From Concrete to Green Space, The Gilchrist Foundation Helps Renovate Olson Cultural Event Center

Last fall, work began to turn Le Mars’ Olson Cultural Event Center from a sea of cement to an inviting, open, green space in downtown Le Mars, with some help from the Gilchrist Foundation.

The Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation was awarded $25,000 in 2018 to renovate the downtown attraction. Used for outdoor concerts, church services and summer events like the Grill ‘n’ Chill Rib Rally, Kid Kar Racing and Madonarri Chalk Art Festival, the event center is a favorite spot for Le Mars’ residents.

The renovation work, a $250,000 project, was completed in early June 2019. Work included removing the parking but maintaining brick-paved walks. Adding picnic areas with covered pergolas and stadium seating. The landscaping was completely redone to include raised flower beds, trees, flowers and shrubs and more outdoor lighting was added. The stage’s sound system was updated to enhance the area’s ambiance and acoustics. Some parking lot and road work were done as well.

The Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the greater Le Mars area. It has spearheaded fundraising efforts for a number of local projects including renovating the Royal III Theatre and building the Le Mars Postal Playhouse, which The Gilchrist Foundation awarded $100,000 in 2017. These efforts align with the foundation’s desire to promote the arts in Sioux City and its surrounding communities.

Jocelyn Gilchrist, who created the Gilchrist Foundation in honor of her philanthropic family, was interested in the arts from an early age. She enjoyed the orchestra, art museums and theater. As she grew older, she enjoyed listening to orchestra performances on local public broadcasting stations. As such, organizations related to the arts or public broadcasting are invited to apply for funding through the Gilchrist Foundation.

The Gilchrist Foundation does not accept any unsolicited applications for funds, but makes grants to pre-selected charities which have been invited to apply based on the perceived match of both organizations’ missions. There are four kinds of grant applications available:

  1. Raining endowment funds

  2. Contributing to capital campaigns

  3. Funding special projects

  4. Micro-grants

Any entity wishing to apply for funding from the Foundation will need to first request an invitation to apply. Upon approval, the entity may download, complete and submit its application. While the application deadline has already passed this year, micro-grants do not require a request for invitation and entities may apply for this grant at any time.