Nonprofit Professionals to be Recognized at Celebration of Community Event

Published: November 7, 2017 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, over 200 people will gather for the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s fifth annual Celebration of Community event from 4 – 6 p.m. at NewBo City Market. The program will be from 4 – 4:30 p.m. The celebration will highlight over 30 people in a “Good Work & Good People” display who are making a positive impact by being involved and giving back to nonprofits in Linn County.

Two local nonprofit professionals who go above and beyond to support the mission of their organizations have been selected to receive nonprofit excellence awards.

 The Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award recognizes the leadership and accomplishments of the chief executive officer of a Linn County nonprofit organization who offers exceptional leadership and creates a lasting impact on their organization and the community.  This award will be presented to Shannon Ramsay, Founding President & CEO, Trees Forever.

The Minnie Rubek Staff Excellence Award recognizes a nonprofit staff member who has gone “above and beyond” in their support of the organization’s mission and has greatly enhanced the overall effectiveness of the organization through his/her work.  This award will be presented to Tara Richards, Director of Community Engagement, Brucemore, Inc.

In addition to an award, each recipient will receive a $1,000 grant from the Community Foundation designated for staff development at the honoree’s organization.

For more information about the Celebration of Community event, or to RSVP, please go to

More information about each award winner is included below:

Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award:

Shannon Ramsay, Founding President & CEO, Trees Forever

Shannon Ramsay has always had a passion for the environment. Nearly 30 years ago, she identified the need for a statewide tree group to assure a greener, healthier and more vibrant place for our children and grandchildren. After talking with friends and colleagues, in 1989, she led the effort to form a new nonprofit named Trees Forever. Headquartered in Marion, Iowa, today the organization connects people to the environment through the planting and care of trees, prairie, and other natural areas.

The model Shannon created almost 30 years ago is still thriving today because of her leadership and vision. One of the greatest challenges for a new organization is the creation of a sustainable business model. Shannon’s proven model for the organization has evolved and adapted over many years.

Shannon is a passionate leader and mentor that “leads from the front” of the organization. Her commitment and use of collaboration throughout the years on learning, training others and executing her vision has helped to strengthen the broad support and work of Trees Forever. The organization’s trained and experienced staff have assisted community leaders and land owners across Iowa and Illinois with thousands of planting projects. Each year, on average, over 7,000 volunteers give generously of their time and talents.

To date, the organization has helped plant more than 3 million trees and shrubs throughout Iowa and Illinois.

The hands-on volunteer training Shannon has created has been a signature of Trees Forever. The model of growth of the organization is due to its volunteer engagement strategies and providing each community with a technical resource person.

Shannon has served on the Board of the Alliance for Community Trees, a national alliance of tree groups. She has been a tireless advocate and champion for trees and community groups working to support green space in their community. She has led advocacy groups and encourages of others to reach out to elected officials to make a difference for the environment on the local state and national level. With the latest dissolution of the state’s Forestry Division, Shannon has gone above and beyond her role within Trees Forever and has been a voice for all environmental groups advocating in Des Moines and in Washington D.C.  

The trees that have been planted during Shannon’s tenure are a symbol of her legacy and life’s work that will literally benefit our state for generations to come. Her efforts have contributed to an improved quality of life for millions of residents in both rural and urban areas across the Midwest. 


Minnie Rubek Staff Excellence Award:

Tara Richards, Director of Community Engagement, Brucemore, Inc.

At the heart of Brucemore’s 36 cultural performances, 10 months of tours, and various community events is Tara Richards. From being the central liaison with cultural partner organizations, evaluating each program’s financial and audience performance, running the box office, directing traffic, supervising volunteers, and everything in between, she seeks a positive visitor experience for each one of the over 45,000 people who visit Brucemore each year.

Tara began at Brucemore as an intern from Coe College and earned a full-time position the following year. Originally serving as the Marketing and Program Director, she showed great potential and an endless amount of energy. She dove directly into an elaborate web of unique programs and quickly became the expert with a laser focus. She built relationships with nonprofit cultural organizations and corporate businesses as well as contractors, vendors, lighting designers and more, striving to keep the economic impact of events local to Eastern Iowa. Brucemore also is the stomping ground of artists, actors, and musicians who pursue their dreams and explore new directions all over the safety net of strong management and support that Tara provides.

In her current role as Director of Community Engagement, she is not only responsible for all events, tours, and programs but also covers human resources and a tourism-centered retail store. All of these functions have the added challenge of taking place at Brucemore, the setting of seven historic structures, 26 acres, and thousands of artifacts and works of art. The events and programs that Tara and her team execute each year must work within the framework of a private, historic “home,” rather than a purposefully built performance venue. Her great sensitivity to historic preservation is invaluable to making sure this irreplaceable place continues to make an impact on the community for generations to come.

Tara has a never-ending enthusiasm to explore new audiences and partners to expand Brucemore’s impact. During her tenure, the number of visitors to the estate has risen by more than 40% and has drawn people from across the county and around the world. Constantly behind-the-scenes, she promotes, manages, and serves as a resource, at times seven days a week. She is the driver behind every experience for every visitor to the estate though many may never meet her. The Cedar Rapids community and Eastern Iowa area is stronger through her creative management and dedication to creating unforgettable experiences.

Join us for our 75th Anniversary celebrations and complete our community survey.