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Our History, Our Impact

In 1949, a group of foresighted citizens established an organization they hoped would serve Linn County for decades to come. The goal was simple: create a way for people to make gifts today that would support their community tomorrow.

Seventy-five years later, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation continues to build upon that legacy. We partner with donors and nonprofit organizations to strengthen Linn County through philanthropy, granting more than $10 million every year. Like those that came before us, we are committed to helping our community respond to future challenges and opportunities, and we look forward to another 75 years of partnering with you in pursuit of a more vibrant and inclusive Linn County.


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Community Welfare Foundation Established

The Community Welfare Foundation of Cedar Rapids, predecessor of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, was established in 1949 by a group of foresighted citizens. Based on similar organizations in Cleveland and Indianapolis, the Foundation was established to field gifts from “people who would like to leave money for the benefit of charitable and educational institutions, but who don’t care to leave it to any particular institution,” said president Van Vechten Shaffer. From the start, the Foundation was not intended to compete with local organizations, but rather to help philanthropists support the varied and ever-changing needs of the community. The original directors were Robert C. Armstrong, Edwin C. Evans, John T. Hamilton, Van Vechten Shaffer, A. L. Smulekoff, Frank C. Welch and T. M. Ingersoll.

The Community Welfare Foundation was the first organization of its kind in Iowa and received just two contributions in its first year. On February 9, just days after the Foundation was formed, Anthony T. Pleune gave $500 in memory of his late wife. In November, the Cedar Rapids Appeals Coordinating Committee disbanded and split the remainder of funds raised in United War Chest drives between the Foundation and the Public Welfare Bureau; the Foundation received $6,463.


First Grants Distributed

The Community Welfare Foundation distributed its first grants in May of 1954 – $350 each to the Children’s Home of Cedar Rapids and the Home for Aged Women. The grants provided general operating support for the organizations, which were identified as serving the community’s greatest needs at the time. Foundation assets at the end of the year were just over $10,000.


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Minnie Rubek Makes Historic Gift

On March 12, 1971, Minnie M. Rubek passed away and left her estate to the Community Welfare Foundation. The bequest, received the following year, totaled more than $300,000 (some $2.2 million in 2024 dollars) and increased the Foundation’s annual grants from a few hundred dollars to more than $20,000. Minnie was a life-long resident of Cedar Rapids and a retired member of the cleaning staff at Iowa Electric Light and Power Company.


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William B. Quarton’s Challenge

In 1987, radio and television pioneer William B. Quarton made a gift of $450,000, pushing assets over the $1 million mark, which had long been a goal of the Foundation. In addition to this gift, William issued a challenge: if the Foundation’s board would change its IRS status from private to public, update the organization’s name to the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation to reflect its commitment to all of Linn County, and raise an additional $450,000 from the community, he would establish a $900,000 charitable lead trust to benefit the Foundation for the next ten years.

While the challenge was issued to the Foundation, it was intended for the entire community—William was keen to see if Linn County was interested in building this resource for its future. “If in the next few years it is proven they are, I would like to make another substantial contribution,” he said. Over the next 20 years, William Quarton would become one of the most prominent philanthropists in our community’s history.


Quarton Challenge Exceeded

On November 14, 1988, the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation announced $571,000 in contributions since William Quarton issued his three-year challenge, surpassing the goal by more than $120,000. “The ability to match Bill Quarton’s generous gift in less than a year shows there are many area donors desirous of giving something back to the community that has been good to them. It also reflects the motivation that his philanthropy has generated,” said Foundation Vice President Russell Hess.


First Executive Director Hired

In June of 1989, Dr. Malcolm Peel became the Foundation’s first full-time Executive Director. A 1988 grant from the Council on Foundations connected the Foundation to consultants from larger community foundations around the country, who recommended hiring a paid director and noted that this was one of the most promising young foundations in the U.S. With this help from industry experts, the leadership of Dr. Peel, and the recent increase in assets, the Foundation was able to create a more systematic approach to awarding grants through an application process.


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Funding Information Center Launches

February 13, 1990, the Funding Information Center opened in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Funded by the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation and the Hall Foundation, the center was a collection of resources on corporate, private and government funding opportunities. The Cedar Rapids Public Library continues to invest in physical and digital resources that connect local nonprofits to funding opportunities.


Fund for Educational Excellence Established

Initially known as the Fund for Educational Excellence in the Public Schools of Linn County, the FFEE was established in 1991 through a $100,000 commitment from the Sutherland C. and Frances M. Dows Charitable Trusts. The idea was to support the innovative projects of area educators through “mini grants,” but the FFEE quickly garnered wide community support and expanded to include scholarships and direct student support. In 2015, the Fund stopped accepting applications from educators and began matching gifts made to Linn County classrooms through DonorsChoose.org. Each year, $25,000 is made available from the FFEE and the Community Foundation’s unrestricted funds to support these matching grants.


