The digitizing age: Library newspaper archive project gets boost from Iowa West Foundation grant

Ben Johnson, adult services manager for the Council Bluffs Public Library, pulls out archived copies of The Daily Nonpareil on Friday, Dec. 2.

The Iowa West Foundation Board of Directors recently approved $4 million in grants and initiatives funding to 29 nonprofit organizations and government entities in southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Several of the grantees were the recipients of multi-year funding.

Launched in 2016, the multi-year funding program is designed to provide essential general operating funds over a three-year period rather than one year, which allows organizations the capacity to focus more heavily on their missions, according to a release from the foundation.

The first group included human services organizations: Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands, Family Inc., Green Hills AEA, Heartland Family Service, Justice For Our Neighbors, Lutheran Family Services and the Micah House.

The same model was recently expanded to include the following arts organizations: Ballet Nebraska, the Durham Museum, the Iowa Western Community College Performing Arts Center, Joslyn Art Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha Children’s Museum, Omaha Symphony Association, The Rose Theater and Opera Omaha.

“The arts and culture organizations housed in Omaha are regional amenities that enhance the quality of life for all southwest Iowans,” said Pete Tulipana, president and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “In addition, our funds are specifically designated to enhance outreach and programming that directly benefits Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County residents and students.”

The Rose Theater Artistic Director Matt Gutschick said the funding will allow their organization to deepen its services to the children of western Iowa.

“We provide all Council Bluffs Public Schools first graders with a field trip to the theater each year,” he said. “This often life-changing experience for young people will now be expanded to more Iowa students thanks to the foundation’s multi-year funding. This is a truly visionary way to conduct philanthropy because it allows nonprofit organizations like us to make bolder commitments to children than ever before.”

Housing also was a significant theme for this grant cycle. The 712 Initiative received $1 million to renew the downtown re-vitalization fund, which has been a major driver of development in downtown Council Bluffs. The organization received an additional $500,000 to support its operations.

Neighborworks Home Solutions received a combined $262,500 to support new housing and neighborhood outreach in the west end of Council Bluffs near the former Walnut Grove School. Finally, the City of Council Bluffs received $200,000 toward planning a bike trail along the First Avenue corridor.

These grants respond to the recommendations of the Iowa West Foundation’s Housing Task Force, the release said. The task force was convened in 2017 to recommend funding priorities for housing in Council Bluffs.

“With these grants, our board is not only maintaining its commitment to downtown Council Bluffs and West Broadway, but also investing in a substantial project to bring new life to a section of the west end,” said Matthew Henkes, senior director of grants programs. “This will showcase the block by block approach to revitalizing neighborhoods.”

Local nonprofits gearing up for the 24-hour online giving day Pottawattamie Gives have an extra incentive again this year. The Iowa West Foundation awarded $20,000 in bonus dollars for the event, which will take place on May 23. The funds are specifically set aside for nonprofits who meet the foundation’s qualifications and are based in Pottawattamie County or provide services here full time.

As part of its ongoing commitment to rural southwest Iowa communities, the foundation also awarded grant funds to two Pottawattamie County fire departments. The Carson and Treynor Volunteer Fire Departments each received $10,000 for EMS equipment.

The Iowa West Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the Midwest. It has distributed more than $400 million to nonprofits and governmental agencies through southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska since the inception of its grant program.

Funding for the grants comes from investment earnings and the Iowa West Racing Association, which receives contractual fees from casino operators, Ameristar and Harrah’s. The Racing Association is the license sponsor for Ameristar and Harrah’s and the license holder for Horseshoe-Bluffs Run.

Iowa West targets resources into programs and projects that focus on economic development, education, placemaking and healthy families. For more information on Iowa West, go to

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