Reconnecting With One Another

Our 2022 annual luncheon was the first such event in three years and a chance to thank our partners for their support in transforming the Dubuque region.

From partnerships that support children to a new initiative that is building small-town endowment funds, the Community Foundation’s region-wide impact was in the spotlight recently at its 2022 annual luncheon — its first in-person luncheon in three years.

“Isn’t it great to be here in person? We’ve missed gathering together like this,” said Community Foundation President and CEO Nancy Van Milligen. “Today, we are here to celebrate you, your impact, and the philanthropic partnership we share.”

The crowd of 140 Foundation supporters and community partners heard from several special guests, including two young children who read from the book “Be A Healthy You! In Dubuque.” Through its Every Child Reads initiative, the Foundation published the children’s book in 2021 as a way to call attention to the ways adults can support healthy hearts, brains and bodies among the community’s youngest residents.

“No one organization is responsible for nurturing our children — it takes a community, and thanks to the Community Foundation’s work, Dubuque has a strong coalition of organizations working to ensure all children and youth can succeed,” said guest speaker Lisa TeBockhorst, director of elementary education for the Dubuque Community School District.

TeBockhorst highlighted the ways partnerships between the Foundation and local organizations are helping address pressing issues like third-grade reading proficiency. In Dubuque, she said, just 43% of third-graders are proficient in reading. Because third-grade reading proficiency is a key predictor of high school graduation, there is an urgent need to tackle this issue through initiatives like Every Child Reads.

Beyond the city of Dubuque, partnerships are transforming rural communities. MJ Smith, the Foundation’s senior affiliate advisor, shared how a generous donor who grew up in small-town Iowa made a gift to the Foundation to establish a challenge grant program known as the Small-town Dreams Initiative that is helping rural communities build endowments that will pay out $20,000 a year to address needs of the day.

“Replicating a successful model at work in Nebraska, our donor is now funding endowment challenge grants for self-determined high-performing communities to grow their own Forever Funds to revive parks, reimagine downtowns, and rev their own special dreams for the next generation,” Smith said.

The luncheon was an opportunity for Foundation leaders to share their appreciation to all who support its work, especially through the pandemic that prevented the annual event from being held in 2020 and 2021. Guests from Dubuque as well as the seven surrounding rural counties were eager to reconnect with old acquaintances and build new connections.

“You make our work possible,” said Bobbi Earles, vice president of philanthropy and communications. “The impacts we are making today and the ones we will make for years to come are all thanks to your generosity. I hope you will continue to help us build bridges that will strengthen our future and our region forever.”