Generous gift gives another $2.79 million to Northeast Wisconsin

Published Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Twenty-five nonprofits throughout northeastern Wisconsin are getting a much-needed boost from more than $2.79 million in grants awarded from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. 

David and Rita Nelson died in 2017. They lived in De Pere. She was a teacher and he was the chief financial officer for the Post-Crescent in Appleton and the Green Bay Press-Gazette until the family newspapers were sold. He then invested in radio stations. They left more than $100 million from their estate to their family fund at the Community Foundation. The gift was by far the largest ever received by the Community Foundation and one of the largest charitable gifts in the state’s history. 

Grants awarded:   

  1. Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity, $50,000 for Rock the Block in Kaukauna.
  2. NeighborWorks Green Bay, $35,000 for the integration of Neighborhood Partners and NeighborWorks.
  3. Appleton Area School District, $25,000 to expand Community Schools Program over three years.
  4. Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County, $98,200 for its Grounded Café food truck trailer.
  5. Encompass Child Care Early Learning, $57,000 to support its child advocate program,
  6. Neville Public Museum Foundation, $25,000 to support next phase of the Spectacular Science! Experience program.
  7. Rawhide Youth Services, $50,000 to support a resource and training center through its Building Hope campaign.
  8. Appleton Community Music, $100,000 for its Mile of Music Angel Fund within the Community Foundation.
  9. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, $150,000 for the Cofrin Arboretum Trail System Redesign and Rehabilitation project.
  10. United Way Fox Valley,$50,000 for its Be Well Fox Valley/Eat Well for Life program. 
  11. Chippewa Area Historical Society, $50,000 to support its historical center.
  12. City of Brillion, $150,000 for its Brillion Iron Works redevelopment project.
  13. Door County Maritime Museum, $250,000 for the interior restoration of the Cana Island Lighthouse keeper’s quarters.
  14. National Railroad Museum, $71,000 for its Post Office railcar restoration project.
  15. Friends of PBS Wisconsin, $25,000 for its Hometown Stories: Appleton, and $50,000 for its Wisconsin Shipwrecks series.
  16. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, $50,000 to support the Baird Creek Preservation’s mountain bike course.
  17. City of Neenah, $325,000 to an Arrowhead Park development project aimed at creating a pier that will provide direct water access in the park to Little Lake Butte des Morts.
  18. City of De Pere, $500,000 to help build a multipurpose facility at Voyager Park.
  19. East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, $100,000 toward planning a direct pedestrian and bicycle connection between the Fox Cities and High Cliff State Park.
  20. Fox River Navigational System Authority, $300,000 to support the Kaukauna/Fox Locks Interpretive Trail.
  21. Hands on Deck, $10,000 to support the Fox River Enrichment Tours in summer 2021.
  22. Lawrence University, $100,000 to support the Lawrence University Trail.
  23. NEW Zoological Society, $50,000 to support the NEW Zoo Canopy Tour.
  24. Lakeshore Natural Resource Network, $50,000 to support the Niagara Escarpment Resource Network’s geotourism project.
  25. Wello, $50,000 including $15,000 to support its Streetwyze pilot and $35,000 toward general support for health and wellbeing for residents of Brown County.

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.  

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a Fox Cities-based nonprofit founded in 1986, helps people provide long-term support for favorite charities through endowments and other charitable funds. The second-largest certified community foundation in Wisconsin, its donors have allowed it to award more than $356 million to nonprofit organizations from more than 1,689 charitable funds. Affiliated community foundations operate in Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Shawano and Waupaca. To learn more, go to, subscribe to The Loop at or connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.