Donor Profile Featuring Dick and Cynthia Perkins | Writing by NEFF Communications Manager Tinsley Hunsdorfer
Dick and Cynthia Perkins have spent decades appreciating, living alongside, and working to protect New England’s forests.
Cynthia moved to Massachusetts from California in 1970, and first explored the region’s woodlands when she and her children went out searching for wildflowers and other wonders in nearby forests. Dick spent much of his youth roaming the Vermont forest, and has always felt a close connection to the country and the woods—a connection that has shaped his career and led him to volunteer with and serve on the boards of several land conservation organizations, including NEFF.
When it came time to decide the fate of their well-loved, 88-acre Royalston forestland, Dick and Cynthia’s first priority was leaving it in the hands of an organization they trusted to manage it well, and their second was to use the donation to help get NEFF’s new Pooled Timber Income Fund (PTIF) off the ground.
After carefully consulting with NEFF’s conservation department, Dick and Cynthia donated the land—now called Perkins Woodlands—to NEFF, and the land’s timber to the PTIF in May 2020.
This summer, NEFF staff members spoke with Cynthia and Dick about how a long-running relationship with NEFF and their shared commitment to conserving forests led to this generous gift.
“I Always Wanted to Be a Forester”
While both Dick and Cynthia describe themselves as avid hikers who enjoy being in the woods, Dick has long had a particular fascination with forestry and working forests.
In 1968, Dick and two acquaintances with forestry backgrounds founded LandVest, a real estate company that in part specializes in the sale and management of timberland; one of these co-founders, Mike Whitney, had previously worked as a NEFF forester. In LandVest’s fledgling years, Dick reached out to then-NEFF Executive Director John T. Hemenway for assistance in establishing the company and its land management program. Or, in Dick’s words, “John helped carry us through the company’s first winter.”
“I always wanted to be a forester,” Dick said. “Working with people like John and getting trained, professional foresters out onto the timberland LandVest managed was the next best thing.”
Dick became more formally involved with NEFF when former NEFF Deputy Director Tim Storrow contacted him in 2003 about purchasing headquarters for the organization. Dick was in the process of listing the Prouty family’s Littleton-based house and lands through LandVest, and put NEFF in touch with the family. NEFF went on to purchase the property; the family house continues to serve as the organization’s headquarters, and the adjacent 118 acres of forestland now make up NEFF’s popular Prouty Woods Community Forest.
Thanks to Dick’s growing familiarity with NEFF and his professional experience, he was invited to join the Board of Directors in 2003, and served as a valued and active member until 2020—right around the time NEFF’s Pooled Timber Income Fund was getting underway.
“It Would Be in Good Hands in The Future”
As part of their estate planning, Dick and Cynthia had already determined that no other family members were interested in owning the Royalston forestland, and had decided to donate it to a nonprofit at some point. The advent of the Pooled Timber Income Fund was “the spark,” Dick said, that spurred them to select an organization and make the gift.
“It seemed like such a great concept, and I was eager to support the program and get it going,” Dick said. “One of the big problems for many landowners is that their investment in timberland leads to very sporadic income, and the Pooled Timber Income Fund was a way to get regular income from your land without having to sell it.”
NEFF also seemed like the right organization to take ownership of a property that had been sustainably managed as a working forest.
“Learning about forestry through Dick has been a real blessing, and it’s something that speaks to me,” said Cynthia. “The Royalston property shows how quality forestry can result in beautiful and vibrant forests, and by giving it to NEFF, we knew it would be in good hands in the future and continue to be managed well.”
Cynthia ultimately views their donation of what is now Perkins Woodlands as an investment in the world she wants future generations to enjoy.
“I have five grandchildren under seven, and last year, we all went for a ride on the bike path in Arlington,” Cynthia said. “My grandson Jack told us to pull over at one point, and then announced, ‘This is my favorite tree, I have to climb it every time.’
“My other grandson Leo, whenever he’s here at our house, he climbs a tree,” Cynthia said. “This physical interaction with trees, and seeing children watch trees grow, seeing children learn about the living world around them—that’s why NEFF’s work is so important. NEFF is conserving this land for our children and grandchildren.”
Planned Giving Opportunities
The Pooled Timber Income Fund is just one way you can make a legacy gift to New England Forestry Foundation. Making a bequest in your will is a flexible planned giving option that can be revised at any time, and can be made as a specific amount or a percentage of your estate. You can also name New England Forestry Foundation as a charitable beneficiary of your assets—such as retirement plans, life insurance policies, donor-advised funds, or bank accounts.