Husband, wife and son

husband, wife and son



June 01, 2019 @ 12:00am

After two decades, Betty Lou Cruises still strong supporters of KWW/CF

Von Rutenberg happy to back organization

It was the mid-1990s when Jack von Rutenberg first found out about the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund. Tim Bruer, the executive director of the nonprofit organization, was looking to reach more in-need Wisconsinites and knew the von Rutenberg family were strong supporters of the community. Twenty-three years and more than 90,000 households helped later, von Rutenberg is thrilled to see where things have led.

The Betty Lou Cruise package, generously donated by Von Rutenberg Ventures, is a popular auction item at the annual Golf Outing.

“We thought it would be a great idea to help promote its cause,” von Rutenberg, the co-owner of Betty Lou Cruises, said. “We’ve been involved with Tim for a very long time now, and it’s encouraging and rewarding to see what (the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund) started as and what it does for so many people now.” Von Rutenberg and his iconic Madison-based charter cruise line were one of the KWW/CF’s earliest supporters. When Bruer came asking for support early on, there was little hesitation.

“There are people out there who are not so fortunate to have guaranteed heat and there’s a lot of them,” von Rutenberg said. “Certain winters like this last one are brutal, and there’s a very obvious need…there’s no doubt about the need for this service in the climate that we live in.”

Bruer credits much of the KWW/CF’s success to early supporters like the von Rutenberg family and Betty Lou Cruises.

“You could put everyone in a phone booth who thought the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool would ever get off the ground,” Bruer said. “It was the Von Rutenbergs and their number of ventures, whether it be restaurants or cruises who helped us along.

“They really have a tremendous reputation that brought on a great amount of credibility to our cause early on. Not only were they one of the first to make the KWW/CF an operational charity, but they have also been tremendously supportive individually in our development and growth over the decades.”

As the years have moved on, von Rutenberg said he’s been proud to see the KWW/CF’s evolution. He said it’s a tribute to the hard work that’s been put in by Bruer and his staff.

“It’s not unexpected at all, but it’s a bonus when it happens,” von Rutenberg said. “You want it to help more people and expand; that’s what’s happened with Tim and the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund. Tim’s enthusiasm for what he does is contagious; he lives and breathes it every day.

“It’s easy for (Tim) because he’s got an incredible enthusiasm for what’s going on with the cause…we’ve known Tim for so long and we believe in what he’s doing.”

Betty Lou Cruises has been a constant sponsor of the annual KWW/CF Golf Outing, which takes place this year August 6 at Geneva National Golf Club. Every year, Betty Lou Cruises donates a private charter cruise for auction at the event. It’s often one of the most sought-after items, Bruer said.

“It’s not uncommon to see a bidding war occur,” he said. “It’s one thing to cut a donation check -- which we really appreciate -- but it’s another to contribute a Betty Lou Cruise and staff to our cause.”

Bruer said that having the backing of such a highly regarded company and a family like the von Rutenbergs has had an enormous effect on the organization.

“The family is a perfect example of unsung heroes,” he said. “They bring credibility to the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund and have helped our ability to mobilize community support. We’ve continued to see a growing number of supporters coming forth because of their support.”

For von Rutenberg, raising awareness to the KWW/CF year after year is easy to do when you see the direct results for those less fortunate around Wisconsin.

“KWW sees continuous growth, and hopefully we play a small part in that in being an example to others,” von Rutenberg said.



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