The Weis Ice Cream factory’s legacy in Toowoomba will continue in perpetuity thanks to a Community Fund established by Unilever Australia to provide ongoing grants to local entrepreneurs, charities and students.
The Weis Community Fund represents 25% of the proceeds from the sale of Unilever’s manufacturing facility in Toowoomba to local agricultural production company Country Synergy, and equates to more than $1million AUD.
The Fund was set up to have a longstanding impact in the Toowoomba community and leave a legacy that honours Weis’ 60+ year history and the Weis team’s passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, continuous improvement, and quality agricultural ingredients. Unilever invited applicants which were then reviewed and shortlisted with support from a community panel of local leaders.
Two-thirds of the Fund amount will be used to set up a sub-fund that sits under the Heritage Bank Charitable Foundation (HBCF) banner. This will support an annual grant funding program for local charitable projects that support innovation in agri-foods, sustainable farming practices and/or the next generation of local entrepreneurs. To ensure the grants principally flow to the Toowoomba district, the selected initiatives will be located in Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley, Southern Downs and/or Western Downs. HBCF will be calling for 2022 grant applications early next year.
"We are extremely honoured to be given this exciting opportunity that will ensure Weis' contribution to Toowoomba and surrounding areas continues,” Heritage Bank Charitable Foundation Paul Olds said.
“This partnership sees two iconic Toowoomba brands join forces to support local projects that will help grow a stronger region. We look forward to working with the recipient charities in making a significant impact.”
The University of Southern Queensland will receive the remaining third of the funds to establish an endowed Weis Scholarship Fund to provide undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships in areas including food science and technology, agricultural engineering and sustainability. The University will be matching the donation 2:1, meaning the scholarships will be available in perpetuity. Applications for scholarships will open in January and more information will be shared on the process for application in early 2022.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said she welcomed the generous gift to help ensure future generations of scientists in the fields of sustainability, food, and agricultural engineering.
“The University of Southern Queensland has a track record of research excellence with its Centre for Agricultural Engineering, as well as strong Engineering and Technology academic outcomes,” Professor Mackenzie said.
“With our more than 50 year history in Toowoomba, we understand the important impact Weis has had on our community. We are honoured to continue that legacy through this scholarship.”
“Through the Weis Community Fund, we want to acknowledge the exceptional role that Weis played in the Toowoomba community and ensure the contribution of the factory and its people is remembered and celebrated,” Weis Brand Manager, Annie Lucchitti said.
“We received a variety of applications from organisations operating in and around the Toowoomba region and were immensely inspired by the proposals and the clear breadth of talent that was showcased. We’re thrilled to be working with Heritage Bank Charitable Foundation and UniSQ to bring this to life.”
“Queensland has and will continue to play a very important part of the Weis brand. Beyond the Weis Community Fund, we will continue supporting businesses and farmers throughout the State by retaining local fruit sourcing so that we can continue providing our delicious Weis products with the same high-quality natural ingredients.”
The new owners of the site - Country Synergy - will be using the facility used for storage, distribution logistics and food processing. Country Synergy are seeking applications to sub-lease parts of the site.
Find out more about the Weis Scholarship.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie and Heritage Bank Charitable Foundation Chairman Bill Armagnacq