Grinnell Connected is the 2018 recipient of the “Leave It Better ThanYou Found It” award from the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF). Grinnell Connected is the volunteer-run, combined school booster group for elementary and middle schools formerly known as PTO. The nonprofit organization encourages engagement among families, teachers and community members and supports educational projects and initiatives beyond what the school district budget affords.
The “Leave It Better” award commemorates the August birthday of the late philanthropist Claude W. Ahrens. To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual recognition program of those making a difference in the community.
CDAF President and CEO Julie Gosselink said that Grinnell Connected was selected for the award because of “the volunteer group’s progressive and inclusive efforts to engage students, families and community partners in the educational process.”
Grinnell Connected will receive a $5,000 grant and traveling trophy from CDAF as part of the foundation’s annual recognition. The traveling trophy will be displayed in each of the schools on a rotating basis, and the cash award will be used “to fund classroom needs that enhance the educational experience,” according to Grinnell Connected co-leader Mary Lindberg.
“On behalf of Grinnell Connected, we are so very, very appreciative of this recognition from the Ahrens Foundation of the work we do for all preK-8th grade students. There is so much more that can be done, and this generous, timely award will help extend those educational opportunities,” Lindberg said.
While Grinnell Connected was organized in 2014 to combine the three separate elementary school parent/teacher organizations, Grinnell Middle School was added during the 2017-18 academic year, at the request of the principal, to assist with needs there as well.
Lindberg and Connected co-leaders Nikki Laug and Mindy Kostow recently met with building administrators to encourage staff to think about what is needed to boost hands-on learning for all students. “The Leave It Better grant will help us fund those requests from teachers,” Lindberg said.
One of Connected’s key activities is to fund one educational field trip for each grade level each year. The group also started the popular Mileage Club and Breakfast Book Club. Mileage Club provides students an alternative recess option in the spring for running or walking laps to earn incentives while learning to stay healthy. Breakfast Book Club provides students with a free book and breakfast, while bringing hundreds of family and community members into the schools to read with children. Free family nights throughout the year sponsored by Connected also provide students and their families’ simple ways to prioritize educational family time.
Lindberg emphasized that because Connected is a nonprofit and entirely volunteer-run, the advocacy group relies heavily on community partnerships that support education and invest time, talent and funds in the schools. Specific community partnerships include volunteers from Monsanto, Lions and Rotary Clubs, as well as the Partners in Education with Grinnell Mutual, Unity Point-GRMC, and Hy-Vee.
“Another of Connected’s key activities is the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program. We have been very fortunate to partner with the Grinnell College Center for the Humanities the past two years to fully fund the RIF program, which allows every elementary student to receive three reading level appropriate books each year to support literacy outside of the classroom,” Lindberg said.
The group continuously seeks additional grants and monetary support to maintain and expand each year’s projects. In addition to annual fundraising efforts, Connected has received recent grants from Lincoln Savings Bank and the Grinnell College Mini Grants program.
Connected’s first meeting of the 2018-19 school year will be Tues., Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at Davis Elementary School. Meetings are open to anyone interested in learning more about Connected activities or in volunteering. Community members interested in volunteering can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or indicate interest on the Grinnell Connected Facebook page. Gifts to Grinnell Connected may be made in care of the Grinnell-Newburg School District. Information about the Leave It Better Award is available at https://ahrensfamilyfoundation.org/leave-it-better-awards/.
The Grinnell College Social Justice Action Group (SJAG), the student organization that coordinates the weekly Community Meal at Davis Elementary School, is the 2017 recipient of the “Leave It Better ThanYou Found It” award from the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF). The “Leave It Better” award commemorates the August birthday of the late philanthropist Claude W. Ahrens. To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual recognition program of those making a difference in the community.
The student-led Social Justice Action Group focuses its activities on promoting peace, equality, and positive social change by fighting hunger, encouraging volunteerism, and strengthening relationships in the local community. Grinnell College students started the meal program in 2000 as a community-building activity with oversight by Dean of Religious Life and Chaplain Deanna Shorb. The free meal is served every Tuesday (except during month of August) from 5:45-6:15 p.m. in the Davis cafeteria and is open to anyone in the community.
