Investing in the Quad Cities is easy when you're in love with the place, says Dave Heller, owner of the Quad Cities River Bandits. "I had never even been to the Quad Cities before looking at buying the baseball team here," said Heller. "Now, nine years later, I have completely fallen in love with the place, and for one simple reason. The Quad Cities has the best people you will find anywhere in the world. The best."
Heller is part of a cohort of Q2030 leaders who traveled to the CEOs for Cities conference in Ohio last September, a trip made possible through a grant from the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend Community Impact Fund. The Community Impact Fund provided funding for membership for up to 20 attendees, enabling them to better connect, hear and share ideas and return to the Quad Cities energized.
"We are, day by day, becoming a cooler, more creative, more inclusive and more prosperous regional community, and the Community Foundation is at the forefront of those efforts," said Heller.
The Community Impact Fund, which celebrates 50 years of supporting the Quad Cities region, is a big part of that, said Kelly Thompson, vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives at the Community Foundation. "It shows you the value of unrestricted dollars, and that helps us meet needs and maximize opportunities as they arise," she said. "The players and the organizations change, but there will always be people at the Community Foundation looking at the needs and opportunities in this community and how we can best address them."
The Community Impact Fund has made nearly 3,000 grants since its inception in 1967. CFGRB received applications for the first ever grant cycle in 1967, and granted out $3,200 to eight area organizations. Since then, it has made almost 3,000 grants, 89 of those last year. More than $8.5 million have been distributed, with more than half a million of that last year.
"We're not exaggerating when we say that the Community Impact Fund has been one of the most significant contributors to meeting the needs of our region," said President and CEO Sherry Ristau. "The donors who contribute to this fund don't know the needs that this community will have in 10, 20, or 100 years, and yet they can be confident that their support will be used in the most appropriate, and profound ways to help people and organizations in the place they love."
The breadth of areas in the community that have been supported by the fund during the last five decades is a testament to the flexibility that unrestricted dollars offer. "The money has gone to some of the most pressing needs, like education, hunger, mental health, people with disabilities, and arts and culture," she said. "Donors who gave in the 60s and 70s didn't know exactly what needs we would have now, but they trusted us to distribute their dollars in the very best way."
Heller said it's a hallmark of the Community Foundation, and a vision that needs to be carried on by the entire community. Heller is the owner of four Minor League Baseball teams, including the Quad Cities River Bandits, and was invited to be part of the CEOs for Cities cohort by the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation. "The Community Foundation is among the region's most innovative and influential advocates," he said. "The work that Sherry, Kelly and their colleagues do every day touches thousands of lives right here in the Quad Cities."
The trip was a success, he added. "I met some new people from our region and deepened my relationships with many others," he said. "Learning new things, meeting new people, hearing new perspectives and seeing new possibilities are, in and of themselves, real accomplishments."
Because of a new relationship he developed during the trip, Heller said he was able to work on the new concourse expansion at the ballpark and formed a new partnership to work on a project that would create and attract more than 200 jobs to Davenport. "To me, that's incredibly exciting," he said.
"His enthusiasm is a big part of what will be needed to continue the success and growth happening in the Quad Cities," Thompson said. "It's people from business and nonprofit, government, education and more. It's all these people working together to make this region cool, creative, connected and prosperous. And they are working together, in part, because of the Community Impact Fund."
Learn more about how you can invest in the community through the Community Impact Fund by calling us at 563/326-2840.