Rebuild Marshalltown fund focuses on long haul

T-R PHOTO BY EMILY BARSKE On the night of the July 19 tornado, a father and son from Tama painted the graffiti wall at the Marshalltown Skate Park a giant mural reading “Stay Strong Marshalltown.” The graffiti wall was funded by the Community Foundation of Marshall County.

Marshalltown community members swiftly responded to residents who were displaced, power outages, debris removal and other urgent needs right after the tornado. Even in this immediate aftermath, some leaders were already having discussions about the long-term recovery Marshalltown faced.

Knowing that effort would take money, the Community Foundation of Marshall County set up the Rebuild Marshalltown fund.

“There is a longer term need here we don’t want to forget about,” said Stephen Troskey, CFMC board president.

The decision to set up the fund came after looking at what other communities faced with devastation had done.

“In researching other communities that have successfully recovered from natural disasters, it became clear that a fund of this nature was critical to the recovery process,” said Karn Gregoire, a CFMC board member. “And although the CFMC was able to quickly respond, it was done after researching community foundations that have successfully managed long-term disaster funds as well as professional philanthropic resources.”

Having granted more than $1.2 million since its founding in 2005, the CFMC was well positioned to get the fund set up quickly. As an affiliate of the Des Moines Community Foundation, the CFMC has access to administrative resources, like donor advising, to ensure the success of endowments.

The foundation grants money to a variety of community projects. One of those projects, the graffiti wall at the Marshalltown Skate Park, received quite a bit of attention right after the tornado. Not because it was damaged, but because a father and son from Tama painted one side with a giant mural reading “Stay Strong Marshalltown.” The father, Dye Davenport, posted a Facebook photo of the mural that garnered many shares.

Now, with the Rebuild Marshalltown fund, the organization will fund initiatives to help the city get back on track after the tornado.

“The Marshall County Community Foundation is dedicated to helping people help their community. During this trying time, we have seen the power of this mission in action as our community has come together to help our neighbors in need,” said CFMC Executive Director Dylan Does when the fund was announced days after the tornado. “While this outpouring of support is humbling, we know the needs of the community will be substaintial and ongoing.”

The foundation expects to have a grant application available after short-term recovery efforts are completed. The leaders hope to start funding initiatives somewhere between six months to a year from the July 19 tornado. Funding will likely support housing, infrastructure and downtown restoration.

As an endowment, the pool of money will be invested so it can grow. It is not a permanent endowment, so the organization will eventually spend the entire amount. So far, donations have come from all across the country.

From looking at other communities and being familiar with Marshalltown, Gregoire believes recovery will happen in five to 10 years. If there is a benefit to the tornado, it’s that the city may be able to improve beyond where it was before the tornado.

“Marshalltown has the opportunity to be better than anyone could have possibly imagined before this tornado,” Gregoire said. “We need to strategically and wisely move this community forward.”

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Contact Emily Barske at 641-753-6611 or ebarske@timesrepublican.com