Move to Public Foundation Finalized

After the mandatory five-year transition period, the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation received its final IRS approval as a public foundation. Assets at the time were over $3.6 million.

CRST Creates First Corporate Donor-Advised Fund in Cedar Rapids

Started in 1955 as Cedar Rapids Steel Transport, the company was renamed CRST in 1974. Still family-owned and based in Cedar Rapids, CRST has grown to be one of the nation’s leading providers of transportation solutions and a local leader in charitable giving. Over the last 30+ years, the CRST Competitive Donor-Advised Fund—the first of its kind at the Foundation—has made hundreds of grants to dozens of local organizations, leaving a lasting legacy in our community.


Flood Response

In July of 1993, persistent rain led to widespread and prolonged flooding throughout the Midwest, including Eastern Iowa. The Flood Relief Fund was established at the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation with support from many local businesses and residents, and subsequent gifts came in from around the country. The Foundation partnered with United Way of East Central Iowa, Linn County Human Services Department and Department of Human Resources Management to distribute the funds to agencies providing direct assistance to flood victims. The fund ultimately provided more than $40,000 for flood relief efforts.

Iowa Community AIDS Partnership Established

By 1993, AIDS was the leading cause of death among Americans aged 25 to 44. In June, Iowa was one of nine sites invited to join the National Community AIDS Partnership (NCAP), which was the leading private funder of AIDS education, prevention and care. The Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation acted as the fiscal sponsor of the initiative and submitted the application, with support from the Grant Wood Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, University of Iowa Hospitals Virology Clinic, Cedar Valley Hospice of Waterloo, and the Iowa Center for AIDS Resources and Education of Iowa City. The Foundation convened the Iowa Community AIDS Partnership (ICAP) to fundraise and award grants to organizations providing HIV/AIDS education or direct services to people with AIDS in Linn, Johnson and Black Hawk counties. Between 1994 and 2008 ICAP partnered with NCAP, local donors and businesses, and national organizations and government groups to grant more than $900,000.


David Roosevelt Named Executive Director

In the fall of 1995, the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation hired David Roosevelt as Executive Director. David had previously worked in the investment industry before serving several nonprofit organizations. David is the grandson of President Franklin Roosevelt and served on the board of the Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation.


Assets Continue Exponential Growth

It took nearly 40 years for the Foundation to reach $1 million in assets (1987), but just seven years later, assets topped $13.6 million. By this time, it was clear that William Quarton’s goal to inspire sustained philanthropy in Linn County was a resounding success. In 1996, the Foundation awarded more than $1.1 million in grants.


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Becoming the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation

On June 28, 2000, the Board of Directors of the Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation voted to change the organization’s name to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. The change was made to meet the national standards requirement of the Council on Foundation to identify as a community foundation, as well as to be a part of a national branding campaign aimed at helping people understand who and what community foundations are.


Youth POWER Fund Makes First Grants

In 2001, the Community Foundation began assembling a board of local high school students to distribute grants from the Youth POWER Fund. In 2002, this youth-led program made its first grants, thanks to a $30,000 lead gift from fund holder Jerry Know. Between 2002 and 2012, the Youth POWER Fund awarded $100,000 in grants to 40 organizations serving young people in our community.

Dan Baldwin Named President & CEO

In 2002, the Community Foundation hired Dan Baldwin to serve as President & CEO. Dan had previously been President & CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and was co-chair of a committee working to revitalize the area south of downtown Cedar Rapids.


Endow Iowa Launches

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 program that offers tax credits for contributions to endowed funds held at community foundations. The program has spurred more than $300 million in contributions to endowed funds statewide.


Linn County Nonprofit Resource Center Established

In 2005, an anonymous donor provided $300,000 to establish the Linn County Nonprofit Resource Center. Housed within the Community Foundation, the Resource Center operated under its own board with the mission “to build vibrant communities by promoting, supporting and strengthening the nonprofits of Linn County.”

In 2012, the Resource Center merged with the Community Foundation and became the Nonprofit Network, still striving to connect local organizations with peers, resources and professional development opportunities. The Nonprofit Network continues to serve the community through peer groups, learning opportunities, and resources.

Becoming a Convener: Fifteen in 5

In 2005, the Community Foundation partnered with the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to develop and lead Fifteen in 5, a county-wide process to develop and achieve 15 bold, transformational ideas in five years. This was the Community Foundation’s first step into broader community convening, and despite a historic flood and recession, many of the ideas led to community assets we still enjoy today.

County Endowment Fund Program Launches

Launched in 2005, the County Endowment Fund Program distributes a portion of the state’s gaming tax revenue to community foundations in the 84 counties without a state-licensed gaming facility. The community foundations grant 75% of those funds to charitable organizations within their counties and place the remaining 25% in a permanent endowment fund. This program funds the Community Foundation’s Linn County Grants, which support programs and projects serving non-metro Linn County. The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation has granted more than $2 million to local nonprofits through the County Endowment Program.


