"This is your typical immigrant story..."
On November 15, Bob and Blenda Ontiveros were recognized by the Quad Cities chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) as the 2017 Quad Cities Outstanding Philanthropists. The couple, who hold a non-endowed donor advised fund at the Quad Cities Community Foundation, were recognized as part of AFP’s National Philanthropy Day celebration.
Ask Bob about generosity, and he’ll start by telling you that he grew up poor. And he did. “But I never felt poor,” he will also be quick to tell you. “My family was a family of immigrants. My grandfather immigrated to Davenport from Mexico, and I grew up in a tiny two-bedroom house in Moline.”
It is only after Bob tells you about the size of that first house that he will tell you that he was one of 12 kids. “My story is your typical immigrant story, I have an immigrant work ethic. And I think you know what I mean by that. As a child, if you wanted new shoes, you had to find the money. You had to work hard for it.”
He continued, “You should have seen me as a kid walking down the block, asking people if I could cut their grass or clean their garage. I saw hard work in my parents. I saw it in my grandparents.”
You could say he was an entrepreneur-in-the-making before the age of 10. But hard work is not the only thing he learned from his family in his youth. Despite having little, “my mother not only raised all the kids in the family, but she fed most of the neighborhood. If a child needed a meal, you were welcome in our home.”
That is a huge part of the Ontiveros family legacy, one that will live on forever at the Community Foundation thanks to the new fund established by Bob and his wife Blenda. Established this spring at the Community Foundation, Bob and Blenda’s fund will help improve the lives of disadvantaged children and their families through academic scholarships, access to career training, and early childhood learning. It will also support Latino entrepreneurship development, including scholarships for individuals of Latino background to participate in entrepreneurship and business development programs.
The fund at the Community Foundation is in addition to recent gifts the couple have made to Western Illinois University and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, already making a significant impact in the Quad Cities. To Bob, the way out of poverty is education, whether through learning a trade or pursuing a degree in higher education and creating opportunities.
“Everyone wins when people get an opportunity to show what they can do,” he said.
“The fund that Bob and Blenda have entrusted to the Quad Cities Community Foundation means that their legacy—and the inspirational story of their family—will continue to live on in the incredibly important and powerful work people here in the Quad Cities are engaged in,” said Sherry Ristau, President and CEO of the Community Foundation. “To see the passion and commitment they have for our community, is to see generosity in its most authentic form—in a love for this region, in a love of entrepreneurship, and in a love of humankind.”