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Ryan Trust touches town
by Jacob Lane · February 26, 2014


What do the West Liberty Schools, WL Area Arts Council, We Lead, Muscatine County Fair, Mercy Clinic, Eulenspiegel Puppet Theater, WL Heritage Foundation, Dream Catchers, Simpson Home, fire departments in West Liberty, Nichols and Atalissa, American Legion, several churches and community centers have in common?

The Ryan Trust.

"The money is meant to improve or better the quality of life for citizens in the West Liberty area," said Tim Putney, "I think it would be hard for someone to say that the Ryan Trust hasn't touched them somehow."

Tim Putney is the president and CEO of WL State Bank. He, Bob Cline and Priscilla Haessig govern the trust, deciding who will benefit from it. Cline and Haessig personally knew the Ryan family.

"It's given nearly 2 million dollars in town, it's safe to say most everyone has been touched by the Ryans one way or the other," said Bob Cline. "It's a perpetual trust that should go on long after we're gone."

The Ryan Trust was established to benefit 510c3 nonprofit organizations and public not-for-profit organizations such as schools and emergency departments. Designed to benefit West Liberty and its residents, the geographical boundary is the West Liberty School District.

Since 2003 it’s helped give funds toward West Liberty events, art and general improvements in the community. One of its first ventures helped build an entire wing at the current high school building.

To get involved applicants must present a project that benefits the community and the town, ranging from physical improvement projects to public art. Improving the West Liberty way of life was Joe Ryan's goal when he outlined the trust.

"One of the nicest guys that ever walked the earth," said Cline, "A very devout Catholic, did a lot for the church, I know lots of kids that he paid their tuition in school… a strong supporter of the American Legion, just an all around good guy."

At the turn of the century the Ryan family lived out on Highway 6, where Joe grew up along with a brother and sister. Years later he was the sole survivor of the family, inheriting the land and all of its assets along with more land he and his brother Ed acquired over their lives.

In 1992 he wrote up a will stating that his entire estate would be wrote up as a charitable trust for the benefit of West Liberty residents. Upon his passing in 2003 the Joseph and Edward Ryan Trust took effect.

It operates solely off of the interest generated by Joe Ryan's land and assets; however, those investments are not held by West Liberty State Bank but in Iowa City to prevent a conflict of interest. Also, trustees and anyone involved with the trust are not paid for their time.

According to Tim Putney, they prefer leverage funding or matching funding for projects, in order to prevent the Ryan Trust from being the only source of funding for a project.

But they're eager for applications. The board meets four times a year to decide which applications to choose.

In 2010 the trust reached the $1 million milestone mark when it specially ordered a handicap accessible van for the Simpson Memorial Home. Today it remains active at the home, helping fund a recently built wing.

It also helped fund the installation of the tennis courts at the Dutton Athletic Complex, breathing apparatuses for the fire department in Nichols and gives $50,000 each year to the West Liberty School Foundation.

"We'd like to see it be a perpetual thing, see it continue on and touch not only this generation, but future generations," said Putney, "Just better the quality of life in West Liberty, whatever that may be."

As the Ryan Trust approaches the 2 million mark trustees continue to look toward the community for projects. To get involved request an application at WL State Bank.

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