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Nancy Van Milligen

Nancy Van Milligen
Last year, the pandemic suddenly upended the systems that support Dubuque residents in their everyday lives. Take our local food pantries and meal providers, for example. With schools closed and more people out of work, these organizations quickly had to find the resources and capacity to serve an influx of newly food insecure residents.
People and businesses jumped at the chance to help. They gave to the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s Disaster Recovery Fund to prop up these systems and support their neighbors.
In the long run, their generosity made a big difference. It enabled the Community Foundation to make $1.5 million in grants that helped food pantries purchase larger refrigerators, medical providers conduct telehealth appointments, social service agencies provide utility assistance and schools outfit their staff members with personal protective equipment.
While the impact was significant, the experience also was a sobering reminder of how important it is to be prepared for future challenges and opportunities. So, the Foundation created the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund. It will be the perfect resource for immediately responding to our communities needs and increasing our grant making capacity.
As we have learned in the past two years, Dubuque needs a resource like the Forever Fund to serve as a guaranteed opportunity for community investment. A robust Forever Fund can provide flexible dollars that can be granted immediately to address emergencies and other unforeseen issues. It can provide both peace of mind and tangible relief in times of crisis. The time to grow this fund is today — before the next emergency arrives.
Just as each of us puts money into a personal savings account for our children’s education, home repairs or health issues, we can collectively put away money for our community’s needs. Each person’s contribution is pooled together in the Forever Fund, where it is invested and grows forever to be available for challenges or opportunities that come Dubuque’s way.
Understanding those challenges is fundamental to our work at the Community Foundation. Our close relationships with nonprofits and capacity to collect and analyze data builds our knowledge about community needs.
These relationships have helped us understand the growth in food insecurity during the pandemic, enabling us to grant dollars to critical distribution programs and facilitate a coordinated network of providers.
They have helped us pinpoint access to brain health resources as a critical obstacle for many, leading us to establish an initiative that is breaking down barriers and helping people receive the support they need.
And they have provided insights into ways we can support children’s academic success, such as by getting books into the hands of local families and supporting social-emotional learning in schools and the community.
By keeping our finger on the pulse of the community, we can better understand the ways the Forever Fund can support a thriving, vibrant Dubuque for all people. Our community’s next challenge might not be another public health emergency, but whatever it is, the community can take comfort in knowing that there’s a way to address it.
The task before us today is to grow the Forever Fund. The beauty of being part of such a caring community is knowing that anyone and everyone can make a difference. When we all give what we can, collectively build a place that is prepared, resilient and strong — not just for today, but for tomorrow and forever.
Van Milligen is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. Learn more about the organization at dbqfoundation.org.
Nancy Van Milligen
To give to the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund, visit dbqfoundation.org/forever.
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