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Woodbury County to give long-forgotten $30,000 bequest to Siouxland Mental Health

Published in the Sioux City Journal- written by Jesse Brothers

SIOUX CITY -- When Mildred W. Anderson died in November 1988 at age 80, she gave more than $1 million to a wide assortment of civic, charitable, arts, educational, religious, and welfare organizations.

She gave money to libraries, to the Girl Scouts, to the Sioux City Public Museum, to the Sioux City Art Center, to Goodwill Industries, to the Salvation Army, to the Gospel Mission, to the Sanford Center, to the American Heart Association, to the American Cancer Society, to Morningside College, to the Jewish Federation of Sioux City, to the League of Women Voters, to the Sioux City Symphony -- the list goes on and on.

Perhaps the best-known of these bequests was for $300,000, which was used to build what is now the Anderson Dance Pavilion -- Anderson had met her husband Robert at a dance pavilion in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1916, and was inspired to build such a facility on the Missouri River in Sioux City. In another of the bequests -- this one not very well-known -- she gave $30,000 to the Woodbury County Care Facility, commonly known as the "County Home," off Old Highway 141. The stated goal for these funds was to furnish things that "will bring comfort and cheer" to patients of the County Home, which was a facility for mentally ill and mentally disabled individuals. The money sat on the county's books. A decade and a half after Anderson's death, the County Home closed due to changing state rules on treatment for the mentally ill. The funds continued to sit for nearly two more decades after that. With interest, the total today sits at around $36,000.

Dennis Butler, the county's finance/budget director and one of the few people aware of the funds' existence, said Anderson's bequest had been carried over from year to year and had seen fairly little use by mental health officials. "They did do some things, but not very many, so it's just accumulated over the years," he said. Butler said there had been discussions in years past of what to do with the money, but nothing ever came to fruition.

At Tuesday evening's Woodbury County Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Mark Monson proposed that the forlorn money be given to the Friendship House, 1101 Court St., a facility that helps people with mental illness socialize and learn skills.

"Mildred Anderson gave the county $30,000, 33 years ago, and it's never been spent. Why that is, we don't know actually," Monson said. Friendship House is run by Siouxland Mental Health, which effectively inherited much of the role the County Home once played in the community and serves people who were in the County Home prior to its dissolution. Siouxland Mental Health plans to use the funds for improvements and upgrades at the Friendship House and to help pay for special trips and events for the people who go there. They've got their eye on one project in particular: a park-type facility with "sensory equipment," like drums, a xylophone, and easels for painting or drawing to be used in therapy.

Friendship House currently has around 25 to 30 people a day making visits, though this was reportedly somewhat higher before the pandemic struck.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday evening voted to grant the money to the Friendship House. Officials with Siouxland Mental Health plan to submit quarterly invoices that will be paid out from the Anderson funds.

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