One more winter of warmth

Monday, January 1, 2018
Mary Freiborg has helped organize the sold-out Legacy Society Reception and grew the Okoboji Foundation's donor database from 150 in 2009 to 850 in 2017. The foundation president announced plans to retire in early December. Her last day is April 20. (Photo by Russ Mitchell)

Okoboji Foundation president announces retirement

OKOBOJI ā The administrator for one of the most influential nonprofit organizations in northwest Iowa is stepping down.

Okoboji Foundation President Mary Freiborg on Dec. 1 announced her retirement. She and her husband Arlie are relocating to the Phoenix area after one more Iowa winter. Her last day is April 20.

"We have a whole search committee in place and the application information is on our website right now," she said. "The deadline is Jan. 16."

The foundation board's goal is to have a successor in place by the start of April to benefit from Freiborg's experience and contacts.

The outgoing president said her successor will have another advantage during the transition process ó Executive Assistant Holly Skopec will stay on with the Foundation.

"A productive work environment with mutual respect is essential," Freiborg said. "Holly's donor-centered skills and organizational knowledge should be the most highly-valued asset in the transition to a new president."

Board chairman and former Congressman Berkley Bedell, board member Chuck Maxwell and then-Okoboji Foundation President Sue Richter signed the foundation's articles of incorporation on Aug. 4, 1988.

"When Mary assumed her duties at the Foundation, she had a vision of sending 'ripples of good that would leave a lasting legacy,'" Richter said. "Through her leadership, the Foundation embraced other nonprofit groups in our community and brought them together under the Foundation umbrella. She also established the Youth In Philanthropy program, which mentors our young people to become the leaders of tomorrow. All this and much more, Mary did with grace, dignity and professionalism."

The Okoboji Foundation focuses grants toward property and equipment upgrades that make a lasting, positive impact in the Iowa Great Lakes area. Foundation funds aren't designed for ongoing operating expenses like staff salaries or utility costs.

Through 2017, the foundation has awarded more than $3.25 million to about 70 nonprofit organizations around Dickinson County. The grants have helped connect trail segments, improve lake quality, shelter at-risk adults and create an ice arena.

Camp Foster, the Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Okoboji Summer Theatre, Pearson Lakes Art Center, the Dickinson County Nature Center and Humane Society of Northwest Iowa have all benefitted from foundation grants.

Freiborg has guided the foundation board as the organization's president since April 2010.

"It's an honor to be part of these accomplishments, achieved through the focused work of our leadership team and their dedication to our Lakes Community," she said.

The outgoing president said she is most proud of the Youth in Philanthropy program mentioned by Richter ó it was established during her first year as president. The program teaches area high school students about the importance of community giving. Each year about 25 students from local high schools meet once a month from October through May to learn about the impact of Okoboji Foundation grants and tour nonprofit facilities that received past funding.

Altogether, the Okoboji Foundation has more than $20 million in total holdings.

ďThis position is a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting positive impact in our beautiful Iowa Great Lakes community," Freiborg said. "I am so proud to be a part of our leadership team and know that the next president will continue to build resources to make a vital difference."

Okoboji Foundation Board Chair Polly Peterson said the foundation experienced "exponential growth" under Freiborg's leadership.

"Maryís not going anywhere yet," she added. "Please contact her to discuss how she can help you reach your philanthropic goals."

Freiborg had the opportunity to work with five different foundation board chairs and 34 board members. She also helped rebrand the foundation with a new tagline, logo and the foundation's signature "logostones." Like pebbles thrown into a lake, the stones create what Freiborg calls a "ripple of good."

"In my eight years with the foundation, Iíve had the privilege of meeting so many people who love this Lakes community," she said. "Iíve enjoyed hearing all of your stories and helping you put your resources to work through the foundation to continue improving our quality of life. The financials and grant projects paint a great picture, but itís the people behind them that Iíll never forget."

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