The Rev. Jane Hays, one of the earliest women to be ordained to the ministry in Denver Presbytery, has given $500,000 to Presbyterian World Mission to help empower poverty-stricken women and children around the world.

Hays’ gift will fund the ministries of Presbyterian mission co-workers who serve alongside global partners to help women and children living in poverty. Addressing issues of poverty, with a special focus on women and children, is one of three critical global issues identified as priorities by Presbyterian World Mission. The other two critical global issues are sharing Christ’s good news and working for reconciliation.

The gift comes from proceeds from the sale of appreciated stock that had been given to Hays by her recently deceased husband, Bill. “I did not earn this,” she said. “I am just God’s agent.”

The road to ministry for Hays began in the 1970s when she entered Illiff School of Theology in Denver at age 55. At the time, the modern feminist movement in America was in its beginning stages. The quest for women’s equality resonated with Hays, who had long been interested in women’s empowerment.

After Hays graduated, she became parish associate at Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, Colo. She served there until her retirement in 1995 and continues to attend the congregation.

When Jane and Bill Hays were married, Jane was a widow living in Winter Park, Fla. Jane’s first husband, James Huff, had been pastor of a small church in Princeton, Ky., died five years earlier. Bill was an elder in the congregation.

While a widow, Jane struggled to provide for her three children. When the tires wore out on her “wood-sided station wagon,” she had to opt for retreads rather than new tires. Her passion for helping women around the world stems in part from the challenges she confronted as a female minister and as a single mother.

“Because she had suffered discrimination as a woman in the church and in society throughout her life, Jane determined to turn her own suffering into joy for many,” said Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission. “She made her gift to bring blessing to women and children and their communities around the world. We give thanks to God for this pastor’s generosity.”