Owner and Top Chickadee
The Early Bird Coffee Shop
Brooke Fitzgerald’s chipper personality exemplifies the expression, “The early bird gets the worm.”
Ms. Fitzgerald is most recognized as owner and “top chickadee” at The Early Bird coffee shop in downtown Cedar Rapids. Making mornings better since 2011, The Early Bird offers a collaborative atmosphere that encourages creative exchanges. That approach is exemplified by a tagline on the café’s website: You + Me = Cedar Rapids.
“As an entrepreneur, Brooke has done much more than start a business that gives back to the community – she has become the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids. She is constantly introducing people to each other, making connections and helping build ideas that grow the Corridor. She influences everyone who steps foot inside her doors,” Mayor Brad Hart wrote in his nomination letter.
Ms. Fitzgerald was raised with the conviction that “it’s important to keep your eyes, ears and heart open to helping others in need.” She consistently donates her enthusiasm to organizations and programs like Indian Creek Nature Center, Leadership for Five Seasons and Cedar Rapids’ Daybreak Rotary club. But perhaps her main superpower is knowing how to connect people to the right resources.
“Whenever a unique idea is needed, I turn to Brooke. She has the inspiration to help drive our staff forward to success. Ultimately, it is not just her ideas, but her willingness to get her hands dirty. Brooke is not scared to jump in where needed,” wrote John Myers, executive director of Indian Creek Nature Center.
Ms. Fitzgerald is an active member of the Mount Mercy Alumni Board. She is a proud alumnus of the university’s business program and encourages students to feel the same passion she has for the greater Cedar Rapids community.
“I want students to see how incredible our community is,” Ms. Fitzgerald explained. “If they don’t have the opportunity to leave The Hill at Mount Mercy and get connected, they may miss what this area has to offer.”
She recently played a role in a fundraising campaign to remodel the university’s penthouse, which is at one of the highest points in Linn County. Her driving efforts raised more than $50,000, exceeding the fundraising goal by 15 percent.
“Brooke is a well-known face and voice on The Hill. Her participation at various events inspires students to work hard at their studies, give back to the community and have fun as a Mustang. She is a great resource and example for these future professionals,” wrote Alumni Board President Peg Detweiler.
One of Ms. Fitzgerald’s perennial causes, the Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament, was born from a family connection. She had two grandparents and an aunt pass away from cancer, so the family created the tournament as a way to celebrate their lives. The event has been in play for around a decade and raises approximately $15,000 each year.
“There are many worthy groups fighting against cancer, but we donate our funds to organizations where $2,500 is a lot of money, like Red Shamrock Foundation, Gems of Hope and Children’s Cancer Connection,” Ms. Fitzgerald said.
In 2017, she also earned the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year title. Participants in the philanthropic competition have a 10-week window to see who can raise the most money for cancer research.
“When I received the nomination to run, the reasons to not do it simply weren’t good enough,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “Any one of us could face a cancer diagnosis one day. Cancer patients don’t have time or money, but I do and so that’s what I give.”
As a member of Daybreak Rotary, Ms. Fitzgerald helps keep a focus on serving youth. She enjoys supporting YouthPort, a joint partnership between Tanager Place, Boys & Girls Clubs of Cedar Rapids and the Young Parents Network, and the Eastern Iowa Duck Race, which benefits local organizations helping children and families.
Ms. Fitzgerald feels that any woman or man can use their influence for the greater good. She learned early on in her professional career that it is just as important to donate one’s time and talent as money.
“You don’t need a lot to make a difference. The people who make an impact aren’t only the ones who write the checks,” she said. “Use your time, talent and passion – it was given to you for a reason, so use it.”
– Jennie Morton