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Hospital, library receive major money gifts from late Columbus couple
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Hospital, library receive major money gifts from late Columbus couple


A now-deceased Columbus couple through an estate trust recently left a sizable amount of money to the Columbus Community Hospital Foundation, Columbus Public Library Foundation and Lincoln-based Dialysis Center Foundation.

The CCH Foundation received $469,520 from the estate of Robert and Joan Nienkamp. The gift is earmarked to become part of the Robert R. and Joan L. Nienkamp Radiology Endowment Fund. That particular endowment fund was created through a previous gift from the Nienkamps to the hospital in 2007, according to Foundation Executive Director Carol Keller.

“And they continued adding on to that over the years,” Keller said. “Bob was a very savvy investor, he took great pride in doing his own investing. So this large gift was a result of, I’d say, a frugal lifestyle and savvy investing.”

Bob passed in October 2015 and Joan followed in June of this year. While attending Joan’s funeral, Keller was informed by the Nienkamp’s trust officer that he needed to set up a time to chat with Keller and other hospital representatives.

Keller said that she was aware that Bob and Joan were leaving a gift to the facility, but not sure of the amount. The couple, she said, had become frequent flyers of CCH throughout the years. Joan loved volunteering at the facility and both she and her husband received treatment from hospital caregivers on numerous occasions.

“Bob suffered from cancer for a long time, so I’m sure that he made use of our radiology department,” Keller said of the rationale behind the inception of the radiology endowment fund.

Estate gifts, like the Nienkamp family gift, often represent the most significant donations the Foundation receives.

When donors give to the Foundation, their gift goes directly to the purpose, or purposes, they choose to support, provided information from the hospital shows. Donors may choose from the following ongoing needs: CCH’s expansion and renovation project, program funding, equipment and medical advancement purchases, and the greatest needs fund which provides resources to help resolve the hospital's most pressing concerns.

Donors can give outright gifts, cash gifts, real estate, appreciated stock, collections and U.S. Savings Bonds. They can also donate through planned giving such as bequests, life insurance policies, charitable remainder trusts and IRAs.

“We are so thankful to the Nienkamp family for giving this generous gift to the foundation,” CCH President/CEO Mike Hansen said, through a provided statement. “Through donations like these, community members support the work of the hospital and help us purchase cutting-edge medical equipment, improve our facility and provide beneficial programming for patients and their families.”

Columbus Public Library Director Karen Connell was unsure of the exact dollar amount her organization received. She noted that CCH received about 50 percent of the portion of the trust that was recently provided for charitable causes, and the library and Dialysis Center Foundation about 20 and 30 percent, respectively.

“They didn’t liquidate the whole trust, the rest stayed in existence for their daughter …” Connell said.

The newly provided funds will likely go toward offsetting some of the expenses relating to the proposed library facility that is expected to be put to a public vote during next year’s general election.

"So that less money would have to be bonded for that,” Connell said. “Overall, over a span of time, the project would be able to be funded less through the sales tax. The foundation wants to raise as much (money) as they can so that residents aren’t having to pay for as much of that building.”

Connell added how appreciative she and her colleagues are of the Nienkamp's generosity.

"There's a lot of organizations people could choose to give to and the fact that they chose the library is really cool," Connell said. "It's an organization that serves the community as a whole, so that donation goes a long way."

The size of the lump sum provided to the hospital is eye-opening, but the fact that the Nienkamps would generously open their arms in this capacity comes as no shock to Keller.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “And Bob and Joan, that’s just the kind of thing they would have done. Because they were very caring people. When I saw them together I was always struck by how loving and considerate and respectful they were of each other. I mean, it was just a real pleasure to see them together.”

Perhaps the best part of the generous gift is that it will likely serve the hospital for years to come. The foundation, Keller said, will allocate dollars generated from the lump sum’s interest and earnings – the principal amount is being left alone.

“And that way, their gift can go on forever and always be used by the hospital for those radiology needs for years and years into the future,” Keller said.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at


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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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