From left: Leon Negen, president and CEO of Hope Ministries, and Nix and Virginia Lauridsen at the groundbreaking of Hope’s new $14.3 million campus. The Lauridsens donated $2.5 million to the project.
By Steve Dinnen
The Des Moines area is fast becoming an entertainment and cultural bright spot thanks to the generosity of Nix and Virginia Lauridsen. We have the Lauridsen Skatepark downtown. We have the Lauridsen Ampitheater at Water Works Park. There’s the Lauridsen Savanna at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center and the Lauridsen Fountain at Cowles Commons. And there’s the Lauridsen Opera Center at the Indianola headquarters for Des Moines Metro Opera (Virginia is no slouch in opera circles; she was the third winner of the Luciano Pavarotti international voice competition.)
Now, they’ve turned their attention to homelessness. Hope Ministries is building a $14.3 million campus near East Douglas and Hubbell avenues that will include a 100-bed center providing a refuge for single women and mothers with children facing homelessness, hunger, abuse or addiction. Though the Lauridsens donated $2.5 million as lead donors on this project and certainly would have naming rights, it’s named in honor of Steven R. Lankford, former president and CEO of Boyer Valley Co. The business is part of the successful animal sciences firm Lauridsen Group Inc. in Ankeny. Lankford, who died in 2016, was a longtime friend of the couple.
“Steve was kind, loyal and a shining example of overcoming obstacles to succeed in life,” Nix said during groundbreaking on the facility. “It’s fitting to name this campus in memory of Steve in the hope that all who benefit from the work that’s done here will overcome their obstacles and realize their gifts.”
Acknowledging the obvious—”we’ve given a lot of money to a lot of causes”—Virginia said she and Nix try to size up a giving opportunity by determining whether a project benefits the community as a whole. A charity has to be well run, she said, and when capital campaigns are involved, it “must have a reasonable goal that will come to fruition.”
The Lauridsens favor cultural and educational endeavors. But Virginia said mental health care is a high priority, too. It’s “another huge need in our community.”
Virginia’s father was a minister, who passed along the notion that “if you have the ability to help someone, you are obligated to do so.”
“Philanthropy is really good for the soul,” she said. Turns out it’s pretty good for Des Moines, too.