Watsons invest in youth and outdoor experiences

“Our upbringing in this small community gave us the tools we needed to go out and make a way for ourselves, and so it’s important for us to give back and support that community,” says LeAnn Watson. “A reinvestment,” says Craig, her husband. 

The Watsons, who live in McGregor, give through their Watson-Rugland Family Endowment for Clayton County, held by the Clayton County Foundation for the Future. The Foundation provides opportunities for people to give back and address community needs in ways that fit their own passions and giving goals.

“One of the reasons we like to support local projects is that it’s an immediate impact,” says LeAnn. The endowment allows them to do just that. In 2021, they granted their fund’s payout to two Clayton County causes:

McGregor Hiking Trail Wayfinding Project

The McGregor trail begins just up the hill from the Watsons’ home. The City of McGregor applied for a grant to enhance the trail and invite more people to enjoy it by adding signage.

“Our interest in the trailhead stems from the value that hiking can have for folks as a way to seek exercise at your own pace and physical ability,” says Craig. “You explore and enjoy the nature in your nearby surroundings. Over a period of time, if you pay attention, you can observe the changes in the seasons along the hiking trail. Those are things that some people might overlook — just taking a deep breath and walking the area around you and observing how it changes.”

The Watsons recognize that an investment in trailhead markers is bigger than simply erecting signs. “From a greater perspective, the trail markers are an important element in developing a good local hiking trail network,” says Craig. “If we have a hiking system within McGregor, that encourages more visitors to seek us out. If people come to hike, they’re going to spend more time downtown at local businesses. When the weather turns warm, we’ll be out there, too.”

Ewalu Camp and Retreat Center Endowment Fund

LeAnn and her two brothers started attending Ewalu Camp and Retreat Center in sixth grade. “We went every summer,” she recalls. “I’ve always had good, fond memories of Ewalu. Like most Bible camps, there were outdoor activities, Bible study and campfire songs. I still have some of the craft projects my younger brother made and gave to me when he came home from camp.” 

“Every year, we make a gift from our family endowment,” she says. “Part of our payout went to the McGregor trailhead project, and we had more funding available. We got out the Clayton County Foundation for the Future list of funds and saw Ewalu’s endowment, so we zeroed in on that.”

Endowment and Beyond

“Because of the personal relationships the Foundation develops with partners like Craig and LeAnn, we were able to connect them with an emerging need we knew might align with their interests,” said Emily Sadewasser, foundation coordinator. When an opportunity arose for the Foundation to provide libraries with books that focus on social-emotional issues and feature diverse characters, the Watsons were excited to help. A donation in addition to their annual fund payout provided books to libraries in Elkader and McGregor.

“We always gravitate toward books for kids, because we have four grandchildren and I was a librarian,” says LeAnn. The pair are especially sensitive to young people in Clayton County. “All young people should have access to tools that are a part of their nurturing, exploring and learning process,” explains Craig.

LeAnn values reading to their grandchildren. “This project seemed like a good way to focus on inclusivity in the greater world,” she explains. “It appealed to us that these books would introduce a little more gentleness and kindness in our world. If you can make things better right where you are, then that’s a place to start.”

To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community through the Foundation, contact Emily Sadewasser at ccff@dbqfoundation.org or visit dbqfoundation.org/ccff.