Muscatine County Proud – October 2020
When my husband John and l visited our good friend, Sister Irma, at the Mother House in Dubuque, we encountered many cheerful nuns, and each posed the simple question, “where are you from?” With pride, we repeatedly answered Muscatine.
As l reflected after, l recognized my immense appreciation for living here. We have a great sized community, close to the natural treasure of the Mississippi; immense heritage and special history; schools filled with caring and committed educators; outstanding industry and business; strong faith-communities; talented local musicians; numerous parks, recreation and sports complexes; world-class art; short commutes; high-caliber, affordable college; proximity to metros; and a diversity of people.
But, as it turns out, these are not the topics we often hear discussed in our community. When listening to the undercurrent of conversation about Muscatine County, it can sometimes be negative in nature, focusing on the limitations.
Ben Winchester, a national keynote speaker and rural sociologist, says, “People don’t move to your town out of pity.” Touché. There are many diverse reasons we all choose to call Muscatine County “home,” but some choose to only wax about the weaknesses.
Let’s say, for example, Emily is married to Ryan. Emily could have picked anyone, but she chose Ryan. Ryan is kind, trusting, funny, innately family-oriented, and very smart – all of the things Emily was hoping for, but when she talks about Ryan, she only mentions that he can’t dance, doesn’t pick up his socks, has a bad haircut, and forgets to let the dog in. Through the choice of messaging, Emily has managed not to celebrate her good fortune to have Ryan in her life, but instead begins to sound a little melancholy.
Boom. Welcome to your marriage with Muscatine. The community is like Ryan, easy to fall in love with and rich in strengths. Be proud.
I once started to tell my mother-in-law something l didn’t like about one of her ten children. She abruptly cut me off and told me, with finger wagging, “All of my children have weaknesses.” As it turns out, so do all spouses, all friends, and all communities, but we choose them to be part of our life because of the strengths they offer, because of how they make us feel.
Take a moment and reflect on what is important about where you live. No place is perfect, but many are certainly closer to it.
The next person that asks where you live – answer and tell them why this brings you joy!
My name is Charla, and l am privileged to live in Muscatine County with neighbors like you.
By the way, I’d like to let you know that the Community Foundation is bringing Ben Winchester to our community virtually on multiple upcoming Fridays. He will be discussing the rural narrative and how we have it wrong, resident recruitment and how we all play a part, as well as having a dialogue on local housing needs and solutions. All sessions will be free and online from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and we would love for you to join us! For dates and registration go to https://benwinchester.rsvpify.com/ or call 563-264-3863.
Words cannot express the outrage to watch a man plead for his life and not be heard. But the cruel, unjust actions by a few, do not represent the often too quiet love that lives in the hearts of the masses. This love, however powerful, gets lost in the unextinguishable pain; pain of the continued instances when love for our neighbors is not represented, or quite the contrary is explicitly acted out through unjust and willful disregard for life or disrespect for another.
Those who love are often at a loss of what to do to right these deplorable actions. But sadly there is not a simple answer to extinguishing hateful, prejudiced acts by a few.
The masses must begin to speak more loudly when unjust occurs, while judicial justice must be served expeditiously and to the gravest extent the law allows. This justice should be extended to those that hesitate when intervention is an opportunity. And, we can’t turn away; the spotlight must continue to be drawn to the grieved injustice to serve as a teacher for others and our youth, as we adjust the guidepost to offering reverence for all.
We as a community have to hear those that feel unheard. We as a community have to find ways to advance equity and provide an informed context for all to reach their true potential. We as a community have to believe in our children and the families that raise them, as if they are members of our own extended family. Love for each other is the only pathway to abolition of disregard .
Violence and destruction is not a friend of reverence. Violence and destruction deepen division. Those that choose harm as a guise to change, must be held accountable. Theirs’ is not a voice we should hear or foster. Their actions drum out the very platform of love and equity that needs to rise in our collective hearts.
When the lights are dimmed the differences between us are extinguished. This is a time that we should rely less on our eyesight, trained on differences, and more on our hearts, trained on love – to lead us to a better tomorrow.
In order to further advance racial justice, equity, and inclusion in Muscatine and Louisa Counties, the Community Foundation has announced establishment of a Racial Justice Fund and committed $25,000 in matching dollars. Granting will be available to qualified charitable organizations whose work acts as an accelerator or reduces barriers towards racial justice, centered on those most marginalized in our service area.
A Vision to Turn Charitable Dollars from Annuals to Perennials
I am fortunate to be able to work in the shadow of Community Foundation leaders, volunteer Board members, and visionary donors that have built the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. The unusual circumstances of today illuminate the wisdom of these forward-thinking individuals.
You may have read recently that the Community Foundation and one of its funds, the Muscatine Health Support Fund, have partnered to offer $100,000 in matching money to dollars gifted to the Community Continuity fund for relief efforts.
How does this happen that the Community Foundation is positioned to provide matching dollars of this level? Not by accident, but by thoughtful, envisioned intention.
A donor gift to the Community Foundation can be aligned around an immediate need as we are doing with current donations to the Continuity fund. But, importantly, those gifts are being matched by monies from our unrestricted endowments that have been built over our history. This is the beauty of the Community Foundation model; a gift to our unrestricted endowment allows us to be nimble the year it is received and every year after, virtually forever.
