2021 NPD Honorees

Outstanding Individual Philanthropist
~ Willie Ray Fairley ~

Philanthropy is typically measured in dollars and cents or bricks and mortar, not in pulled pork sandwiches or barbecued ribs. But the generosity of Willie Ray Fairley has changed philanthropy’s menu.

Natural disasters are a recurring theme in the life of philanthropist Willie Ray, beginning with Cedar Rapids’ flood of 2008. He remembers all too well the personal devastation he endured and, more importantly, the help he received from complete strangers. He vowed at that time, were he ever in the position to help people going forward, he would.

And he did.

When 140 MPH winds blew threw Cedar Rapids in August of 2020 Willie saw devastation that was all-too-familiar devastation to him. So he began cooking. And cooking. And every day, for four weeks, post-derecho, he gave away free food to those in need. He took his smoker, his grill, and his big heart to neighborhoods decimated by the damage, feeding families, feeding seniors, and feeding immigrants – even feeding the National Guard. Willie Ray Fairley literally gave away thousands of dollars worth of food to complete strangers.

By February 2021 a natural disaster struck again, this time in Texas, when a historic winter storm left many without power, food, and fuel.  And, once again, Willie Ray to the rescue. Fairley packed up trucks, smokers, food and water and headed south. He didn’t know where he would stay or who he would feed, he just knew there were people in need.

Most recently in August 2021, the moment Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, Willie made plans for taking his equipment and his staff south to share his food and his love with storm victims and linemen and anyone who needed a meal. 

Willie’s generosity landed him national recognition, but he says giving back is what drives him. "I get my blessings from doing for others versus worrying about what I can do for myself so we can continue to take care of the public and the people who's in need," Fairley said.

The generosity of Willie Ray Fairley is measured in his selfless acts of unbridled kindness and good barbecue. It’s only fitting that he be recognized as the true philanthropist he is.

Outstanding Fundraising Professional
Lorrie Erusha, CFRE ~

Lorrie Erusha has an amazing understanding of the impact philanthropy can have on a community. She is a master storyteller who has the ability to transform hearts in a powerful way.

Currently serving as President of the Mercy Medical Center Foundation, Lorrie’s professional experience includes nearly 20 years as a consulting entrepreneur, providing leadership, human resources management and organizational analysis, effectiveness and development support to small and medium privately-held and not-for-profit organizations.  

In her work at Tanager Place, as director of philanthropy, she worked tirelessly to ensure there were the resources necessary to provide access to all young people in need of services regardless of their socio-economic status. Her huge heart and love of all people, coupled with a deep understanding of true equity, fueled her ability to speak truth to power and do all she could to level the playing field. 

In her six years at Tanager she oversaw every phase of a major campaign that secured $6.6 million for the Tanager Place Behavioral Health Clinic. She also developed the first major gift and planned gift programs resulting in $3 million and 25 planned gifts in 2.5 years.  

Now in her role at the Mercy Medical Center Foundation, she aligns her personal values with Mercy’s values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence. She listens to donors and links them in a meaningful way that relates to Mercy’s mission in healthcare and resonates with the donors.

Upon her arrival at Mercy she was tasked with leading a capital campaign for the to raise $8.5 million dollars for a new senior living facility, HallMar Village.  Lorrie lead the project and achieved the goal amount in just over five months and now the campaign is approaching $11 million. The campaign theme, ‘Live with Purpose,’ is exactly how Lorrie approached this campaign – with tremendous purpose. Her success and leadership are a true testament to how she lives her life.

It is only fitting that Lorrie be honored for the outstanding fundraising professional she is.

Outstanding Large Philanthropic Organization
~ Farmers State Bank ~

Farmers State Bank has a commitment to community that runs deep and is evident in Marion and surrounding locales. Their employees volunteer over 4,500 hours annually to more than 75 local non-profits such as Willis Dady Homeless Services, The Catherine McAuley Center, and Waypoint. Volunteer efforts range from manual labor projects in low- and moderate-income areas to teaching financial skills to children, to service in local crisis shelters, to providing financial, leadership, and management expertise to local nonprofits.  

The bank sponsors over 30 family-friendly, free events each year, including: Free Kids movies at Collins Road Theater, Annual Trunk or Treat, and Alburnett Children’s’ Benefit Day Parade.

