The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation was founded in 1949 to receive gifts and bequests to provide support for charitable enterprise.
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The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation was founded in 1949 as the Community Welfare Foundation in Cedar Rapids for the purpose of receiving gifts and bequests to provide support for charitable enterprise. It was originally established as a private foundation by seven community-minded leaders including Robert C. Armstrong, Edwin Evans, John T. Hamilton, Van Vechten Schaeffer, A. L. Smulekoff, Frank T. Welch and T. M. Ingersoll. The Community Welfare Foundation experienced only modest growth for its first twenty-three years. In 1972, however, the Community Welfare Foundation received its first significant gift – a $300,000 bequest from the estate of Minnie Rubek, a janitor employed by a local utility company.
In 1987 local radio and television entrepreneur William B. Quarton changed the scene of Cedar Rapids philanthropy by offering a challenge to his friends at the Community Welfare Foundation. If the Foundation would agree to change the IRS tax status of the Foundation from “private” to “public,” change the name to reflect the broader interests of the rapidly growing Linn County community, and pledge to raise an additional $450,000 in permanent endowment, he would match the funds raised, dollar-for-dollar, by means of a $900,000 charitable lead trust. The challenge was quickly accepted and successfully achieved, and following a mandatory five-year transition period, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation received its 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS in 1992.
Milestone events in recent years include:
In 2003, the Community Foundation embarked on a state-wide collaboration with other community foundations to lobby for the development of Endow Iowa, a unique charitable tax credit program, which has spurred more than $115 million in endowment building statewide since 2003.
In 2005, the Community Foundation expanded its impact and reach by establishing the Linn County Nonprofit Resource Center (currently named the Nonprofit Network), whose mission is to build vibrant communities by promoting, supporting, and strengthening the nonprofits of Linn County. The same year, the Community Foundation partnered with the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to develop and lead Fifteen in 5, a county-wide community planning process.
William B. Quarton left a powerful legacy upon his passing at age 104 in August 2007. His $35 million planned gift to the Community Foundation tripled the organization’s unrestricted assets and created endowments for four organizations. The Community Foundation continues to honor William Quarton and his spirit of philanthropy with the William Quarton Heritage Society, recognizing those who have established an endowed fund or will make a planned gift. This growing group of local philanthropists now stands at more than 250 members.
The Flood of 2008 will forever be part of the history of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. On June 13, 2008, downtown Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas were inundated with floodwaters from the Cedar River. More than 5,000 homes, 700 business and over 50 nonprofits were damaged or destroyed including vital cultural sites such as the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library and the African American History Center of Iowa. The Community Foundation established the Flood 2008 Fund a day before the crest of the Cedar River. This fund provided $5.7 million in grants to 81 local nonprofits.
In the fall of 2009, the Community Foundation learned that Joseph Kacena had gifted more than $5 million to support several nonprofits in Cedar Rapids and the University of Chicago. More importantly, Mr. Kacena specified that 39 percent of that contribution be designated for the Community Foundation’s unrestricted funds.
In July 2010, the Community Foundation welcomed the fourth president and CEO in the history of the organization as the board approved the hiring of Dr. Les H. Garner, Jr. This moment marked the leadership transition that began in March 2010 with the departure of Dan Baldwin, president and CEO of the Community Foundation from 2002 to 2010. Baldwin left to become the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Monterey County in Monterey, California. Dr. Garner is a widely recognized expert in higher education, public policy, and leadership. He most recently served as president of Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, from 1994 to 2010.
The Cedar Rapids community lost a great friend, philanthropist and leader on July 27, 2010, with the passing of William Whipple. Bill was the first honorary director of the Community Foundation and along with his wife Gayle, were members of the William Quarton Heritage Society. Mr. Whipple’s life gifts and estate gift create funds at the Community Foundation of $7 million – the second largest gift in the history of the Community Foundation.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) named the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation the Outstanding Foundation of 2012 for our work in responding to the Flood of 2008 while continuing our support of charitable organizations in the area.The award honors a foundation that demonstrates outstanding commitment through financial support and through encouragement and motivation of others to take leadership roles in philanthropy and national, international and/or community involvement.