Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
RIVERSIDE — Wednesday night marked the Washington County Riverboat Foundation’s (WCRF) annual award reception. Like in years past, many at the event spoke of their gratitude to the nonprofit, and the difference made by big donations. For many smaller communities, however, the night was even more monumental than they anticipated.
The biggest recipient of the fall grant cycle was the city of Wellman, where the public library had an over $830,000 expansion project planned, but only $200,000 lined up to pay for it. WCRF awarded the institution $632,860 in its final announcement of the evening, enough to pay for every penny not already raised by the library.
“(I’m) completely overwhelmed in the best possible way,” said an emotional Erin Campbell after the event. “We’ve been working toward this for 10 years now, and I think this is the biggest goal that the library has had, and it’s been my goal since I started. I had no idea it would happen this quickly … I just am in complete shock.”
Campbell said the library had received an invitation, but was told the RSVP didn’t guarantee a reward.
“I think we were all holding our breath for the entire time the fall grants were announced,” she said. “I just feel so grateful and honored to be a part of this. I grew up in Wellman, it’s the library I’ve been to since I was a child, so to see it expand and be that something more and that center for the town would be amazing.”
Library Board President Sarah Latcham said she spent the ceremony on the edge of her seat.
“They kept going higher and higher, and I kept thinking, ‘OK, we’re probably next,’” she said. “To have us be the highest grant was pretty exciting.”
In West Chester, the city of 144 west of Washington, WCRF announced $20,000 for the Heritage Building in the form of matching funds. The money affords the West Chester Heritage Building a new roof, after a years long campaign to raise the cash.
“With our new roof, this building is posed to be there for the next 100 years to keep educating the youth and supporting our community, so thank you very much,” West Chester Heritage Association President Dean Greiner said in a brief speech.
The Riverboat Foundation gave plenty of other communities — big and small — a reason to smile, with 14 total fall grants announced Wednesday night. The Kalona Fire Department walked away with $230,000 for a new tanker truck, Mid-Prairie High School scored $159,000 for major baseball field renovations, specialty health care provider ChildServe received $10,000 for hippotherapy: a physical and speech therapy practice that involve horses.
The Washington YMCA won $3,000,000 for its indoor pool project from the spring grant cycle, enough that Y leaders said they now planned to break ground in 2023 and open the facility in 2024.
“Thank you is truly not enough for everything that the foundation has made possible,” YMCA of Washington County CEO Amy Schulte said at the event. “I hope the knowledge that you have played the lead role in continuing the Washington YMCA’s legacy fills the space that I cannot find the words to express.”
WCRF Board President Shawn Ellingson said it was one of the hardest years to pick recipients, with so many top-tier projects to choose from.
“We were just having a hard time narrowing it down,” he said. “You’ve got to weed it out and determine which one’s ready to go right now, which ones put in the effort, which ones can’t raise any more money and we can finish them off … and when you get happy tears from people, that makes you feel good.”