William Quarton’s Final Gift

On August 19, 2007, William Barlow Quarton III passed away at the age of 104. After a long and successful career in radio and television, William had turned his attention to philanthropy. Through outright gifts, matching grants, board service and fundraising, William left an indelible mark on nonprofit organizations serving Linn County. A $35 million bequest to the Community Foundation built upon this legacy of giving back.

About a third of William’s bequest created endowments for organizations he loved, including the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Community Free Health Clinic, Coe College and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The remainder—more than $21 million—went to the Community Foundation’s unrestricted funds.

“This is in no way a capstone,” said Community Foundation President Dan Baldwin. “Bill was adamant that this gift was meant to be a catalyst.” William often reminded those around him that we cannot predict what our community will need in the future, but we can help prepare it to meet those needs. His unrestricted gift would be a vital piece of the extensive flood recovery efforts just a year after his passing.

To honor William Quarton and his spirit of philanthropy, the William Quarton Heritage Society was established to recognize those who have established an endowed fund or will make a planned gift. This growing group of local philanthropists now stands at more than 400 members.


Responding to Historic Flooding

After a period of prolonged rainfall, the Cedar River crested at a record 31.1 feet—nearly 20 feet above flood stage—on June 13, 2008. The water impacted more than 5,300 homes and displaced more than 18,000 residents. Damages in Cedar Rapids alone were estimated at $5.4 billion.

On June 12, as the water was still rising, the Community Foundation established the Flood Fund to make grants to meet immediate needs and support long-term recovery efforts. The Flood Fund provided $15.8 million in grants to 81 local nonprofits.


Joseph Kacena Makes Major Gift

In the fall of 2009, a $5 million gift from the estate of Joseph Kacena established several funds at the Community Foundation to support nonprofit organizations in Cedar Rapids and Chicago. Joseph also specified that 39% of his gift be designated for the Community Foundation’s unrestricted funds, increasing the organization’s ability to meet Linn County’s future needs and opportunities.

Moving into the Torch Press Building

In 2009, the Community Foundation purchased and renovated the Torch Press building on 3rd Street, which had been extensively damaged in the flood in 2008. The building was completed in 1908 to house Torch Press, which would become widely known for producing fine books before closing in 1962. The Cedar Rapids Art Association purchased the building in 1963, converting it into the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. The building was sold again in 1987 and housed offices until the flood of 2008.


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Les Garner Named President & CEO

In July of 2010, the Community Foundation hired Dr. Les H. Garner, Jr. as President & CEO. Les served as President of Cornell College from 1994 to 2010 and was a widely recognized expert in higher education, public policy, and leadership.

Bill Whipple Estate Gift Received

In the summer of 2010, the Cedar Rapids community lost a great friend, philanthropist and leader with the passing of William Whipple. Bill was the first honorary director of the Community Foundation and along with his wife Gayle, was a member of the William Quarton Heritage Society. Mr. Whipple’s life gifts and estate gift created funds at the Community Foundation totaling $7 million – the second largest gift in the history of the Community Foundation.


Named Outstanding Foundation by Association of Fundraising Professionals

The Community Foundation was named Outstanding Foundation of 2012 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an international organization of individuals and organizations working to generate philanthropic support for charitable institutions. The award recognized the Community Foundation’s extensive efforts to strategically distribute funds in the wake of the 2008 flood.


Joining the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP)

In 2014, the Community Foundation was invited to join Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP), a cohort of 23 Midwestern funders who have responded to significant disasters. PPREP provides connections to up-to-date resources and best practices, enhancing Linn County’s ability to use philanthropy to respond to disasters.


Donors Help Expand Kids on Course University

In 2015, Brent and Dawn Cobb wanted to expand Kids on Course University (KOCU), a program that works to prevent summer learning loss in low-income students. KOCU is funded by the Zach Johnson Foundation, so the Cobbs began looking for ways to build philanthropic partnerships. The Community Foundation connected them with Loren and Patti Coppock, who have similar philanthropic goals, and together they were able to fund a KOCU pilot program in Hiawatha. The pilot proved the efficacy of the program, and today KOCU serves more than 700 students from 21 schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Reading into Success Launches

In March of 2015, Cedar Rapids joined a network of 167 communities nationwide participating in The Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The local initiative, called Reading into Success, is a collaboration between school districts, nonprofit organizations, businesses and funders, and aims to increase the number of children reading proficiently by the end of third grade. The Community Foundation helped convene partners and provided funding for the launch of Reading into Success.