Donating more than $200,000 annually to a variety of educational programs, local enrichment initiatives, and area non-profits, their name is synonymous with community. Over the past five years, the bank has committed $1,423,192 in charitable donations to organizations such as United Way, American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Marion Public Library Summer Reading Program, Linn County Fair, HACAP Food Reservoir, and NewBo City Market. Their commitment to the health, vitality, and education of the community is most evident in their recent multi-year commitments to the new Marion YMCA and the Marion Public Library. 

They are true stakeholders in the community.  It drives their dedication of service to the customers, meeting with local business owners to discuss needs, investing in improvements to neighborhoods and main streets, and giving back to those in need through donations and service.  The bank is most committed to affordable housing, economic stability over job growth, access to healthcare services (particularly mental health and substance abuse), city infrastructure and general utility improvement, and financial literacy at all stages.

In the words of Gene Neighbor, “At the heart of it all, we are a family-owned community bank that loves to give back to our neighborhoods and enhance the financial lives of our customers.”

These words represent the bank’s genuine concern for the people and communities they serve and epitomize Farmers State Bank’s role as an outstanding philanthropic organization.

Outstanding Small Philanthropic Organization
~ SOKO Outfitters ~

Understanding the connection between commitment to the community and passion for the outdoors, SOKO Outfitters was born. Their brand was created to help develop a community dedicated to nature. And they put their money where their mouth is.

In addition to carrying products that align with the company’s values of sustainability and conservation, they have been generous donors to a number of nonprofit organizations in the community.

SOKO was a title sponsor for the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Backcountry Film Festival, a public program promoting winter outdoor activity. Not only did SOKO provide financial support for the event, but they donated outdoor gear and rock climbing experiences for the raffle. This event and SOKO’s support gave the community inspiration to spend time outdoors during winter.

SOKO partners with local nonprofits for Pint Nights. Pint Nights feature some of the best, most environmentally conscious brands and spread awareness of local organizations whose work benefit parks and local trails. These events have raised money for Trees Forever, Willis Dady Homeless Services, Linn Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA), and ICNC. Pint Nights also give attendees an easy way to become connected and to support these organizations. 

SOKO co-hosted an Earth Day Trail Clean Up on the Sac & Fox Trail with other local businesses, giving the SOKO team an opportunity for hands-on efforts behind their stated mission. 

SOKO partnered on a sleeping bag drive for people experiencing homelessness, donating over 120 sleeping bags to the effort. The company also partnered with Cedar Rapids Parks Foundation for a Back-to-School book bag and school supply drive; partnered with Coats for Kids; and donated to Girls on the Run, JDRF, Boys & Girls Club, local schools, and several running events. These activities provide support for people of need in the community. 

After the 2020 derecho, SOKO launched a line of creative slogan t-shirts to raise money for replanting our community. The creative, humorous t-shirts created a sense of community. Thousands of dollars in proceeds were donated to Trees Forever as a result of this campaign.

In just a few short years, SOKO Outfitters have made their mark. Mother Nature would agree they’ve rightfully earned the honor of Outstanding Small Philanthropic Organization.

Outstanding Philanthropic Youth
~ Tejas Gururaja ~

Goal setting has been central to the success of Linn-Mar student Tejas Gururaja. And achievement of those goals has paid great dividends for those served by his projects.

Tejas first volunteered with the Catherine McAuley Center during his freshmen year of high school.  After learning about a CMC client who was starting a new life with her family in Cedar Rapids, he was inspired to ask how he could make a tangible difference in the lives of refugees and immigrants.  He quickly founded his own initiative, “Take Action United,” which engages members of the community in giving back.  In 18 months, Tejas held two food drives and a clothing drive for the Catherine McAuley Center, and founded a Future Cities STEM team at Linn-Mar to expand their extracurricular offerings.  

In his first food drive initiative in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, 2020, Tejas set a goal of gathering 1,000 items, which he exceeded, gathering an additional $1,100 in cash donations, as well.  Unaware of what the future would hold, his food drive concluded at a critical time, providing much-needed food for those without power after the derecho.  Last winter, Tejas gathered 20 coats to be shared with members of the CMC community.  For his second World Refugee Day food drive this summer, he more than doubled his goal to 2,021 non-perishable items, which he also met and exceeded with extra cash donations. 

