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The Scarlet & Black

Imagine Grinnell receives community award

“Leave it better than you found it,” Claude Ahrens challenged the Grinnell Community in 1994. Ahrens’s words have since then become an annual award given by the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation to the individuals, groups and organizations that leave the community better than they found it—whether through projects, programs or collaborative efforts with other local groups in the community.

The Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, founded in 1993, encourages community organizations to make Grinnell a better place to live. The “Leave It Better Than You Found It” award was created in 1994. The Foundation takes anonymous nominations for the award and holds award ceremonies on August 18, which commemorates Claude Ahrens’s birthday. So far more than 300 area individuals, groups and organizations have been honored with this award.

This year’s recipient, Imagine Grinnell, impressed the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation with their positive impact on the Grinnell community. Imagine Grinnell began in 1985 when three men formed an organization called Grinnell 2000 to relieve the farm crises that hit Grinnell farmers.

“They came up with a lot of ideas about things that they could do to improve the area,” said Monique Shore, the president of Imagine Grinnell. One of the ideas included a farmer’s market where local farmers could sell produce to supplement their income. “The Farmer’s Market that we have now that’s so successful on Thursday afternoons and on Saturdays was begun by this organization in 1986.”

Other successful projects implemented by Imagine Grinnell include the further expansion of the Farmer’s Market, Park Planning and Clean Up, support for Galaxy Youth Center, Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (GALFA), awareness-raising about environmental issues and encouragement of green practices in the Grinnell community.

“They set a great example of what community partnership can accomplish with strong volunteer commitment to long term projects,” said Mellisa Hull, the director of community relations for the Ahrens Foundation.

Despite Imagine Grinnell’s active role in the community, not many people know about the organization. The group was well-known under their original name but the name change to Imagine Grinnell made the organization less recognizable.

“One of the things that we’ve struggled with the last few years is just kind of name recognition,” Shore said. She hopes that with the award, Imagine Grinnell can gain more recognition, members, and donations.

Imagine Grinnell will celebrate its 25th anniversary in November, when the group will host an event on the Grinnell College campus. Shore believes that the celebration will be an opportunity to bring college students and community members closer to the organization.

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