07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Friday, June 28, 2013

Hooray for Grass-Roots Nonprofits

By Linda Lovely

Many well-known nonprofit/charitable organizations are national—even international—in scope. Such organizations often have paid staff and sizeable budgets for promotional mailings, websites, and brochures. They may even have celebrities to champion their causes.

Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum

That’s seldom the case for grass-roots nonprofits—ones started because a single dreamer or perhaps some like-minded folks see a community need that’s going unmet, a wrong that needs to be righted, or they have a quality-of-life vision. This blog salutes the tireless heroes and heroines who have such dreams and won’t stop working until they breathe life into their goals.   

Captain Steve Kennedy

My late cousin, Stephen Ross Kennedy, was one such hero. A native of Spirit Lake/Lake Okoboji, Iowa, he loved the history of the Iowa Great Lakes. Steve lamented the passing of the golden era when tour boats plied the lakes, ferrying passengers from one grand resort to another, or giving folks who couldn’t afford a boat a chance to experience a sunset cruise. Steve wasn’t alone. Working through the Chamber of Commerce, Steve and his friends raised funds to build the Queen II, a double-decker tour boat. After tour revenues paid off the Queen II mortgage, profits built the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, located in Historic Arnolds Park, an amusement park that’s entertained Midwesterners for over a century. The museum is another nonprofit gem.

My family with Steve's statue.
Steve became the first captain of the Queen II and the first director of the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. However, borrowing one of my cousin’s expressions, he’d have been “happy as a clam” even if he hadn’t been honored with these opportunities. He’d also be surprised to know his statue now stands on the Arnolds Park pier. Steve’s love for the lakes was contagious, and the Queen II and museum are gifts that continue to give. The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum offers fun history lessons for every member of a family—from bathing suits our great grandparents might have worn to the evolution of motorboats. The Queen II also retains her regal status as the first lady of the lake. 
NO WAKE ZONE, the second book in my Marley Clark Mystery Series, is set in Lake Okoboji/Spirit Lake and opens with a billionaire’s death aboard the Queen. The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum also figures in the mystery. Last summer, I did a book signing at the museum with all profits going to support the museum. I hope every

Has a grass-roots nonprofit made a difference in your hometown? Are you helping?


Judith Ashley said...

There are volunteers from the community (not a grass-roots organization) who step up each spring and fall and take care of school grounds. (Budget no longer allows for professional landscape maintenance). Parents and other community members help out in the schools not only by doing the 'yard work' but also attending school events (games, plays, carnivals, etc.) that help support extra-curricular activities - another budget cut casualty.

Your uncle is an inspiration because he followed his dream and still has an impact on the lives of so many!

Linda Lovely said...

Steve was my cousin. We spent lots of time together because we were both the babies of our respective families. I miss him. Judith, it sounds as if your school volunteers have a similar spirit. A salute to all those who volunteer time--often more valuable than money.

Sarah Raplee said...

You are so right, Linda; nowadays, 'time is the coin.'

Your cousin is a true hero. I lived in Eastern Iowa, but never got the chance to visit Spirit Lake/Lake Okoboji. Maybe next summer we can spend a few days there while visiting in Iowa.

I love that No Wake Zone is set there!