Foundation says cheese

Recipients of the Community Fund of Greater Muscatine grants gathered to celebrate their awards. In total, the nonprofits were awarded about $51,000.

MUSCATINE — Last night the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine held an award ceremony for the 20 organizations across the county that are to receive a total of $51,786.

“No matter how you define community, each organization represented here today is creating our community, and a definition of home,” Shelly Maharry, associate director of the Foundation, said. “Thank you for your hard work and determination to make your organization and projects a success, an important addition to our community, and improve the quality of life for those who reside in Muscatine County.”

The Iowa Department of Economic Development distributes these funds to re-granting programs like the Foundation’s Muscatine County Endowment Re-granting Program. These funds are a small portion of gaming revenue generated in Iowa and redistributed across the state.

“Those funds can only be used for re-granting back out to nonprofits within the community,” Maharry said. “The funds must be used to improve the quality of life for residents in Muscatine County. That's pretty broad so we are delighted that we can fund a vast majority of projects here in Muscatine County.”

Among the recipients were United Way of Muscatine and the Muscatine Center for Social Action, the site of the ceremony. This year $9,850 will be given to four Muscatine Community School District programs that encourage STEM and design learning from pre-kindergarten to senior year.

“We couldn’t do this work if it weren’t for this funding coming through,” said Chris Hoffman, who coaches the Muscatine High School FIRST Robot Competition Team.

The nationwide competition works to cultivate the next generation of science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them with programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills.

“The robots are really just the hook that gets kids excited to participate in team,” Hoffman said. “What I really hope that we can do is make math and science and engineering as exciting as going to a football game. When you see some of these kids receive the challenge, you see it on their faces. They think, ‘I don’t know how we’ll do it.’ When they finally figure it out, you can see their faces light up.”

Last year the team made it to the worldwide FIRST Robot Competition in St. Louis. Though they didn’t win, they brought home the Rookie of the Year award.

Hoffman also helped Central and West Middle schools get $2,000 each for their teams.

“Every program takes funding to pull off,” Hoffman said. “Robotics parts aren’t cheap. You have to have those building blocks in place.”

“These are really great organizations doing really great work,” Maharry said. “We’re excited to be a part of the process in helping get this funding to these organizations.”