The Four Mounds Foundation was formed in 1987, following Elizabeth Burden’s donation of the property to the city of Dubuque in 1982 for educational and recreational purposes. During that five year time period, many of the buildings on the site had fallen into disrepair. Plans were in place to raze the buildings, because of the nationwide economic recession and lack of funding to complete necessary repairs. Thus, the Four Mounds Foundation was formed to carry out Elizabeth Burden’s wishes. The founders of the foundation were creative, and addressed workforce development and resilience-building needs for individuals and the wider community through the challenging work of restoration. Beginning in 1995, the foundation served students at risk through the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) program. Students in the YES program worked with job coaches to restore 17 buildings on the property. The restoration took several years, and the buildings and grounds have now been restored to their original state. Today, the grounds serve as a city park, an inn and conference center, and a hub for vocational training programs for youth and adults, as well as a summer day camp for community youth, many of whom live in poverty.
In 2003, the YES program evolved into the Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training (HEART) program, a public/private partnership with Four Mounds, Dubuque Community Schools, the City of Dubuque, and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), along with multiple support partners who assist the partnership’s programming.
The need for workforce development and skill development for adults with barriers to employment prompted expansion of the HEART programming. The HEART Building Dubuque program, modeled after the successful HEART Building Futures program, began in the fall of 2019.