celebration highlights collaborations and recognizes nonprofit professionals

Over 200 community members gathered for Celebration of Community, an event hosted by the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 from 4 – 6 p.m. at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. The program was a reflection of our community – including the important role of collaboration, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy – and the great things that happen when we come together.

“The power of community is about our ability to transform individual lives and the character of the place where we live and work by acting as one,” said Les Garner, President & CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

The evidence of that power was demonstrated in two examples at the event. A video about Reading into Success, the local Campaign for Grade Level Reading was shared; and a video about workforce development featuring the Jane Boyd Community House PATHS program and the Kirkwood KPACE program that are opening job opportunities to citizens in our community. Both illustrate the importance of working together.

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Collaboration Videos    

Reading into Success

Over 20 organizations are collaborating on a community-wide reading initiative called Reading into Success, the local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The goal is to ensure that students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade, which is a critical predictor of a student’s future success.


Workforce Development

The Kirkwood KPACE program and the Jane Boyd Community House PATHS programs are helping community members develop job skills to have meaningful careers. The program offers workplace readiness classes, credentials, coaching and internship placement to help participants prepare for successful employment.



Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award

Linda Henecke
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa

Linda Henecke has been leading Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa for the past 21 years. In that time, she has transformed the organization. It has grown from serving less than 200 children in 1995 to recently helping 826 children through mentoring friendships.

Under Linda’s leadership, the agency’s programming is recognized as highly effective – winning Quality Awards on multiple occasions from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa is one of the top achieving affiliates among the 340 agencies in the national mentoring network.

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Minnie Rubek Staff Excellence Award

Jean Wiedenheft
Land Stewardship Director
Indian Creek Nature Center

For more than 15 years, Jean Wiedenheft has managed hundreds of acres of land and the facilities of the Indian Creek Nature Center. She has established and built relationships with volunteer groups ranging from middle school biology classes to business teams. Jean delights in learning about the land and the plants and animals nourished by it, and enjoys passing that knowledge on for others to absorb, appreciate, and apply in their own spaces.

In December 2013, Jean accepted a promotion to Land Stewardship Director and a second, temporary position as Project Manager for the Amazing Space building and campus initiative. From start to finish, Jean was integral in planning and implementing the Amazing Space project.

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In September of 2016, Eastern Iowa learned it would face another historic flood event. Community members leapt to action to protect their neighborhoods and assets.

Citizens, businesses and nonprofits quickly began to organize – evacuating their belongings and moving materials and inventory to higher ground. The City of Cedar Rapids put up HESCO barrier and sandbagging stations popped up to assist the potentially affected areas.

As we prepared for the worst, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation activated the Flood Fund 2016 to begin accepting charitable contributions to assist nonprofits serving flood-impacted individuals and households. Private philanthropy would be necessary in flood recovery to fill gaps in funding provided by government entities and first responders.

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Reading into Success Collaboration Builds Momentum

Reading into Success, the local initiative for the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, is building momentum. Over 20 partner organizations and school districts are working together to achieve a community-wide goal: By 2020, increase the number of proficient third graders to 95%, with a focus on closing the opportunity gap. Participating organizations are sharing information, collaborating on programs, and implementing pilot programs to test strategies.

The chart below highlights the five focus areas of Reading into Success, including updates of recent activity:

School Readiness


The committee has begun promoting the “VROOM” app that supports parents in early literacy activities, and is working on a “Kickoff to Kindergarten” program to launch at several schools next summer.




The Cedar Rapids and College Community school districts participated in a Reading into Success poster contest in September during Attendance Awareness Month, which provided information and data to each family. A similar program in Florida showed a reduction in chronic absenteeism as a result of the project.



Every day Reading


Through a partnership with the Cedar Rapids Public Library, a “One Book” event will be held that will distribute the same book to all area second graders, and feature shared community activities.

Summer Learning


One Cedar Rapids elementary school implemented a research-based reading program that served 30 children over the summer. Participants will receive the same support over the next two summers, and their reading scores will be tracked.

The Kids on Course University program expanded to serve 519 children this summer at 15 schools. Their internal testing showed that the majority of children made gains in reading, writing and math – growth that will hopefully be reflected in the fall school district testing.


Hope & Well-Being


The committee is focusing on ways to create awareness about how adverse experiences in childhood can affect a child’s ability to learn and how to help children be resilient. Several partner agencies are offering trainings and the committee is exploring ways to share this information with as many community members as possible.


Matching Funds Support Linn County Classroom Projects

For the second year, the Community Foundation distributed $25,000 from its Fund for Educational Excellence by offering a 1:1 match for donations to public school teacher projects in Linn County on DonorsChoose.org. The match became available on August 8, 2016 and was exhausted by October 14, 2016. The match supported 85 teacher projects benefiting 8,577 Linn County students. For more information on how to support education, visit www.gcrcf.org.

Re-Certification of National Accreditation of Philanthropic Standards

In October, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation received re-confirmation of its accreditation with the nation’s highest standard for philanthropic excellence. National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations® establish legal, ethical, effective practices for community foundations everywhere. The program is designed to provide quality assurance to donors, as well as to their legal and financial advisors. The Community Foundation first became accredited in 2005 when the program began and has maintained its accreditation since.

Endow Iowa Tax Credit Reaches Capacity

The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced the statutory cap of $6 million for the 2016 Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program has been exhausted and no more tax credits for 2016 will be granted. Those who did not receive the Endow Iowa tax credits in 2016 still qualify for federal deductibility and will be first in line to receive them in 2017.

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Investment Update

Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 2-3 p.m.
Community Foundation
To RSVP, call 319.366.2862 or e-mail info@gcrcf.org.


February Grant Deadline

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
4:30 p.m.
Click here for information about available grants and how to apply.

Investment Management

Donors Making a difference


Nonprofits Making a difference

324 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

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