Foundation invests in small-town community health


A vision to restore and revitalize their neighboring communities inspired leaders in Calamus and Wheatland to launch the Cal-Wheat Hometown Pride campaign five years ago. Today, their work is leading to a new fitness center serving both communities, scheduled to open by year-end. 

The new center, supported by grant funding from the LincolnWay Community Foundation, will help accomplish two goals for the communities: Support health and wellness and bring new energy to downtown areas.

The two towns, with a combined population of just over 1,100, share many things, thus their motto, “Two towns, one community.” Part of their shared vision includes the restoration and re-use of aging buildings to help revive their downtowns. Funding from the Community Foundation, along with other partners, is helping to turn a former lumberyard and hardware store into a community hub in Calamus that includes a fitness center.

Plans for the new center came out of a historical anomaly in Calamus: The lack of a true city hall. When the owner of a former lumberyard offered to sell his property to the city to use as a city hall, leaders embraced the idea. A pole barn for storing equipment, office space for the city clerk and public works director, a meeting room for the council, and even a space to store historic community artifacts are all a part of the facility

“Another attached building remained unused until we re-examined some previous plans for creating fitness space,” says Mayor Lance Goettsch. “It’s attached to everything, heated and cooled by the rest of the building, and is the perfect-sized space for a small fitness center. We think this is an extremely important amenity for the health of our small communities.”

Calamus and Wheatland residents currently must commute a long distance for recreational opportunities like pools, parks, trails and tennis courts. “On top of that, rural communities have less access to fresh foods,” Goettsch says. “Those two things lead to poor health, and we don’t have a local health care provider here.” The fitness center, he adds, can help address these needs.

Support from community members and the city government have been essential to making this new fitness facility a reality. From volunteer labor to gifts from local individuals, families and businesses, as well as grants and the City of Calamus, the space has been repainted, new flooring installed, and a keycard system set up at the door. The city council has incorporated maintenance of the facility into its annual operations. 

“Now we’re just hoping that we’re successful with some pending grants to purchase equipment to fill the space,” says Goettsch. The goal is to open the fitness center before year-end, at a low-cost or free for residents.

Cal-Wheat Hometown Pride isn’t stopping with the fitness center. “We’ve been inventorying buildings and working aggressively to restore them in order to attract new residents and offer activities and amenities that improve quality of life in our communities,” says Goettsch. 

With funding from state and local grants, they’re working on turning one such building into a bakery and drive-through coffee shop. The City of Calamus also worked with the state to join a program that allows a 10-year property tax break for new construction – residential, industrial or commercial – in the community. 

All of these efforts add up to an exciting future for Calamus and Wheatland – and an inspiration for rural towns across the region. The LincolnWay Community Foundation recognizes the need for flexibility in problem solving and prioritizes projects that make a significant impact on residents and identified community challenges. Gifts to the Community Foundation support annual grantmaking to local projects like the fitness center. 

The Foundation offers many opportunities to improve quality of life in rural Clinton County by addressing an array of local issues, both through grantmaking and community leadership. To learn more about how you can establish a fund or make a gift that impacts your community, contact Executive Director Amanda Willimack at or 563-212-2812.