In partnership with the Opus Foundation® in 2015, we launched the Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community award to honor our founder’s legacy of giving and celebrate the rich history and tradition of our organization. Each year, the award will provide one nonprofit organization with $1.000 for each year of that tradition.
Fueled by unwavering optimism, Gerry Rauenhorst demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and a commitment to finding “a better way” to build a business, community and a 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.
For the second annual Award in 2016, associates nominated 28 nonprofit organizations, more than 28,000 public votes were cast, and the winner—School on Wheels in Indianapolis—received $63,000 to support and grow their programs.
School on Wheels Empowers Kids to Break the Cycle of Homelessness
For 15 years, School on Wheels has provided one-on-one tutoring educational advocacy 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 it's needed most, supporting the children who need it the most. The organization has positively impacted the Indianapolis community through academic programming designed to meet the unique needs of the community’s most vulnerable youth. School on Wheels partners with 13 transitional and emergency shelters and select public schools to serve hundreds of homeless children each year. To date, School on Wheels has provided its tutoring services to more than 5,000 children.
“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.
Impressive Programming Results
During the 2015/2016 fiscal year, School on Wheels’ programming services increased in all areas, including student tutoring sessions, parent consultations, workshops, school supplies, uniforms and support services. And the results have been nothing short of remarkable. In an annual School on Wheels survey conducted at emergency shelters, 96% of students maintained or increased their grades in at least one subject area; 99% said their tutors help them learn and 100% feel tutoring offers a safe place. Parents were also surveyed with 100% indicating they feel more hopeful about their child’s progress in school because of School on Wheels.
Increasing Reach through Marketing
Creating awareness about School on Wheels through marketing is vital to continued academic programming and growth. The Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award helped fund several important marketing efforts, including revamping the School on Wheels website, development and printing of marketing collateral and bolstering reach through social media. Increasing engagement with the public on social media has been particularly beneficial. The number of followers on School on Wheels’ social media channels has increased significantly and the organization has demonstrated much deeper engagement, leading to unprecedented levels of shared information about School on Wheels.
“Through this generous grant, Opus and the Opus Foundation have enabled us to provide academic advocacy and resources to a record number of Indianapolis’ most vulnerable youth,” said Brosman. “We’ve been able to increase our programming, tutor more children and generate more awareness for School on Wheels.”
In addition to the Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award, School on Wheels received an Opus Foundation Opportunity Fund grant of $5,000 in 2012 for school supplies.
Associates have engaged with School on Wheels in several ways. In addition to supporting the organization’s social media and advocacy programs throughout the award competition, the associates attended School on Wheels’ 2016 fundraising event—Education Celebration—where achievements of the children and families are celebrated.
The first annual and second annual Building Community Award winners have done amazing things. Vote today for the third annual winner!
The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.