Community Foundation Action Grants and Civic Summit Recommendations

Linda, a new community member from Nicaragua, benefited from the Community ESL program that helped her learn English.  When applying for a job and her interpreter did not show up, thanks to the training she received in the Level 1 ESL course, she had learned enough English to respond to the first round of interview questions about basic personal information and preferences.  Her newly learned English helped her get the job! 

Linda’s story “is just one example of the positive impacts the Community ESL Program of Whitewater has on the community, impacts which would not be possible without the support of organizations such as the Whitewater Community Foundation,” said Terilyn Robles, Director of Teaching & Learning for the Whitewater Unified School District.

ESL Class

The grant to the Community ESL Program was $1,000 to purchase 25 curriculum texts and workbooks. This is just one of the community action grants provided.  Each year, the Whitewater Community Foundation makes  community action grants that tie in with the Foundation’s mission, including but not limited to education, arts, economic development, and improving the Whitewater Community.

“We are very pleased to support Linda and all of the English language learners here in our community,” said Whitewater Community Foundation Co-President Roni Telfer.  “A recent influx of non-English speaking families has made it crucial to provide opportunities in our community to welcome and assist,” said Telfer.

One of the key areas of need identified at the 2023 Civic Summit in April was related to communication with diverse groups:  Communicating to Whitewater’s diverse population in English and Spanish, making signage bi-lingual, coordinating communication to all groups, and providing opportunities for people of different backgrounds, age groups, etc. to integrate to help meet community needs. 

Another Whitewater Community Foundation grant addressing Whitewater’s diverse population was a 2022 grant to the Whitewater Police Department for interpretation services. 

“Our needs for interpretation services has drastically increased in Whitewater over the last two years, to a point that we quickly outgrew our operating budget to cover the costs ($2,500 budget).  Our department also recently switched our interpreter services from using SWITS at a cost of $2.50 a minute, to using a worldwide company called Propio at a cost of .65 cents a minute.  In the first nine (9) months of this year, our department has used a total of 61.2 hours of Propio interpretation services. So between us switching our interpreting services and your generous grant donation, we are in a much better position financially to continue to provide these interpretation services,” said Adam Vander Steeg, Administrative Captain of the Whitewater Police Department.

These two grants exemplify one of the key challenges identified at the 2023 Civic Summit in Whitewater, communicating with our diverse community in Whitewater.

More than 30 community members, business leaders, educators, nonprofit organizers, and others met in April at the Civic Summit and determined key areas for improvement in Whitewater:

  • Communicating to Whitewater’s diverse population in English and Spanish, making signage bi-lingual, coordinating communication to all groups, and providing opportunities for people of different backgrounds, age groups, etc. to integrate to help meet community needs;
  • Housing assistance, affordability and accessibility for families and professionals seeking to purchase homes;  
  • Marketing Whitewater by coordinating and cross-pollinating events, calendars and volunteer opportunities.

The Whitewater Community Foundation, tasked with holding a Civic Summit to determine community needs, plans to continue to draw on the results and the community experts who shared them. Discussions demonstrated Whitewater is a diverse community that provides many opportunities to work together:  the 4th of July parade and events, the City Market, the Spirit Tours, and more.  Our community needs its valuable but underutilized facilities like the Whitewater Aquatic and Fitness Center and the Young Auditorium to be supported to rebound from the pandemic.  Our rich diversity offers many hopeful opportunities for people of all ages, races, religions, etc. to learn from each other and celebrate our common humanity.

Twice a year, the Whitewater Community Foundation offers Community Action Grants for projects that the community and board of directors believe are worthwhile and beneficial to various segments of the population, projects like the ESL classes and interpretation services.  Grant proposals are due on April 30th and October 31st of each year.

“Our foundation is dedicated to making our community stronger through these action grants,” said Julie Caldwell, Secretary of the Whitewater Community Foundation.

Whitewater’s Fire and EMS department received a WCF action grant of $1,810 for fire blankets involving electric vehicles.  Kelly Freeman, Fire and EMS Chief, said that, while they have not used it yet, they are very pleased to have available the fire blanket, which will more quickly and safely extinguish car fires.

Example of Fire Blanket in Use

Freeman said, “On behalf of the Fire Department, I would like to express how thankful we are to have received this grant and to have the opportunity to purchase this equipment to aid in property conservation.”  He said, “This grant aims to support local civic organizations and their remarkable projects, and we couldn’t be prouder to see our fire department is recognized for its outstanding efforts in keeping our community safe. Let’s celebrate this remarkable achievement together!”

The First United Methodist Church also received $1,000 for its free lunch program that feeds students and community members.  The church has been providing a free Tuesday lunch for more than 25 years.  They have served 105 meals in the last two Tuesdays, and indoor, sit-down eating encourages people to meet one another and build community.  Comments from diners include:

  • Food was great with good serving sizes;
  • Very tasty warm food;
  • It was amazing, everything tasted great.  The dessert was phenomenal.

In conversations with people eating Tuesday lunch, volunteers have also heard how challenging it can be for students and community people to stretch every dollar.  One said, “There is just too much month at the end of the money.  Thank you for this; it makes a difference.” 

“This kind of caring is what Whitewater and the Whitewater Community Foundation are all about,” said Telfer.

Following are some additional projects recently receiving grants:

  • Wisconsin Makers, Inc. received $500 to fund free classes including robotics.
  • Whitewater Unified School District received $1,000 for its Robotics program.
  • St. Patrick’s Church and its Hands Up Program received $500 for emergency assistance.
  • Whitewater Urban Forestry received $500 for Starin Park Arboretum signage.

 “We are pleased that the Civic Summit results tied in so beautifully with some of the community action grants that we funded recently.  We look forward to this year’s distribution of Community Action grants,” said Whitewater Community Foundation Co-President Therese Kennedy.

Organizations interested in pursuing a Whitewater Community Foundation Action Grant should check out the Whitewater Community Foundation web site or contact

The Foundation continues to provide and host scholarships for Whitewater High School students and also offers fiscal sponsorship to organizations that are seeking 501(c) (3) status or require temporary pass-through funds for worthy community projects.

More information about the Whitewater Community Foundation can be found at and on Facebook. 

The Whitewater Community Foundation’s mission is to “enhance quality of life in the Whitewater area via educational, cultural, charitable or benevolent expenditures.”