Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation History

In 1934, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration established the Wisconsin Rural Rehabilitation Corporation to purchase FHA guaranteed farm loans to stimulate the agricultural economy following the Great Depression.  During the decades that followed, the Wisconsin Rural Rehabilitation Corporation evolved into today’s vibrant Foundation supporting educational opportunities for rural Wisconsin citizens at a vast variety of educational institutions throughout the State of Wisconsin.

The Early Years

WROF The Early YearsWith its genesis during the Great Depression, the WROF was originally formed to “rehabilitate individuals and families as self-sustaining human beings by enabling them to secure subsistence and gainful employment from the soil.”

This core mission – to enable the human spirit to accomplish dreams and goals in the agricultural enterprise and in small rural communities – remains today with “rehabilitation” more accurately defined as “education”.

The original funds facilitated the creation of loans for “rehabilitating” the economy following the Great Depression.  During the 1950’s and 1960’s the Wisconsin Rural Rehabilitation Corporation primarily purchased Farmers Home Administration guaranteed farm loans to stimulate the agricultural economy.  In the 1970’s, however, the Wisconsin Rural Rehabilitation Corporation Board of Directors recognized the need to continue to invest in the land, but also the people who were striving to rekindle and expand a vibrant agricultural enterprise and a prosperous rural Wisconsin.

Board members representing leaders from Wisconsin’s agricultural businesses, the University of Wisconsin, State Government and key agricultural youth organizations such as FFA and 4-H, rededicated the organization to “rehabilitating individuals and families as self-sustaining human beings” by launching a comprehensive educational support program.

In the 1970’s, the Board recognized the need to also invest in the people who were striving to rekindle and expand a vibrant agricultural enterprise and a prosperous rural Wisconsin.

In the 1990’s, the organization updated its name to the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. to more properly reflect its expanded scope and service.

In response to an interest from individuals and corporations to invest and expand the organization’s work, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. converted from a 501(c)(4) into a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. As a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation can accept tax-deductible gifts and contributions.

WROF Today

James Caldwell Congratulates Matt Schaefer
Wisconsin Rural Opportunities President, James Caldwell congratulates Matt Schaefer, one of the charter class to receive a WROF Veterinary Medicine Loan. Matt is from Chilton (read his story link)

Today, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. keeps abreast of the most pressing needs of rural Wisconsin through its network of former award recipients, educational institution partners and agricultural business and organization leaders.

Each year, the Board of Directors determines the numbers and amounts of awards to be presented to each institution and program to best serve the needs of rural Wisconsin.

Beginning in 2011, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation will begin awarding challenge grants to match gifts made by local groups for specific youth educational awards program in their areas.

More than $5.8 million has helped more than 5000 individuals realize their educational goals. The impact of this support is felt across the State of Wisconsin and extends world-wide as talented former WROF recipients assume leadership roles in national and international agribusinesses and organizations.

The Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. does indeed create bright futures in rural Wisconsin.

Learn more about making a gift to WROF.