Grants help address quality of life issues in Clinton, Camanche

On a recent August morning, Brian Wright sat in the offices of the River Bluff Community Foundation and listened to members of his community become emotional as they talked about how grants from the Foundation would benefit the people of Clinton and Camanche.

What he heard were stories that got to the heart of what makes a healthy, livable community.

“We need to attract people to Clinton so they get to see what we have to offer — and then keep them here,” said Wright, a River Bluff Community Foundation board member. “And if we can develop our children to be more prepared for the world, hopefully they will feel positive about their community. People will stay here if they know their children will be taken care of and they have opportunities.”

Wright and his board colleagues had gathered for the announcement of the River Bluff Community Foundation’s 2018 grant recipients, four Clinton-area organizations that will use the funds to support community-building efforts around youth literacy, meals for children in need, bicycle sharing and the arts.

“These grants represent local dollars for local organizations,” said Alma Mariano, philanthropy coordinator for the River Bluff Community Foundation. “What I love about this work is we are helping our own community grow and develop.”

A fight against hunger

Among the grant recipients was Information Referral and Assistance Services, a Clinton-based network of human service agencies, churches and civic organizations. With the help of a $1,000 grant, the organization will provide weekend meals to children from low-income families through the Back Pack Buddy program.

The initiative is a way to help children in need beyond the school cafeteria, where many already receive free or reduced-price lunch.

“These are children identified by teachers and school counselors who might otherwise go without food for the weekend,” said Regan Michaelsen, executive director of Information Referral and Assistance Services. “Sixty percent of children in Clinton public schools receive free or reduced-price lunch. The Back Pack Buddy program served 178 students last year, and we anticipate a slight increase.”

The grant, Michaelsen said, will help her organization purchase food from the River Bluff Food Bank, which is then distributed by volunteers.

Combating ‘functional illiteracy’

Back Pack Buddies isn’t the only grant beneficiary aimed at reaching at-risk youths. Camanche Community School District received $500 from the Foundation to tackle another youth-oriented challenge: reading.

The grant will help the district purchase materials for Ready, Set, Read!, a curriculum focused on improving literacy. Camanche school teacher Sheryl Kennedy said she knows first-hand the challenge of educating students who struggle with literacy. In many cases, she said, reaching them means employing teaching methods that differ from those used with other students — and that is the goal of Ready, Set, Read!

“There are so many more ways to learn that just paper and pencil,” Kennedy said. “In the United States, a high school student drops out of school every 26 seconds, and one of the primary reasons is ‘functional illiteracy.’ Hopefully with this grant, we will be able to address this problem.”

Bike-share beef-up

Student-focused initiatives aren’t the only grant recipients this year. Clinton’s recently launched bike-share program, MyBike, will expand thanks to a $1,000 grant to the Clinton Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The second phase of the bike-share network will include docking stations near Pangea International Academy, formerly Confucius International Education Group, and Triangle Park. Mary Seely, executive director for the Clinton Tourism Bureau, said the expansion will help connect riders with local attractions already served by bicycling infrastructure, bolstering alternative transportation and recreational options.

The station near Pangea is particularly strategic, Seely said, as Chinese students who will live on campus won’t have access to personal cars and will be able to use the MyBike system to get around the city.

Support for the arts

Finally, the Clinton Community College Bickelhaupt Arboretum’s Arts in the Arb series will benefit from a $1,000 grant to the Paul B. Sharar Foundation, which supports the annual exhibit.

The grant will enable the series to grow and a showcase wider variety of artists, particularly those from the region, said Bickelhaupt Arboretum Director Margo Hansen.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bickelhaupt would be so excited to see the statues and see visitors drawn to the arboretum who have never been before,” Hansen said.

A different way of giving

Through its grant-making, the River Bluff Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, aims to support organizations and initiatives that will positively impact the communities of Clinton and Camanche. The Foundation prioritizes projects focused on health and human services; education; neighborhoods and community development; the environment; children, youth, and families; and arts and culture.

“We are also working hard to grow our endowments and educate people about the Community Foundation and how they can give back in ways that aren’t available through other organizations,” said Philanthropy Coordinator Mariano.

To Board Member Wright, the grants are evidence of the community’s generosity and desire to improve the place they call home — and the projects funded by them will hopefully inspire others to make a difference.

“What we are doing with the arboretum, with bike-share, with all of these programs, is getting people to look at Clinton and say, ‘Hey, that’s a good idea,” he said.

To learn more about the River Bluff Community Foundation and give, click here.

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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed. 

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