“What started 17 years ago as a single event has grown to serve the food and fellowship needs of 80-100 on a regular basis. The Community Meal has evolved into a multi-generational, cross-socio-economic group gathering that allows local residents to get to know college students and vice versa. For example, international students may come to the meal to practice their English language skills, while retirees may come so they don’t have to eat alone,” Shorb said.
SJAG members work with local groups to cook and serve the meals, shop for groceries if needed, followup on schedules and menus, and provide on-site assistance with meal preparation and cleanup. Student coordinator Nina Galanter, a senior mathematics major from Northbrook, Ill., has assisted with Community Meal during each of her four academic years at Grinnell.
“I’m honored that SJAG received the ‘Leave It Better’ award. We feel that the Community Meal has a very positive impact on Grinnell, and it’s great to be recognized for that. Serving as a coordinator of the meal has shown me how much goes on behind-the-scenes and how many people put in a great deal of effort to ensure that the meal is served each week,” Galanter said. “The ‘Leave It Better’ award will help SJAG continue to operate smoothly and gives us more confidence that we can continue the Community Meal for many years going forward.”
CDAF President and CEO Julie Gosselink said the Grinnell College student group was selected for the award because of the organization’s long-standing efforts to build community relationships through the weekly Community Meal.
“The Grinnell College Social Justice Action Group is committed to building relationships and taking action to better our community. It’s especially impressive that these students, who are in most cases temporary members of our community, devote their time to providing for those in need, as well as reaching out to break barriers and build understanding among local groups. These student efforts demonstrate the mission and intent of ‘Leave It Better’ recognition,” Gosselink said.
The Social Justice Action Group will receive a $5,000 grant and traveling trophy from CDAF as part of the foundation’s annual recognition. The traveling trophy will be displayed on campus at the college’s Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice. Shorb said that the cash award will be used to offset the estimated cost of $2 per served meal, as well as the cost of having a school district employee on site, per district policy.
“The Community Meal is funded in full by donations. There is no line item budget for the meal so we are reliant on and grateful for the generosity of church and civic organizations, individuals, and the Campbell Fund for the Worthy Poor. It’s the kindnesses of so many that make this vibrant, successful activity truly a community meal,” Shorb said.
Groups and individuals who wish to contribute to or volunteer to prepare and serve at the Community Meal may contact Shorb at the college, email@example.com, 641-269-4981.
The Grinnell Education Partnership, a collaboration of area institutions, employers and individuals committed to educational success, is the 2016 recipient of the “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award from the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF).
The “Leave It Better ThanYou Found It” award commemorates the August birthday of the late benefactor Claude W. Ahrens. In a 1993 speech to the National Recreation and Parks Association, Ahrens challenged those in attendance to follow the sage advice of his father John, “to leave the world a better place than you found it.” To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual recognition program.
The Grinnell Education Partnership was formed in 2012 with representation from the local school district, Grinnell College, area employers, and community volunteers to address the educational needs and priorities of the greater Grinnell community. Initially the partnership focused on the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading, an effort to help all students read at grade level by completion of third grade, a predictor of high school outcomes and success. A 2015 AmeriCorps grant, administered by Grinnell College, provided funding for more than 40 AmeriCorps members to implement action plans for the grade-level reading project, as well as a skills gap initiative to ensure employability of high school students. The college recently secured a second year of AmeriCorps funding to continue partnership efforts to address school readiness, attendance, summer learning, healthy readers, skills gap, family and community engagement, after-school enrichment, and volunteer resources.
CDAF President and CEO Julie Gosselink said the education partnership was selected for the award because of the partnership’s highly collaborative community involvement and effective success during its initial stages. “The Grinnell Education Partnership is fully dedicated to helping children and families in our community be successful now and in the future. The impressive volunteer commitment, the extensive outreach to children at all levels, the effective collaboration across community groups—all of these efforts are in the spirit of the “Leave It Better” recognition,” Gosselink said.
The Grinnell Education Partnership will receive a $5,000 grant and traveling trophy from CDAF as part of the foundation’s annual recognition of area groups making a difference. The traveling trophy will be displayed at each of the AmeriCorps host sites.
