R.J. McElroy loved stories.  He used the radio and television to help our community  hear important stories.

At the McElroy Trust we love stories too.  We’ll use this page to share some of the stories of the great work of our grantees.  If you’re a grantee, and you’d like to see your story here, give us a call! We’d love to share.


 2018 Grant Highlight: The University of Northern Iowa is implementing the Teach Waterloo Project in collaboration with the Waterloo School District. The program supports the hard work of behavior interventionists or para(educator)s becoming teachers! Another goal of the Teach Waterloo Project is to address the disparity between minority students & teachers across Waterloo Schools. We could not be more proud to support this incredible program!

Pictured above from L to R: Dr. Beverly Smith – Associate Superintendent For Human Resources & Equity – Waterloo Schools, Rhonda McRina – Waterloo Schools Board Member, Gaëtane Jean-Marie – Dean & Professor, UNI College of Education

More on this story!: Waterloo-Courier & KCRG

February Grant Highlight: We were so proud to be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of the Hartman Reserve East Wing Renovation Project! We look forward to hearing all of the fun & learning young people in the Cedar Valley will experience in this beautiful space.


January Grant Highlight: Try Pie empowers a diverse group of teen girls in life & leadership skills through meaningful work in the Cedar Valley. Who doesn’t love delicious pie? The McElroy Trust is proud to be involved!


November 2017:  Congratulations to the Lansing Lions Club for completion of their new playground.  The McElroy Trust is proud to help make this project a reality.


November 2016 Grant Feature:

Inclusion Connection’s Project Search helps young people find their way to meaningful employment.  Young people benefit and so do employers like Allen Hospital.  In the end our community benefits by including everyone’s talent!  Congratulations to Waterloo Community Schools, Vocational Rehabilitation, Unity Point and Inclusion Connection for launching this successful new pilot.

Upper Midwest Board of Governors Emmy® AwardSeptember 30, 2016:  At the McElroy Trust, we love honoring teachers!  We are humbled to announce that we’ll be honored for honoring teachers! (Maybe we’ll inspire a few other communities to do the same.)  In late October, the R.J. McElroy Trust and KWWL-TV will receive a Regional Emmy Award for the Gold Star Award for Outstanding Teaching.

“The National Academy of Television Arts & Science (NATAS) – Upper Midwest Chapter Board of Governors Award is the most prestigious Regional Emmy® Award in our chapter.  It is voted on by solely by the board.  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. The award is presented to a broadcaster, advertiser or company, as well as a non-profit organization, each of whom has contributed to forward a cause.”

The Gold Star: Inspiring a generation of students:  KWWL-TV & the R.J. McElroy Trust

August Grant Highlight:  McGregor and Marquette are scenic places to view the Mississippi River, and spectacular locations to take in autumn leaves.  McGregor and Marquette are also a great home for artists.

The McElroy Trust funds afterschool programs at the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts.  Each spring, the art center and shop on Main Street in McGregor bustles with dozens of young artists who explore painting, sculpture, paper mache and fabric craft.  Funding from the McElroy Trust supports an art teacher and supplies.  A partnership with the MFL-MarMac School District makes sure that students have transportation to the Center.  Of course, like many great projects, volunteers help bring all of the pieces together and support the artists.

Congratulations to the Art Center for this great project.  The McElroy Trust is proud to be involved.

June Grant Highlight:  Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Allamakee county Under Construction


The $3.6 million Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center will take education beyond the classroom and into the outdoors. Educational programs will provide opportunities for students to learn about conserving and protecting natural resources, and nearly two floors of interpretive and dimensional displays will show students the history of their county and the Driftless Area. It is estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 youth from the surrounding area will visit the education center annually.

Last month, the RJ McElroy Trust awarded the project a $250,000 challenge grant and an additional $50,000 for successfully completing the challenge for a total gift of $300,000 toward the capital campaign. Eight area banks and their stakeholders raised $250,000 to meet the Trust’s challenge for ACCF to be awarded the matching grant.  Local leaders have raised $3.3 of their $3.6 million goal.


May grant highlight:   What would you do with 1,324 days?  

At Irving School in Waterloo in 1,324 days kids are learning to read and multiply.  They are diving into  history and conducting science experiments.  They are learning how to write their own story, and they’re learning to be Irving-Star-Leaders!

Through the 28th of April (the 147th day of school), Irving students attended 1,324 more days of school this year than they did through the 147th day of school last year! 

That’s an average of NINE more students in the building every day!  On average each student in the building has attended nearly THREE more days of school this year!


Less absences also means that fewer students are at risk of becoming chronically absent (missing 10% of school days).  Research shows that children who are chronically absent even in early grades are more likely to struggle with reading and less likely to finish high school.

Congratulations to the teachers, staff and leaders of Irving School.  We also want to give a pat on the back to the family members and parents who help make sure that their students are at school and ready to learn every day!  THANK YOU!

The McElroy Trust is proud to have supported Irving School’s work to reduce student absences in two ways:
(1) The Trust supported a book give-away as a way to improve attendance on Leap Day (the first Monday back to school after a long weekend).  On that day there were only 8 students absent, compared to 23 students on the same day of the school year in 2015.

(2) Because of the McElroy Trust’s connection to both the Iowa Council of Foundations and the Cedar Valley Campaign for Grade Level Reading, we were able to help Irving, and several other Waterloo buildings to connect with Attendance Works, the nation’s premier think tank for reducing chronic absence.


