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Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Awarded the 2012 Award for Outstanding Foundation

November 15, 2011

Nominated by the AFP Iowa, Eastern Chapter

Les Garner, President,
Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation (GCRCF) began its philanthropic legacy when it was created as a community welfare trust in the 1940s. It has distributed more than $60 million in grants since becoming a public foundation in 1992, including over $6 million in grants in 2010 alone. With current assets now totaling more than $105 million, the foundation holds more than 500 charitable funds that benefit Cedar Rapids and Linn County, as well as affiliates in Keokuk and Jones and Wapello counties.

But since 2008, GCRCF’s legacy has grown even stronger as it has helped rebuild, unite and inspire a community that was ravaged by severe flooding in 2008. On June 13 of that year, the Cedar River crested at over 31 feet, more than 19 feet above flood stage. It flooded more than 7,000 parcels of land across ten square miles, causing an estimated $5.7 billion in damages.

The GCRCF quickly established the Flood 2008 Fund even as staff and board evacuated their own offices, used personal cell phones and emails, and met either in person or online to continue the foundation’s operations. A $100,000 gift came from the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation of Baton Rouge, La., which had been through the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Within three months, the foundation had distributed $290,000 from its operating reserves to help more than 60 nonprofits get back in business. By the end of the year, GCRCF had granted more than $14 million—representing a $10 million increase from its 2007 grant making levels—with 55 new funds established by individuals, families, business and foundations, many of them in response to the flood.  Even with the challenges of the flood, the GCRCF still granted more than $5 million that year in areas related to arts and culture, the environment, education, and health and human services.

GCRCF quickly was recognized as a critical leader in flood response, and its Flood 2008 Fund became the coordinating body for numerous flood relief events and fundraising drives. The foundation spearheaded the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corporation, a public-private partnership which created a post-flood economic recovery plan and secured resources for long-term support.  GCRCF also had a leadership role with the Linn Area Long Term Recovery Coalition, which brought together 70 agencies and organizations to coordinate relief efforts.

In 2011, the Flood 2008 Fund ended and downtown Cedar Rapids is beginning to flourish once again – in no small part of the efforts of the foundation.  AFP is honored to recognize the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation for its extraordinary work with the 2012 Award for Outstanding Foundation.


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