Farmer’s legacy helps northeast Nebraska thrive

Originally published on 10/11’s Pure Nebraska Program

Rudy Elis was seldom seen in anything but his overalls and a flannel shirt, but he was a shrewd investor. He was not into giving hand-outs—he was interested in giving ambitious people a hand up.

An endowed bequest of $2.3 million established by the bachelor farmer in 2008 has grown to $5,409,020—more than twice the amount of the original gift. Endowment earnings of more than $1.8 million have been used to support entrepreneurship, leadership, and people attraction in Holt County and in the Norfolk area.

Since 2010, the Rudolph Elis Donor-Advised Fund has invested in numerous programs to assess and plan for economic and community development in Norfolk. The Elis endowment grants helped kickstart Norfolk High School’s Career Academies, a program that prepares students for futures in industries they care about. Students can choose to enroll in several courses that allow them to test and develop their interest in a wide range of career paths: plant and animal agriculture; construction; drafting; early childhood development; culinary arts; health sciences; automotive; metals; and business and technology, which includes finance, marketing, business administration and information technology.

The Fund has also invested in The Zone, a Norfolk afterschool program that convenes youth eager to make an impact in the community and their own lives. The Zone offers a variety of clubs and programs, including a lawn mowing service that hands responsibilities over to students. The program gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn about accounting, scheduling, and everything involved in operating a small business.

Grants made to organizations such as Holt County Economic Development, an NCF affiliated fund, are a perfect match for Mr. Elis’s charitable intentions. The Fund has been instrumental in these key economic development achievements: 214 new business starts, 56 expansions, and 31 business successions; More than 600 jobs created and more than 230 retained; and nearly 700 individuals and families have moved to Holt County. And for the first time in decades, population has begun to stabilize.

Elis chose to benefit these communities because he admired how they were working to grow and stay vibrant. Over the past 10 years, more than 40 grants have supported programs in business coaching and succession planning, career academies in the public schools, entrepreneurship camps for middle schools, community visioning, strategic planning, and much more.

If you love the place you call home, this is your opportunity to enrich its future. Would you consider leaving 5% of your assets to your community? Your gift will help ensure your family’s legacy and help your hometown thrive. Visit for more information on the transfer of wealth and the many ways to give. Or reach out to our staff at 402.323.7330 or at to learn more about this opportunity to help build a brighter future.

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