2016 Annual Review

January 3, 2017:  From Stacy Van Gorp, McElroy Trust Executive Director:

With 2016 coming to a close, I thought it was an important time to share some of the McElroy Trust’s efforts.  We are proud to support dozens of great projects and people.  We thought you might like to read about a few highlights.

1. $2 million in grants to inspire and transform deserving young people.  Grants ranged from $500 to $500,000.  Our $500 grant was to Cedar Valley’s Promise for gift cards and a celebration for foster care youth who were graduating from high school.  Across the U.S., half of youth in foster care do not complete high school by the time they turn 18.  This moment deserved a special occasion.

Our $500,000 grant went to Cedar Valley SportsPlex to pay off our $4 million pledge.  We have now paid $3.8 million to this project.  The Trust was one of the earliest funders to support SportsPlex and we are thrilled with their results:  over 2,500 memberships = over 5,000 people, including lots and lots of kids!

2.  The “Natural Wonder” grants: The Trust is helping with two projects that usher young people into the wonder of the natural world.  We committed a $250,000 challenge grant to the $3 million renovation of Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

20160616_163525Additionally, the Trust provided a $300,000 challenge grant to encourage local support of the $3.6 million construction of the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Allamakee county (pictured).  This beautiful building will welcome 10,000 young people annually to experience the Mississippi river and its bluffs.

3.  The “Wonder of Youth” grants: In 2016, we were also reminded that it’s not just natural places that are full of wonder.  It is often young people themselves that amaze us.  The McElroy Trust supported the FIRST Regional Robotics Competition at UNI’s McLeod Center.  Hundreds of High School students from around the Midwest (plus China and Brazil) showed off their engineering and technology skills by building robots that could climb towers, shoot baskets, and cross a moat!  We were impressed with the professionalism, tenacity and creativity of these young people and their teachers.  (Pictured:  A remote controlled robot built by students from Cedar Falls High School shoots a basket).


We also witnessed a wonderful milestone for the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Art Center’s Kaleidoscope program.  They welcomed their 500,000th child to a live performance!  The Trust is a sponsor and we’ve learned to give with a little more feeling.

4.  Inspiring through Innovation: Two more projects demonstrated innovative approaches to inspiring young people.  Both projects were offered by new organizations.

The McElroy Trust funded EMBARC, a refugee serving agency focused on people from Burma.  When newcomers arrive in our community it is often young people who first cross the cultural bridge.  EMBARC recognized this scenario and provided training and support to equip young people to lead and support other community members.   When you consider the journey these young people have endured, it is amazing to watch them become leaders in our community.  (Pictured:  Youth Navigators ready to present to 100 educators.)


The McElroy Trust also helped launch Project Search with Inclusion Connection.  Project Search placed several students with disabilities in internships at Allen Hospital. Project Search helps young people with disabilities find their way to meaningful employment.  Employers have also commented on the significant impact of the interns on their organization.

5.  Working Together for Transformation: Many problems faced are complex, even wicked.  These problems require collaborative solutions and collective strategy.  Keeping in the legacy of the McElroy Trust, I’m proud that we continue to provide leadership, funding, and elbow grease to sustain long-term solutions.

For example, the McElroy Trust helped found the Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association, a Chamber-type organization for 60+ nonprofit organizations.  Workshops and events provide low-cost professional development to leaders and keep organizations connected.

The Trust has also lent its leadership the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, an initiative to help ensure all children read well by the end of third grade.  We even helped the group to secure a $500,000 three-year grant to strengthen efforts. (Pictured:  Students from Irving School in Waterloo, “Leaping into Literacy”.)


6.  15,003 visitors to World’s Greatest Spring Break of Kids marked a new record for this annual event organized and supported by the McElroy Trust.  In the seven years since the event began over 80,000 visitors have come to downtown Waterloo during Spring Break to enjoy nine attractions (Grout Museums, Phelps Youth Pavilion, Young Arena, etc.).  I think of downtown Waterloo as the best-square-mile for kids in Iowa!

(Pictured:  Kids learn about science and snakes at the Bluedorn Imaginarium).


7.  Recognition: No one involved in the McElroy Trust does so for recognition.  However, a year in review wouldn’t be complete without a few notes about where our work has been shared and spotlighted:

The McElroy Trust’s commitment to a streamlined grant application process, the outsized impact its managed to achieve in its grantmaking, and its culture of humility and innovation were featured by national philanthropy leaders, Exponent (Association of Small Foundations) and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

In April 2016, the McElroy Trust received the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Partner Award.  The Partner Award honors an educational institution or nonprofit that promotes economic growth and quality of life and makes an outstanding contribution to the Cedar Valley. Ralph McElroy was a champion for the Waterloo Chamber.  We think he would have enjoyed seeing his legacy honored by the area’s business leaders.  You can see our tribute video at this link.

In late October, the R.J. McElroy Trust and KWWL-TV received a Regional Emmy Award  for our 28 year commitment to the Gold Star Award for Outstanding Teaching.  From the National Academy of Television Arts & Science (NATAS),  “…the Board of Governors Award is the most prestigious Regional Emmy® Award in our chapter…  The Governor’s Emmy® Award honors visionary, long-standing relationships that creatively and effectively use corporate, non-profit and broadcast resources to showcase the power of broadcasting to advance a mission or message.”


We never thought we’d be Emmy winners, but we’re so glad it’s for our work to honor teachers! We hope we might inspire other communities to do the same. (Pictured:  Jim Waterbury, McElroy Trustee and Jim McKernan, KWWL-TV).


Looking Ahead:  You’re Invited

The McElroy Trust is a private charitable foundation founded in 1965 by the estate of Ralph J. (Mac) McElroy.  Each day we work to live up to the words of Mac’s will, “I direct my Trustees…to use all of the income from the RJ McElroy Trust…for the benefit of deserving young people.”

In 2017, we’ll keep looking for ways to inspire and transform young people.  We pride ourselves in scouting and supporting innovative and important projects.  After 50+ years of grantmaking there is still more work to be done.  If you’re interested in supporting these goals, we’d love to partner with you.

While we are a private foundation and don’t actively fundraise, we always welcome gifts from donors who are also committed to helping deserving young people in northeast Iowa.  If you are interested in making a financial contribution to the McElroy Trust or learning more, please contact me at vangorp@mcelroytrust.org or 319-287-9102.