Monica Chavez-Silva, associate vice-president for community enhancement and engagement at Grinnell College, expressed appreciation for the local recognition and reflected on the partnership’s work-to-date.
“Year One exceeded our expectations. The amount of creative energy and work by more than 165 volunteers serving on our taskforce groups has been phenomenal. Since late winter, these groups have created new programs, recruited and trained volunteers, communicated with kids and families, and put their plans into action,” she said. “We are grateful for the Leave It Better Award which will help to keep the momentum going in Year Two,” she said.
Chavez-Silva pointed to the following examples of taskforce outcomes to date: summer afternoon enrichment program for K-3 summer school students; expansion of Drake Community Library’s “In Your Neighborhood” programming; kindergarten readiness summer camp; high school internship program at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company; after-school activities at Grinnell Area Arts Center and Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool; “Wellness Wednesdays” at elementary schools; “Wellness at the Market” at Farmers’ Market; Mileage Club activities at elementary schools; community-wide volunteer database; web, newsletter and community meal outreach to families; summer-school outreach and family peer support for those with attendance issues; and #Read Everyday Grinnell ”million-minute”reading program.
In addition to the federal AmeriCorps grant administered by Grinnell College, private funds are needed to support the work of taskforces that in turn work directly with local students. To date, more than $30,000 in contributions have been made to the partnership fund, including $10,000 grants each from CDAF and Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, plus private individual gifts.
The Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF) serves as the fiscal agent for the Grinnell Education Partnership. GPCF Executive Director Nicole Brua-Behrens said the Foundation first learned about the Grade-Level Reading program through the Iowa Council of Foundations. Today Grinnell is one of 15 Iowa communities involved in the national reading program.
“Our community understands the importance and urgency of having our students develop good learning habits so they have a strong start to succeed and a strong finish at graduation. It takes an entire community to make a program like this work, and our community has stepped up in multiple ways, multiple times,” Brua-Behrens said.
Groups and individuals who wish to contribute to the Grinnell Education Partnership may contact Brua-Behrens at firstname.lastname@example.org, 641-236-5518.
Volunteers interested in supporting any of the AmeriCorps task forces may contact Chavez-Silva at email@example.com, 641-269-4708.
(Accepting the 2015 “Leave It Better” award for the Grinnell Area Arts Council (from left to right) are executive director Christian Lutz, board members Debby Pohlson and Austin Jones)
The Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) is the 2015 recipient of the “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award from the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF).
The arts council oversees programming and performances for the Loft Theatre, Arts Academy, Community Theatre, Community Band, Grin City Collective, Music in the Park, and Turlach Ur, plus Stewart Gallery exhibitions and administration of an annual scholarship for local high school students.
CDAF President and CEO Julie Gosselink said that GAAC was selected because of the group’s community outreach to all ages. “GAAC’s mission to create arts awareness through a wide range of educational programs and performance opportunities fits well with the intent and purpose of the ‘Leave It Better’ award. We are pleased to recognize this thriving cultural resource in our community,” Gosselink said.
GAAC will receive a $5,000 grant and traveling trophy from CDAF as part of the foundation’s annual recognition of area groups making a difference. The traveling trophy will be displayed at GAAC’s headquarters in the Grinnell Arts Center, located at 926 Broad St.
GAAC board president Lesley Wright expressed appreciation for the foundation’s award. “The Arts Council is honored by the recognition of the Ahrens Foundation. It’s been our privilege to partner with this community to create great cultural opportunities available to everyone.
“With the help of our expanding staff, volunteer base, and eager participants, we have been able to offer music, visual art, theatre, and arts education programming year-round,” Wright said. “It’s particularly exciting to see the former Stewart Library blossom as our home, giving the arts a visible downtown presence. We look forward to a fantastic year ahead.”
GAAC Executive Director Christian Lutz, completing his first year in the leadership role, reflected on the community’s enthusiasm and support of the arts. “This community coalesces around causes, and we respond with an amazing amount of programming for all ages.
“We want to make the arts as accessible as possible, to help all ages make connections to all forms of the arts. The reception for our programming has been great.”