Throughout the past two years of fundraising, Tejas has explored many strategies to reach new audiences, setting up a collection point at Linn-Mar High School, recruiting his friends to place flyers and bags around their neighborhoods, and spreading the word at his temple.  Tejas’ efforts have garnered interest in his community, bringing new connections and volunteers to the Catherine McAuley Center and its mission of promoting hope and opportunity to women, refugees, immigrants, and adult learners.

The future of philanthropy depends on the dedication of the next generation. How fortunate that Outstanding Philanthropic Youth honoree, Tehas Gururaja, will be part of that future.

Benjamin Franklin Award
~ Friends of Indian Creek Nature Center ~

Belief in the mission is at the heart of the work of the Friends of the Indian Creek Nature Center. Nurturing individuals through environmental education is what unites these passionate and dedicated volunteers.

The Guild (now known as the Friends of the Nature Center) took root in 1975 when sixteen women assumed the task of promoting and advancing the new Nature Center. Beginning with its Fall 1975 Harvest Fest dinner for more than 300 people, the Guild has hosted over 100 fundraising events including a variety of meals and sales – plant sales in the spring and holiday sales in December. Masters at creating beauty out of the most humble of items, they produce glorious wreaths, centerpieces and other holiday adornments out of donated evergreen branches and a length of ribbon. They get on their hands and knees, digging wildflowers, potting and nurturing the plants until Plant Sale day when they sell nature’s spring bounty to an appreciative crowd. In total, these fundraising events have raised $1,531,154 for the Nature Center in today's dollars.

The Friends group exists as an association of people willing and wanting to do what they can to support Iowa’s only independent, nonprofit nature center. An impressive number of Friends members continue to be active after decades of service, yet new people are constantly joining the group. Members mesh their talents, skills, resources, creativity, energy and enthusiasm to produce and publicize successful events and recruit others to join them. They ask for nothing in return for their many contributions.

While it is easy to see the direct impact that the Friends group has had on the Nature Center and its visitors when using dollar amounts and volunteer hours, the most important metric is the impact on children. For 46 years the Friends have raised money to support educational programming and their contributions have paid the entire salary of a full-time educator/naturalist each year. Over 1,000,000 children have been able to directly experience the benefits of nature thanks entirely to the Friends of the Nature Center.

In appreciation for all they’ve done, Friends of the Indian Creek Nature Center is more than deserving of the Benjamin Franklin Award.

Eastern Iowa Lifetime Achievement Award
~ Helen Arnold, CFRE ~

A lifetime of fundraising doesn’t begin to describe the accomplishments of Helen B. Arnold. President of Arnold Olson Associates, Helen specializes in fund development consulting services for nonprofit organizations. In addition, she is the nonprofit advisor of Clearly Compliant, Inc., a company that provides third-party state charity registration services. Helen has a 60 year+ history, both as a volunteer and a professional, in the nonprofit world. As a volunteer, she has worked for numerous charities and has served on sixty-five nonprofit boards in the Chicago, New York, Eastern Iowa, and Las Vegas areas.

 Helen has served clients across the United States in all aspects of fundraising and organizational excellence. She has served as speaker or faculty for the AFP International Conference on Fundraising as well as the Grant Professionals Association, the University of Iowa School of Journalism, the AFP Mid-American Conference, numerous AFP Chapters, the Southern Nevada Nonprofit Information Center, as well as a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and community groups. She is a certified AFP Master Trainer and has received the Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Iowa State University.

 Helen specializes in strategic planning, campaign management, and board development as well as volunteer education and training. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Grant Professionals Association, the Eastern Iowa Planned Giving Council and the National Association for Charitable Gift Planners. She has received several honors recognizing her volunteer and professional achievements, including the AFP Eastern Iowa Outstanding Professional Fundraiser Award and the AFP Las Vegas Lifetime Achievement Award.

 Helen is a past president of the AFP Eastern Iowa Chapter and is currently serving AFP International on the Membership Services Division/International Development Committee and as a director of the AFP Foundation Fundraising Board/Chair of Major Giving. Additionally, she serves as a member of the AFP Las Vegas Chapter board and as treasurer and director for the national Grant Professionals Foundation. 

 She is the author of Volunteering for the GENIUS and a contributing author of YOU and Your Nonprofit and The Nonprofit Consulting Playbook.

Registration is now closed!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Time:        11:30 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.

Location:  Hotel at Kirkwood Center

7725 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404