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Generous Gift Provides Another $6.24 million to Northeast Wisconsin Nonprofit Organizations

Thirty-two nonprofits throughout northeastern Wisconsin received a much-needed boost when the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region awarded more than $6.24 million in grants. The fund has provided over $21 million in grants since its creation four years ago.

David and Rita Nelson

The Nelsons, who lived in De Pere, died in 2017. She was a teacher, and he was the chief financial officer for the Post-Crescent in Appleton and the Green Bay Press-Gazette until the family newspapers were sold. He then invested in radio stations and other businesses. The Nelsons left more than $100 million from their estate to their family fund at the Community Foundation. The gift was by far the largest ever received by the Community Foundation and one of the largest charitable gifts in the state’s history.

Here are the grants awarded in 2022:

  1. African Heritage Inc, $75,000 over three years to support its Academy of Black Excellence program (ABLE), serving Black students and their families by providing access to tutoring, mentoring, and advocacy. The ABLE team works with families to identify and provide needed resources as they advocate for their children. 
  2. Belgian Heritage Center, $8,250 to preserve and help students learn the highly endangered Walloon language, which originated in southern Belgium. About 15,000 Belgians arrived in Northeast Wisconsin between 1851 and 1859, creating the highest concentration of Belgian immigrants in the country. This project will contain the largest scope of audio recordings of the Walloon language ever compiled.
  3. Bellin College, $150,000 for its Future Healthcare Heroes Fund to help prospective students with the cost to pursue healthcare education.

    Future Healthcare Heroes – Courtesy of Bellin College

    The Fund is for students passionate about a career in healthcare but who cannot pursue their dreams— even with standard financial aid. 

  4. Chippewa Valley Museum, $11,000 to support the museum’s Farmhouse Theater “Music of the North” project, a central element of the educational programs for school groups and other visitors, and vital to the museum’s mission. 
  5. Kaukauna Municipal Pool

    City of Kaukauna (David Nelson grew up in Kaukauna.) 

    1. $250,000 to repair and upgrade the Kaukauna Municipal Pool. An updated aquatic center will enhance the quality of life and foster a culture of wellness and recreation in the community.   
    2. $95,000 to help build a new Wisconsin Avenue Boat Dock, which will allow access to “Uptown” and “Downtown” businesses through trails and sidewalks and serve as a direct link to the Kaukauna Interpretive Locks Trail. 
  6. Lawson Canal

    City of Menasha, $325,000 for the Lawson Canal Corridor, to support the construction of a whitewater course to serve as a venue for regional kayak competitions, casual paddling, and family tubing outings. It is part of the broader redevelopment to transform the former Banta and Gilbert Mill sites, a 14-acre brownfield, into a vibrant mixed-use waterfront neighborhood and recreational destination, attracting users from kids to paddle sports enthusiasts, bird watchers, fishermen, walkers, and bicyclists. 

  7. Community Holiday Meal Fund within the Community Foundation, $40,000 to provide resources to local organizations to cover funding gaps in their meal service programs so holiday meals will be available. 
  8. Curative Connections, $250,000 for its Yesteryear Village Campaign, supporting the renovation of the adult day services for dementia care at Curative Connections’ westside Green Bay facility. The innovative concept of reminiscent care —”Yesteryear” — provides individuals experiencing dementia with an environment of spaces, sounds, and touches reflective of when they were younger. 
  9. De Pere Historical Society, $1 million to support its White Pillars Capital Campaign. The White Pillars Museum is the oldest building in De Pere. It has served multiple purposes, including barbershop, church, school, office building, and private home.

    Courtesy of De Pere Historical Society

    The expansion will create larger exhibit areas, expanded research facilities, and industry-standard storage, while preserving the White Pillars building itself within a new exterior. 

  10. Encompass Early Education and Care, $110,000 over two years to hire an additional child and classroom advocate, who will provide an extra layer of support to staff and historically underserved children. About 5 percent of children enrolled in Encompass have been identified as at-risk and will benefit from intervention support strategies. 
  11. Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, $60,000 over three years to extend its Triumph program by adding a second therapist to the Kaukauna School District. Kimberly, Kaukauna, and Little Chute school districts and Family Services developed this integrated education and mental health program to help students struggling with mental health issues to be academically successful and to graduate on time. 
  12. Fox Valley Memory Project, $40,000 to support a Federal Administration for Community Living grant match opportunity to  Mindworks, a facilitated three-hour class for people in early to mid-stage dementia that is expanding to the rural areas of Calumet and Waupaca counties. The grant also creates two new programs: Memory Link, serving people struggling with dementia and their caregivers; and Aging and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD), serving individuals at the intersection of IDD and dementia, in partnership with SOAR Fox Cities.  
  13. Fox Valley Pop Warner Football, $125,000 to support building an ADA-compliant, accessible athletic field with a stable, firm, and slip-resistant synthetic surface for the Challenger League, a flag-football program for children with disabilities. 
  14. Friends of the Appleton Public Library, $250,000 to help create a modern and sustainable 21st century library in the heart of downtown. The new library will foster lifelong learning, provide gathering spaces, promote inclusion, increase accessibility, support an educated citizenry and provide access to evolving technologies. 
  15. Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, $130,000 toward paint and repair costs for the rear range lighthouse. The project includes removing lead paint and repainting the legs, exterior supports, and the cylindrical metal structure that houses the spiral staircase. 
  16. Gathering Waters, $50,000 for enhanced digital tools such as maps and research for conservation advocacy in Wisconsin. Gathering Waters helps land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special. 
  17. Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, $25,000 to support the Journalism Initiative Fund. The Fund supports a three-year Northeast Wisconsin pilot launched by Microsoft and six local media outlets in May 2021. It has infused journalism partner organizations with resources and technology to preserve and protect journalism and local newsrooms and grow investigative reporting. 
  18. Hands On Deck