Gifts to our unrestricted endowments are invested, and amplified through market growth, thus we are able to spend 5% each year to strengthen community priorities or, under current circumstances, to stabilize our community through reactive and proactive relief efforts.
A simple analogy is your garden. When you buy and plant an ‘annual’ you see the returns in the single year you planted it. When you purchase a ‘perennial’, you pay for it once but you and those that come after you get to enjoy the beauty of your investment as it returns year after year. This is what a gift to an unrestricted endowment enables.
We can’t know what the future holds. And to that end, many, many of our committed neighbors over the years have given gifts to build an unrestricted endowment to enable the Community Foundation to be nimble, responsive, and impactful during ordinary and unusual times, this year and every year in the future. Good people that sit in your church, at your work, or on your block who want to give back to the place they have called home; the place they have raised their children.
People like Hilda Collitz who left money to be directed toward helping the homeless, but also left sizable unrestricted dollars to provide Community Foundation leadership the latitude to react and provide vision for the shifting needs within our community.
And, Bob and JoAnn Jensen, who have consistently and generously gifted to area students through sizable scholarships, also unassumingly make substantial annual gifts to grow our unrestricted “Cares and Shares” endowment, for which they founded. This endowment strengthens our community this year and every year. We are experiencing their “perennial” vision today as monies from this endowment amplify your gifts to relief efforts through our matching program.
We thank all of those that came before us that gave a percentage of their estate or their incomes to unrestricted endowments at our Foundation. They knew they couldn’t predict the future, but had the vision to gift in a way that helps design a stronger today and all of our tomorrows for our children and our children’s children. We are grateful.
Investment Portfolio Quarter-End Notes
2019 was quite a year for our funds. We posted between 13% to 22% growth in our fund portfolios with varying equity positions. Our Investment Committee membership has remained consistent, with bright, local volunteer experts that care about our community and our neighbors that we serve. Mel McMains serves as Chair, and the committee includes Dave Jones, Scott Ingstad, Angie Johnson, Bob Sheets, Jim Stein, and Mike Wilson. They continually balance the needs of today with growth for tomorrow, and they do it quite well and quite consistently. Over the last 10 years our funds have averaged between 6% and 9% annual returns.
However, as we all know the 1st quarter of 2020 was a doozy with the world grappling with coronavirus containment. We have experienced a bullish market over the last 11 years. And, history shows stock market corrections are normal and sometimes healthy; however, the recent economic stifling through coronavirus containment efforts was beyond the magnitude of a normal correction. The quick and vigorous passing of robust stimulus packages alongside new data on virus projections have eased the financial pressures of the downturn, but short-term uncertainty remains. As I write this on April 8th, the S&P is 20% higher than its March 23rd low.
Please know that our investment strategy remains the same today as any other day, with strong diversification, measured risk, and consistent rebalancing. These strategies mirror models of historical success, and we expect will offer strong long-term returns for our funds.
If you have any questions about the investment portfolio or returns please do not hesitate to reach out.
Wishing you good health!
Muscatine Heroes – March 22, 2020
When we think of heroes we often think of celebrities or those faced with a split-second decision that saves a life; but that view is quite myopic. And, the fallacy of this restrictive perspective has become increasingly obvious in the past few weeks. We have seen our community, Muscatine County, displaying countless heroic efforts every moment of every day. Heroism by our neighbors for our neighbors.
The outcome of disruption is growth and the illumination of the stark goodness that exists. This goodness is displayed through our friends and neighbors actions in both quiet and visible ways. We have seen:
• Local health care providers working around the clock to manage the changing demands that are happening and ensuing to ensure those in our community get the care we need.
• Wilton Café and Jeff’s Market in Wilton and West Liberty providing food for children that would be without, because school is where they eat. These businesses don’t know what this economic disruption will do to their livelihood, but they chose to selflessly help their neighbors.
• 30+ non-profits and area leaders coming together to discuss changing needs and ways to collaborate.
• Non-Emergency Transport providing free delivery to ensure the home-bound can get their medical and other needs met.
• Muscatine Community College leadership locating extended housing for displaced students in the matter of hours.
• Muscatine and Louisa-Muscatine school officials planning meal distribution for area children in need.
• People volunteering to deliver food to shut-ins when they might prefer to stay home and not expose themselves to unnecessary risk.
• People generously opening their pocketbooks to ensure helping agencies can handle the increasing demand of need.
• Grocery workers, volunteers, and truckers working around the clock to meet demands.
• People calling and visiting with those that are isolated and alone.
• Workers continue to adjust to produce essential products and services to meet our community and broader needs.
• Childcare providers taking children so parents can work when they would rather shut their doors.
• Muscatine Power and Water extending grace in policies that will keep our neighbors lights glowing bright during troubling financial changes.
• People displaying patience and understanding for the shifting decisions being made; knowing local leaders are tasked with immeasurable consequences as they balance individual and community needs in a shifting, untested landscape.
• Tens of thousands of people in our community listening to the recommendations and being compliant further protecting the most vulnerable.
• And, the list goes on….and on….
Heroes – each of them. Heroes – each of you. When we think of the greater good, when we think of others and not ourselves – that is heroism.
And, I am proud to say we just have to glance about and we see it everywhere. It is there everyday. Times of disruption just shine a light on it.
Unusual times. This too our community will marshal past. But, I am confident we will look backward and forward with pride as we reflect on those we call our neighbors.
Thanks to all for showing your humanity in untold ways. For that, we are grateful.