Friends of Lake Panorama President Talks about New Playgrounds
By Susan Thompson
Friends of Lake Panorama is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity dedicated to supporting recreational amenities at Lake Panorama. The charity is separate from the Lake Panorama Association, and is governed by a volunteer, seven-member board of directors. In this month’s Q&A, Jan Reinicke, current Friends president, talks about a new priority project, completed projects and future goals.
Q. The sixth anniversary of the Friends of Lake Panorama is this month. Tell us about events so far.
A. The first meeting of the Friends of Lake Panorama board of directors was December 3, 2013. An application for nonprofit status was filed with the IRS in January 2014, and approved in July 2014. Fundraising began in October 2014 with two priority projects – a new playground at Sunset Beach and renovated sports courts at Lake Panorama National.
In May 2016, Friends completed an $80,000 fundraising campaign to build the Sunset Beach playground, with the LPA providing an additional $50,000. The playground equipment was installed in mid-July that year. A year later, Friends had raised $75,000 for sports courts at Boulder Beach. The LPA board agreed to provide matching funds and the sports courts opened in mid-July 2018.
Q. Now Friends is raising funds for another priority project—new playground equipment at both Boulder and Shady Beaches. How was this decision made?
A. To help prioritize future projects, the Friends board of directors conducted a survey this past April to gather input from Lake Panorama Association members. A total of 171 people responded to the six-question online survey over a three-week period.
Ten potential projects were listed in the survey. Questions were asked to help prioritize those projects, based on survey respondents ranking their top priorities, plus the likelihood of them both using and financially supporting each project.
The Friends board analysis showed the top four projects chosen by LPA members are “beach” related, and where the main focus should be. Further analysis showed we should start by improving playground equipment at both Boulder and Shady beaches.
We settled on plans for $70,000 worth of new play equipment, to be split evenly between the two locations. At Shady Beach, existing swings and teeter-totter will be removed to make way for a multi-faceted play set, three swings, and a freestanding “spring rider” designed to accommodate a physically challenged child, that also has room for two children.
At Boulder Beach, the gray mountain and play set currently there will remain. The spring horses, tire swing and old bathroom will be removed. A freestanding “spring rider” designed to accommodate a physically challenged child, that also has room for two children, will be added. A new playground nearby will include a play set with features geared to both older and younger kids, plus three swings.
These playground upgrades will continue as the priority project for Friends of Lake Panorama until at least $70,000 is raised and the playgrounds are complete. A sign recognizing all donors of $500 or more will be installed near both playgrounds. No LPA funds are available for this project led by Friends.
Q. What are the various ways people can donate to this project?
A. There are several options. One easy way is to clip the coupon from the Friends ad on the back page of this issue of the Lake Panorama Times, fill it out and mail it with a check to Friends of Lake Panorama, PO Box 488, Panora, IA 50216. Or simply include a note with your check so we know you want to support the playground project, and mail to the same address.
On the Friends website—friendsoflakepanorama.org—there is a donation form that provides more details. This form can be printed, completed, and mailed with a check. Donations also can be made by credit card on the Friends website.
Donations of securities (stocks, mutual funds, etc.) are welcome, as are direct IRA qualified charitable distributions—for donors over age 70 ½ who are required to take forced IRA distributions. There are potential tax-saving benefits when considering either of these direct donation strategies. For information, contact Kristen Crouthamel, financial advisor at GCSB Investment Center, at 641-755-2799 or email@example.com.
All donations are tax-deductible, and donors receive a confirmation letter for tax purposes. Statistics show a high percentage of charitable contributions are made in the last few weeks of the year. I hope those interested in enhancing two of our beaches with new play equipment will consider donating before the end of 2019.
A Beach Ball fundraising event, similar to ones held in 2016 and 2017, is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2020, with all proceeds going to this playground project. More details on that event will be available soon.
Q. Are there other efforts underway as a result of the Friends survey?
A. Yes, the survey helped the Friends board identify other areas of interest. Groups of volunteers are researching four topics—additional beach amenities, walking trails, a dog park, and a disc golf course.
