Portraits in Philanthropy: Carol Bush

Portraits in Philanthropy: Carol Bush

When Carol Bush’s name appears on an invitation to a fund raising event, two things are certain: the event is for a good cause, and it will be fun!

As a child growing up in Milwaukee, Carol saw community involvement and giving as part of her family’s life. When someone needed help, help was given. And fun and laughter always accompanied the giving.

Carol took her enthusiastic attitude with her to Beloit College where she quickly became involved in campus activities. She brought it to her marriage to Bob Bush in 1950, and with his strong support, has made a difference in the lives of many, many Green Bay children and families.

Carol credits Service League of Green Bay with making her aware of the community’s needs. Working at the League’s annual rummage sale, she saw mothers with very little money come to purchase clothing for their children; she met other women who became lifelong friends and colleagues; she pitched in to clean the first Green Bay Day Nursery (now Encompass Early Education and Care, Inc.) center near her Jackson Street home and worked with the children there. And she discovered an organization whose purpose became her passion,

The “Big Event for Little Kids,” begun by Carol in 1989 as a fund raiser for Encompass, provides kids and their parents a day to learn and have fun together, and has raised more than $1,000,000. The event, now headed by Carol’s daughter Tracy Bush Arndt, brings up to 4,000 parents, children and volunteers and sponsors each year to the Shopko Hall, where children can climb on a tow truck or a backhoe, hold a snake, see magic tricks and be entertained by hourly stage shows. Since 1989, 92,000 children and parents have attended the event.

Carol’s contagious enthusiasm encourages others in the community and inspires them to participate. It is difficult to say no to a person like Carol, who gives so freely herself.

“A lot of people have a lot to give besides money,” Carol remarks. Like most young couples starting out, the Bushes did not have the funds to make large monetary donations. They could give their time, though, and they did.

Over the years, Carol took leadership roles in many organizations. Her fertile imagination and dedication spawned successful fund-raising events for many of these organizations. For others, she chaired or co-chaired capital fund campaigns. Carol founded the Heritage Hill Cotton Club, which sponsors events for members who make an annual contribution to the Park. Carol’s idea has raised thousands of dollars for the Cotton Club. Service League of Green Bay held an annual Parade of Homes for many years to fund the League’s charitable grants. That was Carol’s idea, too. Oktoberfest, another event benefiting Encompass Early Education and Care, grew out of Carol’s belief that the Big Kids who do so much for Little Kids should have fun as well.

Organizations including the Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College and its endowment, the Green Bay Botanical Garden, Curative Workshop, the UW Green Bay Founders Association and the Weidner Center for Performing Arts have all enlisted Carol’s participation as an active board member. Union Congregational Church and its many programs have long been at the top of Carol’s commitments. She was also a member of the Unity Hospice Development Council, and a Founder and Chair of the Hospice board.

Other hats Carol has donned over the years include Girl Scout Troop Leader, Great Books Discussion leader, the Green Bay Symphony Board and the YMCA. Each organization welcomed her as an active board member. If Carol didn’t believe she had something to contribute to the organization, she did not accept the position. And often, she completed her service with a term or two as President.

This seemingly endless energy enabled Carol to raise thousands and thousands of dollars to support these organizations. Her husband Bob’s successful leadership of Schreiber Foods eventually allowed the couple to make very generous gifts to the organizations whose efforts they have supported with their time and talent.

“I am fortunate to be able to contribute,” Carol says. “I’ve had fun along the way.” To young women who Carol hopes will step in to see that these community needs are met in the future, Carol offers this advice: “Use your connections, your friends in the community, to understand where the needs are greatest, and devote your efforts to causes that engage your intense interest. When you sincerely care about a project, you will find inspiration and success.”

In Carol Bush’s vocabulary, “philanthropy” is an active verb.