Riverboat Foundation awards $299,300 grant to Kalona Historical Society for rail exhibit

WCRF fall grant awardees include Wellman Fire, Riverside Fire, Highland Elementary, City of Lone Tree

By Cheryl Allen
Posted 11/29/23

The Washington County Riverboat Foundation announced fall grant recipients Wednesday night at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort. Over $2,000,000 in grants were distributed, with the second highest …

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Riverboat Foundation awards $299,300 grant to Kalona Historical Society for rail exhibit

WCRF fall grant awardees include Wellman Fire, Riverside Fire, Highland Elementary, City of Lone Tree



The Kalona Historical Society didn’t receive the largest grant of the evening, but it was the runner-up. The organization took home $299,300 in grant funds from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation (WCRF) Wednesday night at the Annual Awards Event held at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. The award will go towards funding renovation of the depot building and a new rail car exhibit at the Kalona Historical Village.

The highest grant awarded was $500,000 to the Community Foundation of Johnson County, which will contribute to the Building North Liberty's Next Stage capital campaign. Funds will go toward development of Centennial Park.

Other grant winners include the Wellman Volunteer Fire Department, which was awarded $62,138 for a truck bay door renovation; Highland Community Schools District, which received $34,689 for indoor bleachers at the elementary school; City of Lone Tree, which was awarded $32,340 for playground equipment and surfacing at Dougherty Park; and Riverside Fire Department, which received $12,500 for rescue extrication tools.

A total of 26 grants were awarded in the fall 2023 grant cycle, totaling over $2.15 million.

Members of the Historical Society were all smiles following the presentation of the giant checks on Nov. 29. Those receiving awards in the fall grant cycle were notified that they were winners but kept in the dark about the amounts they would receive until the awards presentation.

The Historical Society received the full amount of funding they asked for, which was something they “were hoping [for], not expecting,” Nancy Roth, managing director of the Kalona Historical Village, said.

The project, which Roth says was conceived about a year ago as a way to elaborate on and continue the story of historical Kalona being told in the Streetscape exhibit, involves upgrading the interior of the depot building with new exhibits and adding a full platform around it.

“Then we’re bringing in an actual cargo rail car that will be on this section of tracks, which will turn that into its own mini museum,” she said. “[We’re] trying to bring the reason why Kalona exists back to life.”

Kalona was established in 1879 when the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway built a depot in that location.

The Wellman Volunteer Fire Department received a grant of $62,138 from the WCRF, which will be used for renovation of its truck bay doors.

“This is unbelievable. We really appreciate it,” Fire Chief Jeremy Peck said after the awards ceremony. “A lot of hard work and effort when into the grant, and some great people were gracious enough to award us.”

The fire station’s doors date back to 1980 and are worn out. “We started having mice and stuff getting around them and under them,” Peck explained. “We’re just trying to upgrade and take care of business.”

The Highland Community School District was awarded $34,689 to replace the elementary school’s indoor bleachers, which are about 30 years old. “They’ve done their time,” Ken Crawford, Highland’s superintendent, said.

The manual “push in and push out” bleachers will be replaced with electrical bleachers that extend and contract with the push of a button. They will also have a middle aisle with handrails and ADA accessible areas. The result will “affect the community, affect the kids, make concerts easier, will be safer for everybody, will be ADA-compliant,” Crawford said.

The district is “very happy, very relieved, and very much thrilled that we’re going to have more progress in the areas that we just need to keep updating and keep ahead of the game on,” Crawford said. “It’s an overall win for the Riverside community.”

The City of Lone Tree received $32,340 for playground equipment and surfacing at Dougherty Park, an award especially noteworthy because “this is the first big grant we’ve gotten from the casino,” Mayor Josh Spilman said. “We’re very happy. There’s been a lot of positive support throughout the community.”

“Dougherty Park is long overdue for getting a facelift,” he said. The city has already made improvements to the park, adding flowers and a pickleball court. The grant will help the city add a slide and replace the sand currently beneath playground equipment with upgraded surfacing.

“It’s just another place for kids on the south side of the city to go play,” Spilman said.

The Riverside Fire Department was awarded $12,500 for rescue extrication tools. The department’s old tools are outdated, with 100-foot hydraulic hoses that run off of a gas pump, “so it limits where you can go with them,” Fire Chief Chad Smothers said. The new battery-powered tools “allow us to be a lot more mobile, we can go anywhere we want with them,” he added.

Because of Riverside’s proximity to US 218 and Hwy 22, the fire department responds to many motor vehicle accidents; because it is a large farming community, the department is called to machinery incidents as well. The new extrication tools will help the rescue workers “stay ahead of the curve and get those patients out very quickly when we arrive on scene,” Smothers said.

The department is “very appreciative” to have received the grant for the new tools.

Additional fall grants announced Wednesday:

• The West Chester Lions Club received $2,207 for an ice cream maker.

• Washington County Freedom Rock Park was granted $2,536.

• Columbus Youth Sports was granted $7,694 for their youth sport project.

• WCDC, Inc. was granted $7,950.

• Sleep in Heavenly Peace was granted $10,000.

• CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank was granted $10,000 for youth crisis stabilization services.

• Washington Community Schools was granted $12,186 for strength and conditioning enhancement.

• The Washington Chamber of Commerce was granted $14,508 for their welcome and wayfinding sign project.

• The Keota Volunteer Fire Department was granted $16,816 for digital pagers.

• The Solon Educational Foundation was granted $18,000 for their baseball renovation project –scoreboard.

• The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office was granted $21,000 for their K-9 project.

• Adaptive Sports Iowa was granted $24,100 for adaptive sports equipment.

• MOPS-Winfield Food Pantry was granted $32,700 for a new building.

• American Legion Post 537 was granted $40,000 for a veteran memorial.

• The Washington County Hospital Foundation was granted $74,871 for the DEXA project.

• The Washington Free Public Library Foundation was awarded $85,000 for the MakeIT Place @ WFPL.

• The Johnson County Agricultural Association was granted $125,000 for the Johnson County Fair Livestock Show Arena.

• The Richland Area Child Care Organization was awarded $172,194 for the Richland Child Care Center.

• The City of Washington was awarded $250,000 for a pumper truck.

• The Domestic Violence Intervention Program was awarded $288,216 for a new shelter.

“It was a spectacular grant cycle,” Stephanie Sexton, president of the WCRF Board of Directors told The News after the board met to approve the awards. “We are so blessed to have so many enthusiastic projects in and around Southeast Iowa.”

WCRF has funded a total of $48,718,640 in competitive grants since 2006.

Washington County Riverboat Foundation, WCRF, Riverside Casino, fall grants, Iowa, 2023, Kalona Historical Society, Kalona Historical Village