The Heerde family generously donated a $2.5 million farm estate gift to Hope Haven.

The Heerde Family of Spirit Lake recently provided Hope Haven with a farm estate gift of approximately $2.5 million. The ministry held a ceremony Thursday, April 11 to recognize the family’s sizable contribution. 

“This is historic for us and historic for Iowa,” said Hope Haven CEO, Matt Buley. “The purpose of Hope Haven is not to have a big endowment. It’s for gifts to go out, while funds continue to grow, so there will be a day — years from now — where we’ll be able to say the Heerde gift has been doubled. We’ve now given out $2.5 million dollars.” 

The family’s sale of their farmland generated close to $20 million — making for one of the largest donations of its kind in Iowa, according to organizers. The total gift benefited ten nonprofits, including local organizations like City of Spirit Lake, Excelsior United Methodist Church, Camp Foster YMCA, United Methodist Camp, and Milford Memorial Library.

Hope Haven initially discovered it would be receiving the donation in March of 2022. Farmers Savings Bank handled the sale of the land in August of 2021 and was ultimately involved in the donation process as well. Bank President, Brad Simington, said many farm families got to know the Heerde family through their corn-shelling business, including Simington’s own relatives. 

“I think, within life, you have relationships, and you gain relationships, and that’s the case with the Heerdes and the Simingtons,” Simington said. “Somewhere along the line, there was a relationship that was gained and trust that was had there. In some ways, we never thought this day would come where we would have to sell the land. It took us quite a few years.” 

The Heerde family owned hundreds of acres of farm ground northwest of Fostoria, valued at around $24 million. A total of 1,359 acres of land was sold — $14,067 per acre on average — all of which was owned previously by Willie and Earnedine Heerde, and their four children. Heerde and his children — each of whom lived with a disability — worked on the farm together for many years.

Hope Haven will add the recent estate gift to their Support Foundation
Endowment fund, bringing the total funds to over $20 million.
A percentage of the endowment will be used annually to fund client
scholarships, independent housing, wheelchair distribution, mental
health services, job placement, and other needs from those receiving
Hope Haven services. According to Buley, a common refrain among
Hope Haven’s supporters is that they wish they could do more. 

“I think about those donors when you see the faithfulness of the
Heerdes, for them to give that kind of money,” Buley said. “its unreal someone did that — take $20 million and not spend it on
themselves. This is a remarkable and humble act.”

 Now, this gold plaque depicting the supportive Heerde family
rests inside Hope Haven’s Spirit Lake building, recognizing and
honor the family’s estate gift. “Their example of stewardship
produced one of the largest farm-land estate gifts ever made in
Iowa,” the plaque states. “We are filled forever with gratitude.”

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