$95k for 95 years: Peggy Darling celebrates birthday by giving, not getting, gifts

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Gifts will be in abundance at Peggy Darling’s upcoming 95th birthday party. But they’re not for her, they’re from her.

Twenty gifts, to be exact, for 20 local nonprofits that have in some way touched her heart — 20 gifts totaling $95,000 — a grand for every year of a grand lady’s life thus far.

“There’s something about making someone happy, helping someone that has needs that makes you feel good,” she said.

This is not Peggy’s first go-round with charitable giving. She has done a lot, especially for downtown Bakersfield, helping restore the Historic Fox Theater and, more recently, gifting a building behind the Fox to the Bakersfield Firefighters Historical Society for a fire museum and community hall.

Peggy’s birthday is actually Tuesday, but she gave KGET a sneak preview of her plans. One aspect of her plans is the element of surprise — most of the recipients don’t know they’re on her birthday giving list, and none have been told how much they’re getting.

But four we do know about are the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the California Living Museum, known as CALM, and the Christian Youth Film Society, which teaches teens all elements of the filmmaking process. Joe Brown runs the film school, and he’s grateful.

 “To have that in the first place is great, but then to give it away …,” he said. “She is so good for this community because I think she’s an example that we can all follow, you know, in our own small way.”

Stan Eschner isn’t just on the board of the CALM zoo, he’s the guy who suggested what is today its most profitable fundraiser, the Lights at CALM. He and his wife saw a similar display in Denver 21 years ago that appeared to be wildly popular. He brought the idea to the CALM foundation board.

“And I said to the foundation, I think we should start a light show,” he said. “So it became a significant fundraiser.”

Admission to the Lights at CALM last year was $30 a carload. Peggy Darling thought some families might have trouble with that much money, so she sponsored dozens of them. This year she’s keeping it going.

 “I think it’s a wonderful idea to give to a community that you love and enjoy because — I mean, she’s 95,” Eschner said. “I’ve seen people pass and then they give it, and they get no pleasure from it because they’ve gone on. The Hearse don’t come with luggage racks.”

Peggy, who moved to Bakersfield in 1990 after marrying the late Curtis Darling, hopes others who can afford to give remember their community.

“Absolutely,” she said. “If they like me, they should give gifts to any charity they like. It doesn’t have to do with me at all.”

The Kern Community Foundation will be administering the distribution of all donations. 

And what are you doing to celebrate your next birthday? You may not have $95,000 burning a hole in your pocket. But as Peggy Darling might tell us, it’s not always what’s in your  purse, it’s what’s in your heart.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest News

More Local News