Forever support in a small town

Keith Garms rallies Elkader for a brighter future

Hometown pride doesn’t get much stronger than in the Garms family. “I married Miss Elkader,” Keith Garms says with a chuckle. “We knew this was the place to raise a family and spend a lifetime.” Though many opportunities arose for him and his wife, Kathy, to move their family elsewhere, “We stayed here in our favorite little spot,” he says. 

Twenty years ago, Keith’s vision for a brighter tomorrow led to the founding of the Clayton County Foundation for the Future. He and Kathy have contributed time, talent and treasure to the Foundation and many other local initiatives, always looking for the next step in supporting a thriving Elkader. While attending an event hosted by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque in 2022, Keith learned about the Small-town Dreams Initiative, an opportunity for his beloved community to capture a $100,000 challenge grant and create an endowment that will pay out $20,000 annually, forever. Within a week, he had called together a group of friends to join the initiative and launch the Elkader Future Fund. 

Now, the team is activating the whole community to build an endowment that will foster projects like park improvements and downtown amenities, and support children so that families can thrive for generations to come. In the process, these leaders gain the skills to organize a successful capital campaign and learn how to understand and respond to local needs. 

Small-town Dreams is helping towns across Eastern Iowa build capacity to address future challenges and opportunities, leveraging support from an anonymous donor to build a $450,000 endowment that will pay out every year to support community-building efforts. 

The response in Elkader has been swift and generous. The team is well on their way to meeting the campaign goal. This ease of fundraising speaks to the passion many rural residents have for their towns. Through Small-town Dreams, communities channel that passion to achieve what is important to them. In Elkader, grants have already been made to provide sun shades for families at the swimming pool and safety equipment for a street crossing on the river walk. 

“As time goes on, I hope many remember Elkader as a friendly place and consider leaving their own legacy to the Elkader Future Fund,” says Keith. “Just like the Small-town Dreams Initiative teaches us, it takes a community to get things done.”