Building Community Award Winners Impacting Communities

8/25/2020
​To honor our founder's legacy of giving, we launched the Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award in 2015. Fueled by unwavering optimism, Gerry demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and a commitment to finding a better way to build a business, community and value-centered life. With an enduring belief that business has a responsibility to strengthen society, Gerry ensured giving back was a cornerstone of our organization.

We're getting ready to announce the winner of this year's new internal Building Community Award. Before we do that, we're taking a look back at the first five winners. 

Operation Breakthrough Impacting Kansas City Children [2015]

In the first year, the $62,000 Building Community Award was given to Operation Breakthrough.


Knowing that children won't reach their potential without a strong start, Operation Breakthrough provides health and emergency services, housing and employment assistance, parenting classes and other support. Operation Breakthrough provides services to a high-risk population with a large percentage having experienced trauma.

This inaugural Award was used to help create something Mary Esselman, President and CEO of Operation Breakthrough, had only been dreaming of. With their budget allocated to providing excellent services for kids and families, the organization wanted to find a funding source to help make this dream a reality. Using the Award as seed money, the organization was able to successfully secure other funders. The result: dreams came true when the MakerSpace, an all-encompassing space that allows kids to tinker and learn, was opened up.

Read the complete article about how Operation Breakthrough used this money and more from the Opus Foundation® on Medium.

This first MakerSpace has grown immensely. In 2019, Operation Breakthrough officially opened the MakerVillage in a former department store across the street from their facility that bridges a historic divide in Kansas City. Read our blog post about another grant supporting those efforts.     

School on Wheels Helps a Record Number of Homeless Youth [2016]

School on Wheels in Indianapolis received $63,000 to support and grow their programs.


School on Wheels provides one-on-one tutoring educational advocacy in INdianapolis to children in grades K – 12 who are experiencing homelessness. Helping to break the cycle of homelessness through education, School on Wheels takes education to the places its needed most, supporting the children who need it the most.

“The Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award was a significant gift for us," said Claire Brosman, Grants and Communications Director for School on Wheels. “Like other nonprofits, we are always strapped to execute programming and development and are constantly trying to raise money. You can do a lot with $63,000. It helped us to enter the 2016 – 2017 school year in a strong position for growth, in addition to funding immediate needs."

Winning the award made it possible for School on Wheels to tutor a record number of students experiencing homelessness in 2016 – 2017. It also supported the organization's marketing efforts to increase awareness of the academic needs of homeless children and attract new donors and volunteers.

Read the full update blog post for more information.

Women's Advocates Increases Safety & Awareness [2017]

For over 40 years, Women's Advocates in St. Paul, Minn., has been a safe haven for women and children escaping domestic violence. The organization provides shelter and services to an average of 50 women and children daily and helps dozens of callers via a crisis prevention line. 2017 was a new chapter of sorts for the nonprofit.


In April 2017, Women's Advocates was awarded $64,000 from the Opus Foundation®.

“The Building Community Award from Opus has allowed us to make our spaces safer and more comfortable for residents and has also helped us upgrade technology for staff and residents," said Tom Brinker, Development and Volunteer Coordinator for Women's Advocates. “With these basic resources in place or updated to the most recent standards, we can even more effectively focus on helping families heal after experiencing trauma."

Read the full update blog post for more information.

Girls on the Run-Chicago Empowered 10,000+ Girls [2018]

Two years ago, Girls on the Run–Chicago (GOTRC) won the Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award. They received a $65,000 grant to further their mission of inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident through a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running and physical activity.


The innovative GOTR program is available to all girls age eight to 14 in eight Illinois counties, regardless of their families' financial circumstances. It includes a research-based physical, social and emotional health curriculum, as well as healthy goal setting. During the 10-week program, the girls develop essential skills to help them navigate their worlds and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness. By the end of the program, the girls are physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k run, as well as volunteer as part of a community service project.

The Building Community Award money funded GOTRC's Access & Inclusion program for 2018 – 2019, providing participation opportunities to more than 5,000 girls in low-income, under-resourced communities who otherwise wouldn't have access to GOTR programs. It also provided resources for GOTRC to extend programming to five new sites, effectively reaching 100+ girls who couldn't previously participate.  

Read the full update blog post for more information.

St. Mary's Child Center Prepares Youth for Success in Kindergarten & Beyond [2019]

Quality early childhood education is critical; it increases the likelihood that a child will do well in school, graduate high school and attend college or a job-training program. Early education can also increase a child's potential earnings as an adult by up to 60%. This effects communities, too – it's estimated for every $1 spent on high-quality early education, later intervention costs are reduced by $17.


With four locations in Indianapolis, St. Mary's Child Center is doing important work. Without intervention, children from low-income families enter school significantly disadvantaged compared to their middle class peers. Typically, middle class children are read to 1,400 hours before starting first grade, but children living in poverty are only read to 25 hours. Because their families struggle to provide basic needs, they lag behind when starting school and the gap tends to widen as the years progress.

Read the full update blog post for more information.


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Filed Under: Community Initiatives