These groups are providing preliminary reports to the Friends board periodically. We anticipate these groups will have final reports to present sometime in 2020. The next step will be for the Friends board to review each report, and decide if there are projects to advance to the Lake Panorama Association board as a formal recommendation. Since physical improvements, when completed, become property of the LPA, all projects undertaken by Friends must first be approved by the LPA board.
The Friends board appreciates the willingness of LPA community members to study the feasibility of other projects and we look forward to the completed reports. But the priority for the next year will be the playground equipment for Shady and Boulder Beaches, and our fundraising efforts will be directed to this project. Any additional priorities will need a separate fundraising campaign. Meanwhile, the task forces are laying the groundwork for possible future work.
Q. In August 2017, Friends of Lake Panorama received $473,000 from the estate of James and Joyce McLuen to be used at the Panorama West golf course. What kind of an impact did that have on both Friends and Panorama West?
A. It was a wonderful, unexpected gift, and we’re so grateful to the McLuens for the commitment they showed to Lake Panorama and a golf course they obviously loved. When the Friends board of directors began to discuss ways to use this gift, there was agreement we needed to get input from LPA members, especially those who play the Panorama West golf course. A special open meeting was held, designed to give anyone interested the chance to comment on how they would like to see the gift used.
We also received ideas from members who completed a short survey, and placed cards in a suggestion box in the Panorama West pro shop. A task force reviewed all suggestions, and developed the final recommendation that was approved by the LPA board of directors.
One impact I think this estate gift had on Friends was for our board to establish and test a protocol for handling future estate gifts. And I think we passed that first test with flying colors.
Throughout 2018, a lot of improvements were made at Panorama West. A new irrigation system and additional concrete cart paths were installed, new tee box amenities and directional signs added, new landscaping completed around the clubhouse, and a three-year plan to improve the turf conditions of tees and fairways began. One final project will be completed in the spring, when the six sand bunkers are renovated.
The McLuens’ generous gift is a wonderful example of long-time Lake Panorama residents who cared about this particular recreational amenity, and made a decision to help support something they loved by including a bequest in their will.
We hope this gift will encourage others to think about the future impact they can have on recreational amenities at Lake Panorama, either through an estate gift, some other financial planning mechanism, or a direct donation now.
Q. What kind of impact do you think Friends of Lake Panorama has had so far on the Lake Panorama community, and can have in the future?
A. Besides what I’ve already talked about, there have been a few smaller projects – renovation of the Lake Panorama National conference center dining room in memory of Dr. David Wang, a rain garden at Panorama West, and several memorial benches.
Friends of Lake Panorama is the perfect opportunity to forge a strong partnership with the Lake Panorama Association to improve the recreational opportunities here at the lake. Working together, we have the potential to really improve the quality of life for current and future residents. While the LPA’s focus, out of necessity, needs to be on safety, security and infrastructure needs, Friends of Lake Panorama can be a catalyst and support group focusing on the amenities our community members desire.
Our working relationship with the LPA is good, as that board stepped forward to provide matching funds for both the Sunset Beach playground and the Boulder Beach sports courts. The LPA also has contributed labor and some materials as we completed those projects as well as the Panorama West rain garden. The execution of the improvements at Panorama West made possible by the McLuen gift was a true partnership with the LPA board and staff. I think this is an excellent model as we move forward. While the LPA will not be contributing financially to the Shady and Boulder Beach project, Friends will be depending on staff and board expertise as the project evolves.
We are proud of our commitment to engage LPA community members in establishing priorities and continuing our work to provide additional amenities. The member survey indicated the highest interest in beach improvements and the current campaign to raise funds for Shady and Boulder Beach is the direct result of listening to your voices. We appreciate your support and look forward to working with you to raise the necessary funds and complete the project. Sunset Beach, the sports courts and an improved Panorama West are proof of what we can accomplish by working together as a community.