Responding to Another Flood Threat

In September of 2016, the Cedar River once again threatened to flood. The Community Foundation established the Flood Fund 2016 to assist nonprofit organizations serving flood-impacted individuals. Fortunately, the river crested lower than expected and temporary barriers held. Still, many residents struggled to cover the costs of the preventative measures, and businesses and organizations lost revenue during evacuation and cleanup. The Nonprofit Recovery Fund 2016 was established to assist flood-impacted nonprofits, and the Jobs and Small Business Recovery Fund 2016 was established in partnership with the City of Cedar Rapids, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, and the Small Business Development Center to support impacted small businesses.


MICRO Earns HUD Secretary’s Award

In July 2018, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation received the Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. The award, presented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council on Foundations, honors partnerships between foundations and public entities that have been monumental in transforming communities and improving lives. The Community Foundation was recognized for its role in the collaborative MICRO loan program, which offers Cedar Rapids entrepreneurs and small businesses low-interest loans to start or grow their business. MICRO is a City of Cedar Rapids program, administered by the East Central Iowa Council of Governments. Other partners include Cedar Rapids Public Library, SCORE, Kirkwood Small Business Development Center and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.


Creating Safe, Equitable & Thriving Communities (SET) Fund Makes First Grants

In response to increased gun violence among area teens, the Safe, Equitable & Thriving Communities (SET) Task Force was established in 2016. The SET Task Force engaged residents and community partners to create a 2017 report that identified intersectional strategies to address systemic causes of youth violence. In 2018, the City of Cedar Rapids, Linn County, and the Cedar Rapids Community School District established the SET Fund at the Community Foundation to provide support for organizations pursuing recommendations outlined in the report. In 2019, the SET Fund made its first grants, distributing $40,000 to eight organizations.


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Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 17, 2020, the Community Foundation established the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund in partnership with United Way of East Central Iowa, Hall-Perrine Foundation and a number of local businesses. Thanks to broad community support, the fund made grants to minimize the impact of the coronavirus and address human service needs for vulnerable populations, including children, older adults, and those experiencing homelessness. Because the pandemic disproportionately affected historically marginalized groups, grant applications included questions on equity to better support these groups. Learning from this process led to an increased focus on equitable grantmaking.

Disaster Response Fund grantmaking was supported by Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID) and informed by conversations with other funders and community partners. Between 2020 and 2023, the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund granted more than $437,000 into the community.

Additionally, the Community Foundation’s unrestricted grant programs were reorganized to allow for flexibility in helping organizations sustain essential functions and maintain the safety net for vulnerable populations. The changes proved to be a learning opportunity, and the Community Foundation began exploring ways to offer general operating support.

Responding to the Derecho

On August 10, 2020, a derecho swept across the Midwest, leaving a trail of destruction from Nebraska to Indiana. The storm peaked over Eastern Iowa, where wind speeds reached 126 mph. Virtually every property in Linn County was impacted, and some 65% of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids was lost. On August 13, the Community Foundation established the Disaster Recovery Fund to support organizations providing basic needs to those disproportionately affected by the storm, as well as long-term recovery needs.

By October, many homes still needed repairs to be habitable for the coming winter months. The Community Foundation convened local funders and nonprofit organizations to launch the Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH) program. Through PATCH, nonprofits provided minor home repairs and legal assistance to homeowners throughout Linn County.


Thrive Cohort Launches

In January 2021, the Thrive Cohort launched to bring together Black, Brown and Biracial leaders of local nonprofit organizations. Thrive sought to develop relationships, create and expand nonprofit connections, and provide learning to help close the racial achievement gap in the local nonprofit sector. Today, Thrive continues to evolve to serve Black, Brown and Biracial nonprofit professionals in Linn County.


First Community Betterment Funds Established

In 2023, donors worked with the Community Foundation and local government to establish Community Betterment Funds for Mount Vernon, Iowa. These funds provide a tool for communities to raise and distribute funds in a way that suits them.

Foundation 2 Assumes Leadership of Group Violence Intervention

Thanks to an anonymous donation to the SET Fund, in 2019 a coalition of nonprofits and law enforcement began implementing Group Violence Intervention (GVI), a series of evidence-based strategies for reducing gun violence in communities like Cedar Rapids. Because other nonprofits were not yet engaging in this specific type of work, the Community Foundation agreed to take on initial project management. By 2023, strong partnerships were in place and Foundation 2 was able to hire permanent Support & Outreach staff. Foundation 2 continues to oversee local GVI strategy, working directly with those at high risk of violent victimization.

Karla Twedt-Ball Named President & CEO

Photo of Karla Twedt-Ball

After a national search, Karla Twedt-Ball was named President & CEO on June 1, 2023. Karla joined the Community Foundation as Program Director in 2007, leading grantmaking and community impact efforts. Karla holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Before joining the Community Foundation, Karla worked on a community policing evaluation project at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research and served as Executive Director of Churches United.


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