Marv Welstead’s involvement in community causes began almost immediately after he returned in 1946 from military service during World War II.
Decades later, the 93-year-old Fremont native’s impact can be seen in the number of nonprofit organizations that have benefited from the Fremont Area Community Foundation he helped form, or in the cutting edge Alzheimer’s research he has participated in and helped raise funding for.
“Fremont has benefited from the leadership and vision of Marv Welstead for many decades,” Melissa Diers, executive director of the Community Foundation, wrote in nominating Welstead for a Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce Compass Leadership Award.
Welstead will receive the award during the Chamber’s 2014 Leadership Banquet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Fremont Golf Club. Other Compass winners are Cindy Slykhuis and student Bryant Carlson.
The Community Foundation last fall presented Welstead it first-ever Founders Award in recognition of 34 years of service to its board of directors.
“It was Marv and a handful of other civic leaders who, in 1980, recognized the need for a community foundation to preserve ‘The Good Life’ we have here in Fremont,” Diers wrote.
“Mike Wiseman called a group of us, probably eight or 10 of us at the time, and told us about Ethel Whalen leaving $53,000,” Welstead remembered.
Welstead studied how a similar foundations worked in Lincoln, and helped form an organization at the Fremont National Bank trust department.
He first served as president of the foundation in 1984.
The organization grew in 1989 to about $200,000 in assets. Welstead was vice president at that time and Lloyd Brooks was president.
“Lloyd and I said we were going to make this thing grow, so we went through the telephone book, a couple hundred names, and asked them for $50 apiece,” he said. “Then we sat down and called (Richard) Wikert and a group of them together. ... We primed Wikert, and when we got to the meeting Wikert said, ‘OK, we’re going to make this thing go. I’ll give $1,000 a year for 10 years.’ We went around the room and asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ ... From that particular meeting we got $120,000 in commitments from our directors.
“I was president again in 1990 and served for nine years,” he said. “When I went in as president, I had retired, so I made arrangements with the Chamber of Commerce for a little anteroom about the size of a closet, and I decided I’m retired and I’m going to spend full-time on this thing. We opened the office three days a week."
He started making cold calls and launched other fundraising efforts, like the Legacy Foundation, and by 1999 the foundation had grown to $2 million.
Today the foundation has grown to more than $16 million in assets, and has granted more than $15 million to organizations and projects in the Fremont area.
Retired as chairman of the Equitable Federal Savings Bank board, Welstead currently is honorary chairman of the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Committee.
He formerly served as president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1949 and president of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce in 1967, 10th district vice chairman of Federal Home Loan Bank, a trustee at Midland Lutheran College from 1975-1985, president of the Nebraska Commerce and Industry (now the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce), and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Small Business Administration advisory council from 1980 to 1984.
“Marv’s lifelong efforts to improve and preserve the quality of life in our community are tireless, inspirational and unsurpassed,” Diers wrote.
“I guess I felt it’s my duty to help when I saw a need,” Welstead said. “The town’s been good to me and it’s been good to my family.”
“I feel very humble about (the award), frankly. There are a lot of other people who have done a lot more for Fremont than I have, but I have tried to work and assist where I can,” he said.