Author Archives: Andy Maw

Bright Ideas Fall Recipients Announced

The Board of Directors, Staff, and Grant Review Committee members of the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation are pleased to announce the latest grant recipients of the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund.  Since the first grant cycle in 2011, the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund has awarded $4,104,087 to nonprofit organizations that serve Wapello County.

The most recent Wapello County nonprofit organizations to receive grants are:

  • Bridge View Center, Inc. to repair the exterior LED marquee sign
  • Cardinal A-Club to install a safety backstop at the Cardinal High School Softball field
  • Eddyville Community Foundation to install a concrete pad for the Eddyville Pocket Park
  • Food Bank of Iowa to assist with the replacement and installation of new HVAC system at the Ottumwa Distribution Warehouse
  • Ottumwa Park and Recreation to re-establish a tree nursery in Memorial Park for future transplanting into other parks in the Ottumwa parks system
  • Friends of the Blakesburg Public Library to assist with electrical upgrades in the library renovation project
  • Iowa Babe Ruth Leagues, Inc. to assist with upgrading to LED lights at the Ottumwa Babe Ruth field
  • Iowa Legal Aid to provide funding for an Employment Barriers & Expungement Clinic
  • Southeast Iowa Dream Center for the installation of safety and security technology at the Southeast
  • Iowa Dream Center warehouse facility

The Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund has three grant cycles each calendar year and awards up to $450,000 a year. Application eligibility requirements can be found at here. The next online application cycle opens February 1, 2021. 

A New Direction for Downtown Theaters

In 2012, the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation purchased the Capital and Capri theaters, located at 229 and 231 East Main, after the commanding buildings had fallen into disrepair. As part of its commitment to the revitalization of downtown, ORLF worked with placemaking experts to gather community input and to develop a feasible and sustainable restoration plan for the buildings.

After extensive and diligent exploration of the options presented for the restoration project coined Studio 229, the ORLF Board made the difficult decision to not move forward with project at its November board retreat.

Multiple reasons are credited with the project reversal – many of them budgetary.  The project faced significantly higher than expected construction phase costs. Historic Tax Credits, which were initially anticipated to be a primary source of funding for the project, presented unanticipated hurdles. These hurdles, coupled with the other community fundraising efforts underway in Ottumwa, lead to fear that simultaneous multi-million-dollar fundraising efforts could result in a lack of success for any project.

Covid 19 created additional operational and financial challenges around the project that could not have been predicted in the early planning phases of Studio 229. Building a space focused on gathering, in a time when we cannot, garners concerns regarding ongoing sustainability.   The pandemic has also caused vulnerability to many local businesses, including the Bridgeview Center.  This has elevated concern that this new space could have the potential to be cannibalistic in a time when our current venues need all the support they can get from our community to weather the crisis.

To date, significant investment has been made into the buildings, which have both received a major facelift. The façade of The Ottumwa received regional attention, by earning the 2018 American Institute of Architects’ Central States Design Excellence Honor Award in Historic Preservation. In addition to the visible exterior work, the Legacy Foundation has also replaced the roofs on both buildings, completed mold and asbestos abatement and cleared the interiors. “The buildings are structurally sound and ready for someone to come in and bring their ideas to life in the 20,000 square feet of space they provide,” Heather Larson, Communications and Special Projects Manager for the Legacy Foundation said.

“We know that the community was excited about the idea of seeing these two buildings in our downtown district coming back to life, as were we,” stated ORLF President, Kelly Genners. “While we cannot move forward in the way we initially planned, I can provide assurance that we are firmly rooted in finding the right buyers who are committed to seeing Ottumwa’s downtown continue to thrive.”

Inquiries can be made to Heather Larson at 641-455-5260.

Legacy Youth Alliance Provides Grant to Al Exito

The Legacy Youth Alliance Grant Committee has awarded $2,500 to al Exito Ottumwa as part of its Fall 2020 grant cycle. Funds will be used to provide activities in which high school students are paired with middle school students to help them reconnect from the pandemic and improve their mental and physical state.

