Elkader Future Fund looks to strengthen community for future

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


It was roughly two years ago when a group of community members, convened by Keith Garms, laid the foundation for what is today known as the Elkader Future Fund (EFF). The intent is to create a thriving city for future generations, as well as invest in local projects that strengthen economic vitality. 


Since that day, the group has focused on a fundraising campaign, through donations and grants, like the one Elkader was approved for through the Small-town Dreams Initiative Challenge Grant, an initiative funded by an anonymous donor who grew up in small town eastern Iowa. 


Elkader is the seventh successful applicant, according to the EFF press release that announced the program to the community in June, when the first phase was wrapped up in which the leadership team set about raising $150,000, a total they surpassed.


The second phase, which the EFF is currently in, has set a goal of raising $350,000. According to Emily Yaddof, former Main Street Elkader director and recorder for the EFF, they have raised almost $300,000 through numerous avenues. The end goal is reaching a $450,000 endowment within three years of starting the program, completing the Small Town Dreams Initiative. 


Garms stated the endowment “will be a permanent legacy for this hometown we all love.”


That legacy is one reason Yaddof got involved. Already armed with a passion for Elkader, a place she and her family consider their hometown, she makes it a point to support local businesses and organizations. As former Main Street Elkader director, she was fully aware of the “importance of investing today to ensure the community remains vibrant” for the Elkader of tomorrow. 


“Elkader has been fortunate to have a legacy of community members who have supported past community endeavors to grow Elkader and joining the Elkader Future Fund was an opportunity for me to be part of that legacy,” Yaddof said. 


Leadership team volunteer Kenneth Zichal, who has lived in Elkader since 1978, said funds will support projects that “would improve the livability, tourism and business attractiveness of Elkader,” a place he called “the gem of small town northeast Iowa…that pulls far beyond its weight.” 


The basic idea is to improve local parks and downtown amenities and enhance outdoor activities and recreational opportunities. 


As Zichal put it, “it’s the little things that draw people in.” 


One of those little things was the first project EFF funded, which were the sun shades installed at the Elkader Swimming Pool over the summer. They benefit kids, families and even the elderly on hot sunny days when people want to sit poolside, but also want the comfort and safety of the shade. 


The EFF has a list of short- and long-term goals, namely reaching its fundraising goal, then transitioning into establishing a grant application process to continue to fund future projects. The long-term outlook is focused on continually raising money each year for the endowment to grow, giving EFF the capability to award roughly $20,000 every year for community based projects. 


“Our long-term goals also include funding projects that will improve the quality of life for the residents of Elkader but also make Elkader a more attractive destination for visitors as well,” Yaddof said.


The list of projects on the EFF’s radar was provided from a poll conducted among community members and from reviewing the Iowa Living Roadways visioning report from a few years ago, which gauged public interest in specific projects. Garms and others noted a second project has not officially been selected for next year and they’re always open to suggestions. 


The EFF noticed the types of projects most people want are related to outdoor recreation, such as expanding the trail system, improving the community pool and adding public bathrooms at Founders’ Park. Other ideas the EFF has discussed include providing new soccer goals at the soccer fields, installing a water fountain in Founders’ Park, kick starting a musical instrument installation at one of the parks, installation of a pedestrian bridge across the Turkey River, improving walkability to Lover’s Leap and other similar areas and creating an indoor winter activity space for kids. 


“We also received quite a few requests for more family-friendly activities. Projects fulfilling these two requests felt like the best place to focus our initial efforts, but ultimately, we hope to support a wide variety of quality of life projects with these funds,” Yaddof said.


“Once the fund is established, the projects it funds will ultimately depend on the applications received,” she added.


Anyone interested in learning more about the EFF can visit or contact Yaddof at 


There are multiple ways to donate and support the fund. Gifts can be in the form of cash, appreciated stock, IRA charitable rollovers, life insurance, bequests, real estate and even gifts of grain.

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