Lutz pointed to recent community-supported GAAC activities including the popular Music in the Park series; “Seussical the Musical,” which in collaboration with G-N Fine Arts Alliance drew more than 1,300 attendees; a successful summer Arts Academy, with fall enrollment now in progress; and Stewart Gallery exhibitions of local artists Judy Mitchell and John Pfitsch.
Earlier this year, GAAC was one of six regional organizations recognized by ArtsLab for strategic arts initiatives.
The “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award commemorates the August birthday of the late benefactor Claude W. Ahrens. In a 1993 speech to the National Recreation and Parks Association, Ahrens challenged those in attendance to follow the sage advice of his father John, “to leave the world a better place than you found it.” To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual recognition program.
S.H.E. COUNTS, a fund to support and empower women and girls throughout Poweshiek County, is the 2014 recipient of the “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award from the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF).
Formally launched in March through the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF), S.H.E. Counts formed an advisory board in 2013 to set objectives and a plan of action for the organization’s first year. Recently the group kicked off a county-wide survey to identify issues of importance to area women and girls. The group is also collaborating with local agencies to create and distribute a community resource guide, and expects to pilot a “Get to College” initiative for young women who may face barriers to continuing education.
S.H.E. Counts will receive a $5,000 grant and traveling trophy from CDAF as part of the foundation’s annual recognition of area groups making a difference.
CDAF President and CEO Julie Gosselink said that S.H.E. Counts was selected “because of the strides the group has accomplished in its first year.
“It went from an idea, to a fund of GPCF, to an organization with a passionate advisory board, to raising additional funds, to hundreds of volunteer hours, to taking action on its mission,” Gosselink said.
“S.H.E. Counts helps to raise awareness about the need for positive change and to take action against barriers to social and economic security for area women and children. Their mission is perfectly aligned with the ideals of the ‘Leave It Better’ award, and we are pleased to recognize this county-wide effort on behalf of underserved women and children.”
S.H.E. Counts board member Melissa Strovers said that the “Leave It Better” award “will allow the organization to build on momentum already underway, helping to further the mission of supporting women and girls in our county.
“As a startup organization with high hopes for the future, we are thrilled to be recognized as a recipient of this award. It is a great honor, and we truly appreciate CDAF’s support.”
Those seeking more information or wishing to join the organization’s efforts may contact Delphina Baumann at GPCF, 641-236-5518, or S.H.E. Counts advisory board members: Jill Allen, Judy Arendt, Baumann, Rachel Bly, Nicole Brua-Behrens, Jennifer Cogley, Sue Drake, Laura Ferguson, Shannon Fitzgerald, Teri Hoffstetter, Denise Lamphier, Emily Moore, Aimee Reische, Strovers, and Ivy Van Ersvelde.
The traveling trophy will be displayed at the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, located at the foundation offices at Ahrens Park. GPCF also contributed to the program’s first year of outreach and support.
The “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award commemorates the Aug. 18 birthday of the late benefactor Claude W. Ahrens. In a 1993 speech to the National Recreation and Parks Association, Ahrens challenged those in attendance to follow the sage advice of his father John, “to leave the world a better place than you found it.” To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual program.
The Dental Coalition was formed in 2012 when a group of concerned community members recognized the need for dental screenings and services for local children who did not have access to care or insurance. With the support of two Grinnell dental offices, the group organized screening events for children from Grinnell, Brooklyn and Montezuma.
Melissa Ford, one of three co-founders of the Dental Coalition and a school social worker, says that the “Leave It Better” award will be “an enormous help for underserved families in the county.
“The ‘Leave It Better’ award is significant because it recognizes that we are addressing an urgent need for area children and families. The grant will be a huge help in providing more screenings and follow-up care for children in need. Seeing them come out of the dental office with a smile is so worth it. There is no excuse for any kid to not have the dental care they need.”
Ahrens Foundation Director of Community Relations Melissa Hull said that the Dental Coalition was chosen because of the group’s “impressive ability to identify a need, seek collaborators, organize and take action, all in less than a year.
“The Dental Coalition’s grassroots effort is a perfect example of the ideals and intent of the ‘Leave It Better’ award,” Hull said, “and we are especially pleased to recognize this community benefit for children.”