Pictured delivering the grant award are, left to right, Kaitlyn Baeza, Legacy Youth Alliance Member, Luis Lozano, Juventino Leyva Garcia and OHS Principal Richard Hutchinson.

The Legacy Youth Alliance is made up of high school students from the Ottumwa, Cardinal, Eddyville and Pekin school districts. The alliance gives young people a voice in the issues that affect them now, and the skills to confront the challenges they will face in the future. After reviewing 9 funding requests this cycle, the Legacy Youth Alliance also awarded funding to the following programs:

  • American Home Finding for the installation of a heavy-duty fiber glass door and frame to the upstairs bedroom at the Youth Emergency Shelter in Agency.
  • Cardinal Before/After School Program to support the before and after school daycare program which provides academic support, free play time, physical activity, fresh air outside guided play and snacks.
  • Sensory and Behavioral Health Regulation Room to create a sensory friendly and safe active space for youth with special needs. 


Celebrating the Reopening of Main Street

On October 29th, Ottumwa celebrated the completion of the Streetscape project on Main Street.  During the ribbon cutting celebration, Kelly Genners, President/CEO of the Legacy Foundation, spoke to what the Streetscape Project represents for Ottumwa, “This project is sending a clear message on behalf of our community, that having a downtown that is safe and accessible to everyone is important to us” and that these improvements show  “that we care about making a good impression to those looking to relocate here or those visiting our City.”   The celebration also featured speeches from Main Street Ottumwa’s Executive Director Fred Zesiger, Mayor Tom Lazio, Main Street Iowa Coordinator Michael Wagler and included the presentation of the Iowa Small Business Community of the Year Award from the US Small Business Administration. 

 This celebration is a long time coming for the Foundation, who in 2015, commissioned a streetscape study for the downtown.  Seeing the opportunity to transform Ottumwa’s Main Street into a place that was pedestrian friendly, visually appealing and that also fostered a business-friendly environment, the Legacy Foundation began convening partners in 2017 to begin the process of design and garnering support for the project.

The transformation to the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street are nothing short of remarkable.  Improvements include replacement of underground infrastructure, new sidewalks, streets, permeable pavers, bike racks, benches, planting areas, trees, and public art.  As part of the Foundation’s “Revitalization” initiative, nearly $2 million was contributed to the streetscape project.  Other financial partners included the City of Ottumwa, Ottumwa Waterworks and the Iowa Economic Development.

Legacy Foundation Thanks Dr. Sprouse

The Legacy Foundation officially said goodbye and thank you to Dr. Marlene Sprouse as she retired from their Board of Directors during the September board meeting. Dr. Sprouse joined the Board in 2015 and became Chair in January, 2020.
“Marlene is well known for the impact she made at Indian Hills Community College as well as students she instructed during her teaching years. What some may not be as aware of, is her service to our community through the work she did as a Legacy Board Member and subsequent Chair,” stated Kelly Genners, President and CEO of the Legacy Foundation. “Marlene has been a consummate advocate not only for education but for our community as a whole.”
As a way to show their appreciation, the Board of Directors gave two gifts.  One being a fun caricature depicting her juggling as the “Board Chair Extraordinaire” with her Indian Hills Community College office as a setting and Legacy Foundation plaque on the wall.
The second gift the Board gave is the Dr. Sprouse Legacy Scholarship to Ottumwa Leadership Academy to be awarded annually.
“I was so touched by both gifts. The caricature is great and so original! And the scholarship in my name is very meaningful. I personally, along with Indian Hills Community College, have been big supporters of the community leadership development provided by the program.”
Dr. Sprouse will continue to be the Dean for Ottumwa Leadership Academy for the class of 2021 after she relocates to the Des Moines area to be close to family after retirement from IHCC and the Legacy Board of Directors.