March 2016 Project highlight:  The R.J. McElroy Trust recently put forth a $500,000 challenge grant for the renovation of Clinton Hall at Wartburg College. For more on the McElroy gift, click here.

Clinton GB - McElroyPictured above at the Clinton Hall groundbreaking:  Mike Young (Board Chair), Dr. Darrell Colson (Wartburg College’s President), and Dr. Stacy Van Gorp (Executive Director, McElroy Trust.)

April 2016 Project Highlight:  

The McElroy Trust is proud to support the Youth Art Team’s Urban Intervention (The Butterfly Project).  53 butterfly sculptures appeared by surprise on the lawn of Lowell Elementary in Waterloo between March 8-13, 2016. The artwork was created by six teams of young artists – about 100 total students of all ages from Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Butterflies recently migrated to W 1st Street in Cedar Falls.

The goal of the Youth Art Team Urban Intervention project is to instill in the young artists the knowledge that their actions have the power to alter the dynamics of the community. This project models the butterfly effect, a term describing the potential for one small change in a condition to affect a large and complex system. The Youth Art Team thinks this one small change could make a big difference in our complex community – maybe in ways we can not even predict.


“Be beautiful. Be powerful. Try to think of things that nobody has created before.” – Aerz, age 8

April 2016:  McElroy Trust receives the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Partner Award!  “The Partner Award honors and educational institution, nonprofit organization, service club or human service agency in promoting economic growth and employment, quality of life, offering leadership or making an outstanding contribution to the Cedar Valley and its citizens on a continuing basis or with a specific project.”

We are proud – and humbled – to be honored by the GCVA!  You can see our tribute video at this link.


Pictured left to right at the event:  Sharon Vander Kolk, Stacy Van Gorp (McElroy Trust staff), Mike Young (Board Chair), Sarah Hanson (intern), Jim Waterbury (Trustee).

October 23, 2015:  Check out a new feature about the McElroy Trust’s innovative one-page proposal in this publication from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO).  GEO membership includes 500 foundations who are committed to implementing strategies and practices that help grantees to do their best work.

June 28, 2015: We loved seeing the Youth Art Team‘s awesome project in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier!   At the exhibit, you can see what downtown Waterloo might look like with a roller-coaster, aquarium and theatre!  The McElroy Trust is proud to support this project.    An excerpt from the article…

CAM01061WATERLOO | Whether passersby stop and study the artwork or merely glance at it as they stride past, the colorful cityscape is eye-catching.

Pink and orange buildings are set against a bright blue backdrop in the window at East Fourth and Sycamore streets. Giant lighted letters spelling out L-O-V-E, a painted aquarium filled with vivid fish and a sign with the phrase “Love is power” are among other elements in the Urban Gallery Installation, created by the Youth Art Team.

The artwork is meant to be viewed through the windows. It will be on display throughout the summer. 

“We interviewed people from the community who talked about what life was like growing up in Waterloo in the 1930s and ’40s, going downtown to the movie theater, shopping, taking the trolley. We used that information to create the artwork, which shows downtown as it was, as it is now and what we would like it to be. Society has changed, but these memories are something you can hold onto, which is cool,” says Sara Hoy, 16, a student at Cedar Falls High School….  (more at this link)  

March 19, 2015:  Thanks to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier for highlighting the World’s Greatest Spring Break for Kids.  We’re proud to have helped catalyze a partnership that brings smiles to so many kids.  Here’s an excerpt….

BookgiveawayphotobyTiffanyRushing2015“The spring break events have been a hit since the beginning, drawing more than 10,000 people each year. They have been providing fun and interactive experiences featuring art, culture, history, science and sports.  Having these types of activities readily available in the community is a great advantage. A concerted effort toward making them affordable for kids and families during a time when schools are on break has been a wonderful idea.  It’s a week that underscores the meaning of community.” (Photo by Tiffany Rushing)

We also appreciate the photos and coverage from the Courier on March 16 about Spring Break.
UNI Award Photo 2014November 8, 2014:  The University of Northern Iowa presented the McElroy Trust with the “2014 President’s Philanthropy Award”.  The Trust has supported the development of several large projects at UNI including the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center and the Human Performance Center.  Most recently the McElroy Trust made gifts to the Buck A Kid program at GBPAC, the Entrepreneurship Student Incubator, and the STEAM Autism project.

February 15, 2014:  The McElroy Trust is proud to have sponsored the All-Iowa FIRST Robotics Competition Scrimmage in Cedar Falls.  All six of the FRC teams in Iowa participated.  We wish them luck at their regional competitions!

May 17, 2012.  Thank you to the Waterloo and Cedar Falls Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus for recognizing the McElroy Trust as “Organization of the Year.”  The award was in recognition of the World’s Greatest Spring Break for Kids.  We’d like to extend the recognition to all of the great organizations with which we partner to make Spring Break Great!  Including the Grout Museum District, Young Arena, the Waterloo Center for the Arts, National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Black Hawk Children’s Theatre, ISU Extension, Quakerdale, the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley, and the Waterloo library.

May 17, 2012.  Read about one of the Trust’s most recent grants in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.  A graduation celebration for youth living in foster care. 

May 1, 2012.  The McElroy Trust mourns the passing of Louis Beecher.   Mr. Louis Beecher, played an important in R.J. McElroy’s success, and in the development and growth of the McElroy Trust.  His legacy of community leadership will be missed in the Cedar Valley.  Read more about Mr. Beecher.