Coalition services are open to Poweshiek County children up to 18 years of age. Those seeking services, or volunteers or donors who wish to support the Coalition may contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ford expects that the traveling trophy will be displayed at the local dental offices that are part of the Coalition, as well as at organizations like MICA, Public Health and Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, which also contributed to the successful first year of the program.
The “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award commemorates the Aug. 18 birthday of the late benefactor Claude W. Ahrens. In a 1993 speech to the National Recreation and Parks Association, Ahrens challenged those in attendance to follow the sage advice of his father John, “to leave the world a better place than you found it.” To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual program. The Ahrens Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a private foundation this year.
The Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation announced today that the Poweshiek County Mental Health Center (PCMHC) will receive the 2012 “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award, which annually honors area non-profits, social, civic, fraternal community groups that make a difference in Grinnell and surrounding communities.
The PCMHC is a non-profit organization providing mental health services to more than 2,000 Poweshiek County residents annually. The center staff provides on-site services to local nursing facilities, maintains a 24-hour emergency hotline, and offers group and family therapy and individual and marriage counseling, to name a few of its services.
“Grinnell and its surrounding communities are fortunate to benefit from the high quality services provided by the Poweshiek County Mental Health Center,” said Susan Witt, vice president of the Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to honor the Center as this year’s recipient.”
Myke Selha, executive director, accepted the $5,000 “Leave It Better” award on behalf of the non-profit center. “With all of the constantly changing challenges facing us as a community mental health center, it is refreshing to know that we are still recognized for high quality delivery of these important services,” Selha said. “This award reflects our agency’s value to Poweshiek County, regardless of the challenges we face as a center.”
The “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award commemorates the Aug. 18, 1912, birthdate of the late benefactor Claude W. Ahrens. The program was initiated in August 1994 at the dedication of the Ahrens/Paschall Memorial Park and is funded by the Ahrens Foundation. In a 1993 speech to the National Recreation and Parks Association, Ahrens challenged those in attendance to follow the sage advice of his father John, “to leave the world a better place than you found it.” To date, more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored by the annual program.
In August 2011, members of PALS and the Ahrens Foundation celebrated during the annual presentation of the “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award to PALS.
In recognition of the Poweshiek Animal League Shelter’s (PALS) work to save more than 2,000 animals since 2004, the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation announced in August that PALS has received the 2011 “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award. The annual award honors groups or organizations that make a difference in Grinnell and surrounding communities.
“PALS makes a tremendous difference throughout Poweshiek County,” said Julie Gosselink, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We are pleased to recognize the compassionate and noble work of this all-volunteer organization.”
Rich Gogg, president of PALS, accepted the $5,000 award on behalf of the organization.
“We are so grateful for not only this award, but also the help you provide the entire community,” Gogg said. “To help launch us further down the road with this award is tremendous.”
PALS was founded in 2004 by a group of residents who understood and identified with the stray, homeless and unwanted animal issues facing area communities. The shelter opened in 2007 and can house 45 cats and 25 dogs, and there is typically a waiting list for an animal to be placed in the shelter. PALS does not euthanize animals due to space or time restrictions and limitations.
In addition to the Leave It Better Than You Found It award, Gosselink also noted that the Foundation awarded PALS with a $10,000 challenge grant to help further the PALS mission.
“We have never given an organization a challenge grant and a Leave It Better award in the same year, but that’s how special PALS is,” Gosselink said. “PALS fulfills a critical need throughout our county and deserves everybody’s recognition and support.”
- 2017 – Grinnell College Social Justice Action Group
- 2016 – Grinnell Education Partnership
- 2015 – Grinnell Area Arts Council
- 2014 – S.H.E. Counts
- 2013 – Poweshiek County Dental Coalition
- 2012 – Poweshiek County Mental Health Center
- 2011 – PALS/Poweshiek Animal League Shelter
- 2010 – Imagine Grinnell
- 2009 – Grinnell Optimist Club
- 2008 – Stewart Library Children’s Department
- 2007 – Grinnell Lions Club
- 2006 – Galaxy Youth Center
- 2005 – Grinnell Washington Merry Workers 4-H Club
- 2004 – Fairview Elementary PTO
- 2003 – Second Mile
- 2002 – Grinnell-Newburg Dollars for Scholars and the Grinnell-Newburg High School Guidance Counselors