Caring for Her Community

Published: October 30, 2023 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Carolyn Wellso Uses Philanthropy to Bring Ideas to Life

Anyone who has met Carolyn Wellso knows she has many interests. Carolyn is passionate about the arts, small businesses, libraries, and bringing people together. At 87, she is a mainstay of the Mount Vernon and Lisbon arts scene and runs Schoolhouse Antiques, where she works seven days a week. 

So it’s no surprise that over the last 25 years, the Carolyn and Charles Wellso Donor-Advised Fund has made grants to a wide range of organizations in Mount Vernon, Lisbon, and throughout Linn County. 

“I have supported many different things that were new ideas to our area,” Carolyn said. “I like to support independent ideas and bring them to life.”

The Wellsos’ grants have primarily supported initiatives of the City of Mount Vernon, the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council, the Lisbon History Center, the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Theatre, Trees Forever, and many other organizations in Cedar Rapids and beyond. The funding has supported many projects that give Mount Vernon and Lisbon communities their charm. From developing a plan for tree planting, to theatre improvements, to flower boxes in storefronts, to library programming, and even animal structures at the city park splash pad – the Wellsos’ gifts have supported all kinds of things people enjoy.

Carolyn and her late husband Charles established the fund at the Community Foundation in 1998 with a gift of stock. By establishing an endowed fund, the Wellsos were able to make a single gift and create a permanent source of support for the community.

Charles passed away in 2016, but Carolyn continues to recommend grants from the fund each year. Giving back to her community is second nature for her.

“As a child, I was taught to do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can,” Carolyn said. “My grandparents, parents, siblings, children, nieces, and nephews all give back to their communities. It is just very natural for us since we grew up listening and watching those before us.”

The philanthropic process is so natural, in fact, that Carolyn continues to be a visionary for her community. She is always thinking of ways to enhance communities and working to bring others into her vision. For Carolyn, giving is a highly engaging process—there is an art to it, even. 

“Philanthropy is a good creative outlet for me,” she said. “It allows me to manufacture ideas and bring them to life. You can use charitable giving to answer needs, but you can also use it to imagine and create things that haven’t been done.”

Thinking about the future is a consistent theme when speaking with Carolyn. She has done a lot in her 87 years, but she continues to look for ways to bring people together. 

“My family was always involved in things that included everybody, and it’s wonderful to support things that people look forward to each year in the community,” she said. “I think people enjoy the process of working together to better communities. We need both people that can meet needs and people that have a vision with new ideas.”

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