APPLETON, Wis. – The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region recently awarded $2,362,100 in grants to local and state nonprofit organizations reflecting the charitable interests of the late couple and their family.
In May 2018 the Community Foundation announced it had received an estate gift of more than $100 million that was arranged by David and Rita Nelson of De Pere, Wis. The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation is a permanent, donor-advised endowment that will generate millions of dollars in grants annually to charitable organizations reflecting the philanthropic interests, primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas, of the late David and Rita Nelson and their family. These interests include parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; historic preservation and history, including lighthouses, museums and historical societies; and community catalyst. Other areas of family interest may be considered, as recommended by the fund’s advisory committee.
Grants awarded from the fund in July 2020 (including some anonymous grants) include:
City of Appleton: $500,000 for construction of a new bicycle/pedestrian trestle over the Fox River connecting Pullman's restaurant to the future Ellen Kort Peace Park. It is expected to be named after
Ashwaubenon Historical Society: $20,000 to the museum for an expansion and restoration project.
Brown County Parks: $34,000 to create ADA accessible trails, viewing platform and interpretive signage in L.H. Barkhausen Wildfowl Preserve.
Cooperative Educational Service Agency 7 (CESA 7): $100,000 to provide teacher training and hire a computer science counselor for the Computer Science Talent Ecosystem pilot program in Brown County.
Door County Maritime Museum & Lighthouse Preservation Society: $100,000 to support the Maritime Lighthouse Tower Project, which will expand the Sturgeon Bay facility by adding a 10-story tower along the Sturgeon Bay inner harbor. Specifically, the grant will fund interactive educational exhibits focusing on maritime navigation.
Encompass Early Education and Care, Inc.: $57,000 to support the For the Children Campaign and will be allocated to the Child Advocate Program.
Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands: $200,000 to restore the Plum Island Range Lights within the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Gathering Waters Conservancy: $25,000 to support its efforts with the State of Wisconsin for long-term sustainability of the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund. (Ask Permission)
Imagine Fox Cities: $40,000 to continue the project’s efforts to foster civic engagement through its community visioning initiative.
City of Kaukauna: $58,000 to create a safe crossing as part of the half-mile extension of the CE Trail east from Kaukauna High School. It will link the Fox Cities via an on-road bicycle lane on County Z and County ZZ to the Fox River Trail and Green Bay.
David L. Nelson Scholarship Fund: $69,500 to increase the value of the scholarship fund and the awards to seniors from Kaukauna High Schools to $8,000 annually. Kaukauna High School is David’s alma mater.
Mosaic Family Health: $67,000 to support the RCI REACH (Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving,
Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) Program. The in-home, evidence-based model is designed to help support caregivers caring for a loved one with any type of memory loss.
Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust: $25,000 to cover some of the fees and professional services expenses necessary to accept the gift of a farm in Neenah.
Nonprofit Leadership Initiative (NPLI): $50,000 to continue general sponsorship of the partnership of Fox Valley-area nonprofits, funders, educational institutions and businesses dedicated to providing
resources needed by effective nonprofit boards and executive leaders.
Outagamie County Historical Society: $600,000 to curate a new core exhibit, You Are Here, which will greatly enhance the History Museum’s ability to inspire and educate the public. This permanent exhibition will tell a comprehensive history of the landscape, peoples and cultures that have defined the Fox Valley over hundreds of years.
The fund distributed $100,000 to 20 local organizations to help offset costs during the COVID-19 crisis.
The following organizations received $5,000 to help provide operational support:
1000 Island Environmental Center
Appleton Historical Society
Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley
De Pere Historical Society/White Pillars Museum
Fox River Navigational System Authority
Friends of Grignon Mansion
Friends of High Cliff State Park
Grassy Island Range Lights
Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity
Hearthstone Historic House Museum
HSHS St. Vincent Hospital
Junior Achievement of Wisconsin – Winnebago Area
National Railroad Museum
Neville Public Museum
Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust
Outagamie County Historical Society
St. Norbert College Parish
St. Vincent de Paul Society – Green Bay
The Ridges Sanctuary
Wisconsin Veterans Village Association
The late David L. Nelson and his wife, Rita lived in De Pere, Wis. David was born in Kaukauna, Wis., and Rita in Janesville, Wis., and both lived in Wisconsin nearly their entire lives. He helped manage the companies that published newspapers in Appleton and Green Bay before investing in radio
stations and other businesses. She became a teacher after raising the couple’s three sons. They were married for 73 years and died within five months of each other – Rita on Feb. 16, 2017, at age 93 and
David on July 18, 2017, at age 96.