The Iowa Great Lakes area is blessed with countless non-profit organizations who pour their energies and monies into bettering our community. Whether it is Camp Foster, Cherish Center or the Pearson Lakes Art Center, these numerous groups reach all ages in different ways. However, like any non-profit agency, funds can be tight­—especially this year.

The “Good Neighbor Fund” for Okoboji and Spirit Lake is a long-standing non-profit organization whose primary focus has been to support other local non-profit agencies in Dickinson County. Donations made to the “Good Neighbor Fund” are collected and distributed to various charities throughout the Lakes area. In 2019, the Good Neighbor Fund provided nearly $100,000 to 17 local non-profit organizations.

Every October for “Good Neighbor Month,” the committee sends a mailer to all Dickinson County residents encouraging them to help their “neighbors.” Donors have the option to designate their donation to a specific charity, or if they don’t want to designate their donation, the amount is split evenly among each agency supported by the “Good Neighbor Fund.”

The “Good Neighbor Fund” also collects donations throughout the year and then distributes those donations to the supported groups in April of the following year.

“It is a nice way for someone to support a variety of groups in our community while only having to make one donation,” said current chairman Luke Donnenwerth. “The mailers are light blue, so we just ask for everyone to keep an eye out for those in early October.”
The “Good Neighbor Fund” has been in existence in Dickinson County since the 1950s, which means countless organizations have received funds throughout the years.

“What we are able to raise through the community giving is a big part of each organization’s budget and has a huge impact on what they're able to do here locally,” Donnenwerth shared. “Since 2004, the ‘Good Neighbor Fund’ has given over one million dollars to these local non-profit organizations.”

The Process
Every year, a wide variety of agencies submit a grant request to the “Good Neighbor Fund” committee for evaluation, and the group then determines gift amounts based upon the applications and donations. Any non-profit Dickinson County organization is eligible to apply for funding.

“I think this year more than ever, the donations made to these organizations will have a huge impact in helping them sustain their operations and continue to do important work in our community,” Donnenwerth said. “We are blessed to have so many non-profit organizations in the Lakes Area that do amazing things and they need our continued support!”

Each year, the committee receives numerous “Thank You” notes from awarded organizations, detailing how big of an impact the donation has in their existence and how they are able to help others. “Just seeing these notes of appreciation lets you know that as a community we are making a difference,” Donnenwerth shared.

Being able to make a difference is why Donnenwerth and others have gotten involved with the organization. “I love the concept of making one donation that goes to benefit a wide variety of groups. I also have loved seeing the history of how the Good Neighbor Fund has impacted so many,” he said.

Everyone can help the “Good Neighbor Fund,” whether you're interested in joining the committee or donating this year. “If anyone would like to be a part of the Board or help with fundraising, please contact any board member for additional information,” Donnenwerth added. “We are always looking for good volunteers.”

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