Lifelong outdoorsman Eddie Bridges founded the North Carolina Wildlife Habitat Foundation (NCWHF) 20 years ago to create a perpetual savings account that would help purchase land for hunting and fishing, and manage and protect fish and wildlife habitat. So far, the all--volunteer organization has raised almost $4 million and has paid for $1 million in projects.
"With no employees or paid staff, the dedicated team that runs the NCWHF has a full plate all the time. And my mind is like that, too. There’s no downtime inside my head. I’ve been blessed with an innovative mind, and sometimes it’s as if my ideas have fallen out of the sky, or they’ve come to me in a dream. Then I put them into action. When I volunteered on the board of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in 1981, they were in a budget crisis. I came up with the idea to sell lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and use the money to create what is now the state’s Wildlife Endowment Fund. It has generated $160 million in total revenue. I watch that number like an old hen, because I’m proud of it. They leave the principal and only spend the interest; our foundation operates the same way.
"The key for the NCWHF is that when we convince someone to give, we don’t squander their money, and we don’t come back to them asking for another gift next year—but people continue to give. I think it is important that our projects are diverse: We purchase land, fund education, and help restore habitat. It’s a powerful thing to secure a parcel of land forever for hunting and fishing purposes. It’s also crucial to keep kids interested. I’ve been hunting and fishing since I was 6 years old, and I’m still kind of addicted to it, so I stay very active. I just turned 79, I don’t wear glasses, and I don’t need a walker or false teeth, so I think it’s done me some good. Because we don’t touch the principal in the trust, we’re just doing what’s worthwhile when we can afford it. We’re lucky that our partners embrace us in a big way and make things work for us. So we’ll keep cranking up this machine and letting it run for a while—I think the dividends are still to come."
—As told to Kristyn Brady