

It's a much-needed financial boost for the CAC, it also offers tangible proof of human kindness and compassion, said Mish.

"It is a sharp contrast to the evil we deal with on a daily basis," said Mish. "Here is someone who is doing something so wonderful for children she never knew and who will never know her. That people think about these things before they leave this earth shows us that goodness really does exist. This is the great equalizer."

The RVCDC was the organization most likely selected by Ann Rice, said Andrea Miranda, co-director of the agency which helps provide housing for low- and moderate-income people.

"We're so grateful. Ann really believed in home ownership," said Miranda.

The leaders say they were informed the Rice sisters had left money to their agencies last year. But they had no idea of the amounts.

"When the attorney called me, at first I thought he said $233 dollars," said Mish. But when the attorney repeated the amount, and Mish heard him correctly, she "just cried," she said.

"We have really been struggling. And we were hoping for a miracle. This was it," Mish said.

The directors hope the Rice sisters' bequests will be utilized in perpetuity. The plan is to form endowments at the CAC and the United Way.

"The charities they chose stand for what they believed in," Everson said. "They set a beautiful example of how to leave the world a better place."

The RVCDC is looking to create a revolving loan fund for their home building efforts.

"If we don't have to go to the bank and borrow, it helps the buyer in the end," said Miranda.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or at sspecht@mailtribune.com