    Hands on Deck, $89,000 over three years to support The Estuary Connection Opportunities program, which offers year-round classes and programming to engage and educate hundreds of children and families. Students get free boat rides as well as hands-on learning in the science and art of building wooden boats and traditional woodworking. 

  19. Imagine Fox Cities, $20,000 to support the Community Visioning Initiative’s goal to “advance the well-being of our place and the well-being of our people.” 
  20. Miracle League of the Fox Valley, $125,000 for upgrading the field in Appleton’s Memorial Park, where children with mental and physical disabilities have a barrier-free way to play and enjoy baseball. The project will replace the rubberized field surface, improve walkways and hard surfaces for increased accessibility, add shade structures, upgrade the sound system so every child feels like an all-star during the games, improve fencing and backstop, and erect team identification flag poles. 
  21. Nelson Family Fund for Trail to High Cliff State Park, A new fund within the Community Foundation which will support the creation of a recreation pedestrian and bicycle trail connecting the Fox Valley to High Cliff State Park.

    High Cliff State Park

    A $2 million grant to create the new fund will support collaborative work with local municipalities and agencies to leverage state and national grant opportunities and other funding necessary to complete key trail sections to connect the existing patchwork of trails for a safe route 

  22. Nonprofit Leadership Initiative (NPLI), $90,000 over three years to provide needed resources to effective nonprofit boards and executive leaders. NPLI is a program within the Community Foundation. 
  23. Oral Health Partnership, $50,000 to support the Brown County school-based program that provides access to quality dental services for low-income, underserved children by eliminating barriers to accessing care and discovering life-and teeth-threatening oral health issues early. 
  24. Society of St. Vincent De Paul – Green Bay, $90,000 over three years to allow St. Vincent de Paul to directly provide for the greatest needs of the people they serve. Rita Nelson was a store volunteer who was passionate about supporting people served by the organization. 
  25. Sturgeon Bay Historical Society Foundation, $100,000 to support Preserving Our Past: Door County’s Granary, rehabilitating and repurposing this iconic structure, and creating a museum and community gathering space. Once restored, it will be one of the only fully interpreted granaries in the country. 
  26. Syble Hopp School, $100,000 for its Expanding Our Possibilities program, which will include an enhanced vocational training space and updated equipment to allow students to practice their job training skills and better prepare for community experiences and future employment. 
  27. Tri-County Dental

    Tri-County Dental, $46,510 to support the purchase of digital dental scanners, which allows the volunteer-based dental clinic to serve low-income patients who have had teeth extracted. The staff can scan the patients’ mouths and provide dentures and/or bridges. 

  28. United Way Fox Cities, $25,000 to support the Diaper Bank Rebuild campaign. One in three American families struggle to provide enough diapers for their babies due to the cost. The Diaper Bank distributes diapers to low-income families in the Fox Cities. The upgrade to their facility allows for increased capacity. 
  29. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, $100,000 to help finalize Phase II of the project that refurbished and replaced the Cofrin Arboretum bridges and improved the trail system at UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin Memorial Arboretum and its 290-acre natural area with more than 6 miles of trails. This area provides opportunities for recreation, nature appreciation, research, education, and environmental conservation. 
  30. Village of Ashwaubenon, $150,000 for the Ashwaubomay Creek Bridge project, including a trail and plaza viewing that will allow residents and visitors to experience the natural features and wildlife opportunities of the Fox River ecosystem, from the National Railroad Museum to the Brown County Fairgrounds. 
  31. Wisconsin Reading Corps, $15,000 for its Appleton Area School District tutor-based reading program. Wisconsin Reading Corps is a research-based intervention program proven to improve reading skills and literacy outcomes for historically underserved children struggling to learn. It recruits, trains, places, and supports AmeriCorps members as tutors to assist students not proficient at reading. 
  32. And other grants totaling $250,000.

The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation is a permanent, donor-advised endowment that generates millions of dollars in grants annually to charitable organizations reflecting the philanthropic interests of the late David and Rita Nelson and their family, primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas. These interests include parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; historic preservation and history — including lighthouses, museums and historical societies; and community catalyst opportunities.   

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