Local community builders bus tour

Callan Collins of Norfolk visits with Mary Dueland of McCook as part of a bus tour of community activists to Iowa and Minnesota.

Two Norfolk women were among more than two dozen Nebraskans who traveled together to Iowa and Minnesota to learn about the assets and opportunities available to neighboring community builders and the innovative ways they are capitalizing on them.

Callan Collins of the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund and Kara Weander-Gaster of Nebraska Community Foundation were part of the tour in early September with other Nebraskans hailing from hometowns across the Nebraska Community Foundation network of 235 affiliated funds serving 258 communities.

"We need to look at the next generation of philanthropists and how we can bring together a network of organizations in our hometown," Collins said. "Let's work toward a common goal of impacting the entire community for the better."

Founded in 2001, the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund (NACFF) began building a permanent endowment to benefit Norfolk in 2008. Since 2013, the fund has reinvested more than $136,000 in grants into community-led projects and programs to help the Norfolk area. All of the fund's endowment earnings are awarded back into the community.

Statewide, in the past five years, 44,476 contributions have been made to Nebraska Community Foundation and its affiliated funds. Since 1994, NCF has reinvested $355.3 million in Nebraska's people and places.

The September tour group included volunteers and NCF staff members from Northeast and North Central Nebraska, including Columbus, Howells, Norfolk and Stuart.

The bus tour stops included:

— Winterset, Iowa where local leaders talked about heritage tourism and placemaking.

— Manchester, Iowa, where the group met a contingent from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and set out on field trips to visit affiliates in Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware, and Jones counties. There, tour participants had the opportunity to interact with and observe programs focusing on rural art, youth engagement, inclusiveness, child care, energy sustainability, reconnecting people with what they love most about their hometown and ending stigmas around brain health.

— Austin, Minnesota, just 15 miles north of the Iowa border. Austin community builders shared their plan to welcome new residents — particularly new Americans — to their community.

— Mason City, Iowa, where Mayor Bill Schickel and Aaron Burnett, city manager, explained their community development strategy. "Art is economic development in Mason City," Schickel said.

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