Generosity can be contagious. A recent fundraiser by two local service organizations—and then some—demonstrated that.
Rotary and the Noon Lions held a friendly competition in May to collect funds for a new hydroponic growing station for Helping Hand, an Indianola nonprofit that provides free food and other items to people in need.
The fundraiser's outcome exceeded expectations, according to Rotary president Seth Lampman, and opened the door for future collaborations.
“Really, the thing I’m most excited about is taking two service organizations and working together toward a goal to serve a need in the community,” he said.
The partnership began when Roger Foelske, immediate past president of the Noon Lions, sought a project to celebrate that group’s return to in-person meetings after a year-long hiatus due to COVID.
Also a volunteer at Helping Hand, he asked Sue Wilson, that nonprofit’s director, for ideas. That led the Lions to focus on the growing station on Helping Hand’s wish list: a model from Fork Farms valued at $4,695.
But the Lions decided to make the venture a little more interesting: Not only would they aim to raise $2,500, they challenged Rotary to do the same.
“They were very responsive,” Foelske said. “I think this is the beginning of several opportunities in the future.”
The Noon Lions collected funds in the foyer of the Indianola Hy-Vee, offering passersby “Lions mints” in exchange for a freewill donation. Meanwhile, Rotary conducted an online fundraiser with a matching challenge for its club.
And the result? The Noon Lions and Rotary were able to contribute $1,750 and $1,000 respectively toward the growing station.
“There are generous people in this town,” Foelske said, “and I think they were pleased to see what we were doing with the money. I think a lot of people are concerned about those who are less fortunate.”
And although the service organizations weren’t able to cover the entire cost of the growing station, perhaps what happened next was even more remarkable: A ripple effect.
For instance, Lisa Fleishman of Carlisle donated a portion of her book sales. In February, she published “Boots on the Ground: A Grassroots Tale of Neighbors Stepping Up & Into Pete Buttigieg’s Historic Presidential Run.”
Donations are still rolling in from other groups, Foelske added. He’s still waiting to hear who all the contributors are and what the full tally will be.
“When it started out, it was just us and the Rotary,” he said. “But then a group from Palmyra jumped on board, and a group out of Carlisle, and then there’s a church in Indianola. … I thought, ‘Wow.’”
And they’re investing in a piece of equipment that could pay dividends in the long haul: The growing station is about the size of a refrigerator, but can grow at least 394 pounds of produce annually during its 20-plus year lifespan, according to information from Fork Farms.
For Helping Hand, that’s a game changer. Not only would it increase the nonprofit’s access to food, Wilson said, it would be intensely nutritious food that recipients could even have a hand in raising.
“We will engage our clients of all ages into caring for, harvesting, cleaning and enjoying our vegetables from the hydroponic system year round,” she said.
To learn more about Helping Hand, including how to support it, visit the nonprofit's website.
In May, Wilson gave presentations to the Noon Lions and to Rotary to tell members more about the growing station. Foelske said he’s “just so pleased” with how Helping Hand is caring for the community, and vice versa.
“Just a big thank-you to the community for stepping up when they see a need,” he said. "It feels good to be part of a community like this, where you identify a need and people step up.”