Mission | Vision | History

The Appleton Education Foundation, a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, has been working since 1997 to develop a steady source of support for grants now, and for many future generations of Appleton children.

A volunteer board of directors is guided by AEF’s mission: To creatively enhance education in our community.


To creatively enhance education in our community.


The Appleton Education Foundation will be an independent organization that improves the well-being of our children, teachers and community by enhancing the quality of education. The Foundation will accomplish this end by collaborating with others to receive or initiate, plan and fund educational projects for the Appleton Area School District that would not be provided by public resources.

History of the Appleton Education Foundation

1996Exploratory meetings take place
The first recorded notes about the foundation date back to 1996. Early leaders began with the belief that the tax dollar alone could provide an adequate education for students. Reaching educational excellence in our community would take a public-private partnership.
1997AEF incorporates as an independent 501(C)3, Type I supporting organization of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc.
It entered the public eye in 1997 when retired AASD educator Mary Beth Nienhaus made a gift of $200,000 to renovate the former Goodland Field to Nienhaus Field. In a Post-Crescent article at that time, AEF’s board president, Jeff Riester, said the foundation was embarking on a “grand adventure” and “what we think will be a great gift to the community” beginning with Nienhaus Field.
2000Total assests top $1 million
Assets include more than $900,000 for an endowment fund to support grantmaking in perpetuity.
2006Launches the Brain to Five educational series
Raising awareness of the importance of early childhood education, AEF has reached well beyond just the middle and high schools. All Appleton Area School District students and educators have been the beneficiaries of the vision, time, skill and financial resources that came together to form the Appleton Education Foundation.
2013Receives Winagamie Golf Course as a gift
Winagamie operates as a separate for-profit business. A volunteer board of directors includes representatives from AASD + Fox Valley Techinical College. Offering learning opportunities for local students is a key goal.
2020Big Idea Grant Fund established
This new fund supports transformative, needle-moving work for Appleton students. The first two grants supported virtual learning needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What a grand adventure
the past years have been.

In the early years, board member contributions financed AEF’s grants while the members and other volunteers worked to raise an endowment that could sustain grant making in perpetuity. Since 1997, more than $5 million in grants has been awarded. Grants in the past fiscal year alone totaled more than $260,000.