VFW Commander Don Ihnken (left) lays his eyes Friday on a surprise donation from Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. board members for $5,000 to use as needed. Grow Greene also made a donation of $5,000 to YSS (Youth and Shelter Services). ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD“We’ll definitely put this to absolute good use,” Don Ihnken, commander of VFW Post 9599, says of a surprise donation of $5,000 from the Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD

Grow Greene County makes surprise donations

Extra $10K on top of $1.4M in awards this year alone


The Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. has become Publishers Clearing House.

The nonprofit organization that doles out the casino gaming riches to worthy causes throughout the area has, for a second straight year, opted to extend its goodwill — this time by showing up someplace unannounced with one of those giant checks.

The only thing missing Friday from the group’s surprise visit to VFW Post 9599 was the bouquet of balloons.

“We’re looking for a cause to hand out a few dollars,” said Norm Fandel, the Grow Greene board president.

With Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Don Ihnken wondering if he’d made enough coffee for everyone who abruptly just wandered in, Fandel then flipped over the giant ceremonial check for $5,000.

“We’ll definitely put this to absolute good use,” Ihnken vowed.

Grow Greene on Friday awarded a second check for $5,000 to the Greene County FaDSS (Family Development and Self Sufficiency) program of YSS, which helps local families at risk of long-term welfare dependency.

This past spring, Grow Greene County distributed more than $1.4 million in competitive grants at its second annual awards night at Wild Rose Casino.

So what’s an extra $10K?

“Both organizations this year are very deserving and add strength to the county through the services they provide,” read a statement from Grow Greene handed to members of the media.

The VFW will share its donation with Jefferson’s Post 11 of the American Legion.

“We’ll figure out something very useful for this to go to,” Ihnken said.

Ever since Greene County became the first Home Base Iowa county in 2014, the local posts of the VFW and Legion have increased their visibility in the community.

Friday’s surprise donation from Grow Greene County just happened to come the day before Veterans Day.

Ihnken is always quick to point out that the refurbished VFW hall on the east side of the Square is “always available to rent to anyone, anytime” for $100.

On this morning, he also pointed out a newly formed water stain on the ceiling to Grow Greene members. The post has never had the $45,000 needed to put on a new roof, Ihnken said, and has instead been forced to patch what it can.

“People always think we’re asking for money, that we’re never giving,” Ihnken said afterward. “We don’t publicly announce what we give.”

The veterans’ organizations routinely support youth softball and baseball, Boy Scouts and the after-prom party, he said.

An extra, surprise donation in the fall is becoming a Grow Greene County tradition.

Last fall, the organization awarded $10,000 to the New Opportunities Family Development Center.

The nonprofit gets its money from a cut of gaming revenue generated by Wild Rose Casino.

In the first two years since the casino opened, Grow Greene County has distributed more than $2.3 million to worthy programs and projects.

Unlike its regular grant cycle in the spring, Grow Greene’s fall award — call it a random act of kindness — has no application process.

“It’s just something that’s at the discretion of the board of directors,” said board member Peg Raney.

Like the Publishers Clearing House commercials always used to ask, “Who will it be next time?”

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