On an online tribute wall, those who knew Glenda Taylor DeLawder called her “a very good neighbor,” “the best landlord I ever had,” and thank her for her “meaningful friendship.”
But what really tugs at the heartstrings are the messages from complete strangers.
“I don’t know you. What you did with deciding to donate your money to the animal shelter is beyond words. It had my eyes watering up,” reads a post written by a man named Jeremy. “I am an avid animal lover myself. I am probably the biggest dog lover on the planet. The best people in the whole wide world are people like you. I don’t even know the proper adjective I can use to describe your act of generosity. I’m sure your family will keep your animals just as happy as I know you made them. Nothing more to say.”
DeLawder, who died on Nov. 13, 2016, left her $1.2 million estate to be used exclusively to help care for Carter County Tennessee’s cats and dogs, according to a message from Leon Humphrey, Carter County Mayor, which he shared on Christmas Day.
“Mrs. DeLawder’s family asked me to share with you that she loved her cats and dogs so very much and wanted her love and care of them to be her everlasting gift,” Humphrey wrote. “I think Mrs. DeLawder would be very pleased that her gift will be able to provide for future cats and dogs at the shelter for as long as the shelter exists.”
DeLawder’s gift is already doing good. The message says that the administrators of her estate have bestowed a gift of $540,000 to the Elizabethton Carter County Animal Shelter to expand the dog and cat holding areas and to purchase a van to transport the shelter’s cats and dogs to off-site adoption events and to spay and neuter clinics.
It is believed that the “tremendous gift” is one of the largest private gifts ever given to the county “for our citizens (human, feline and canine),” Humphrey wrote, adding that construction on the shelter’s expansion will begin on Jan. 9 and the new van will arrive by March 1.
“Mrs. DeLawder’s gift will allow us to do far more for the animals than we could ever have done otherwise,” Mayor Humphrey told PEOPLE in an email. “It is our intent to ensure Mrs. DeLawder’s wishes are met.”
The director of the Elizabethton Carter County Animal Shelter tells PEOPLE that the gift has left the shelter staff and beyond in awe. “It’s amazing, people are like ‘Wow,’ it’s just so shocking to everyone here,” says Shannon Posada, who never met DeLawder. “She left everything she had, and she wanted her gift to provide. She truly loved dogs and cats.”