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Our History


One person’s dream, and $5,000, started it all.

Your Community Foundation was established in 1986 from a desire to give an enduring gift back to the community. When Walter L. Rugland received the first “Community Service Award” presented by Aid Association for Lutherans, he used the $5,000 prize money to pursue his dream of a “catalyst for change” working across the region.

Walter was the former president and CEO of the Appleton-based fraternal insurance company now known as Thrivent Financial. He had heard about community foundations from his son, Walt, who was working in Hartford, Conn. Walter knew giving back was part of the fabric of the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin.

You can hear Walt Rugland Jr. talk about his father’s legacy in our new podcast, Voices from the Valley: A Podcast of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Listen to this episode titled, “Our Story.”

“What you’re doing is having the Foundation preserve your money for use for the future,” he explained at the time. Persuasive enough on his own, Walter also enlisted the help of contractor O.C. Boldt, attorneys Arthur Remley and Roger Baird and industrialist Paul Groth to join him in making personal visits to community leaders to build support for the idea.

Walter explained the need by recalling working on farms as a boy in North Dakota and one day asking a farmer why he plowed a field under to lie fallow for a year. The farmer replied, “The land has been very good to us and, if we don’t give some of it back, it probably won’t keep helping us.” Walter added, “That’s how I look at the Community Foundation. We give things back to the area because it has been very good to us.”

Walter remained an active supporter of the Foundation until his death in 1991. Through the Walter and Nora Rugland Fund, he and his wife continue to support the operations of the Foundation even today.

Check out this vintage video from the late 80s, The Enduring Gift, in which co-founders Walter L. Rugland, Art Remley and Paul Groth, (all now deceased) explain their reasons for establishing the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region: