After being in the community for twenty years, Community Foundation staff and board members are still often asked, “what exactly does the Community Foundation do?” A good answer, “what don’t we do?” The Community Foundation of Grundy County came into existence in 1999 and since then CFGC has been involved with many diverse projects and programs.
CFGC has been and continues to be landowners. Early on CFGC acquired the old Com-Ed property on Illinois Ave with the understanding that it would be renovated into a city park. This land was later granted to the City of Morris. We acquired, renovated, and sold the Rock Island railroad station that currently houses the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce. In 2019 we accepted two properties: the Peg Davis Farm in Seneca and an office building in downtown Gardner. The Davis Farm will remain a working farm whose income will go to the Peg Davis Civic Fund to be used to support activities in Seneca. The office building has been named South Grundy Resource Center and will be available to nonprofits so they can have office hours in the south end of the county.
CFGC has been able to assist in bringing new services and programs into Grundy County. In 2003 CFGC was able to provide Easter Seals with funding to begin the Jump Start Program in Grundy County. Jump Start is an in-home parent mentoring program that uses the parent as teachers model. Over the course of three years, CFGC provided grant funding to the Jump Start Program until it was able to sustain itself. Today, Jump Start has grown to include three parent educators in Grundy County and is a vital part of the early intervention framework in Grundy.
Transportation is typically mentioned as a barrier to employment, recreation, and even education in Grundy County. In 2007, CFGC convened the first public transit meeting. After years of stakeholders meeting and planning, the group was successful in securing additional funding to expand the Grundy County Transit System.
The Community Foundation, United Way, We Care, and Operation St. Nick collaborated with local service providers to host a Back to School Fair for several years. The fair provided low income families with a one stop shop for their back to school needs. Families were able to obtain immunizations, physicals, dental exams, school supplies, and access to local resources for free! In 2014, after 4 years, the decision was made to end the fair due to a decline in attendance. While the one stop shop no longer exists, families still have access to most of the services listed above at designated organizations.
In 2013 a pilot program was launched with the Grundy County Health Department called Resource Connections, which was a “wrap-around” case management program. While this program did not make it out of the pilot phase, it did lead to a deeper conversation amongst several organizations regarding the need for more case management services in the county. Today, We Care of Grundy County is in their fourth year of carrying out the Salvation Army’s Pathways of Hope Program that is providing case management services to clients.
Through our relationship with the Behavioral Health Alliance, we started having talks about childhood trauma. These talks led to two workshops around childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Because of the popularity of the workshops, CFGC provided grants through the Gerald D. Abel Fund to target childhood trauma in the county. While several organizations took this opportunity to train staff, We Care, Crossroads Counseling, and Jump Start joined together to provide a 5-week long parenting program which discussing ACEs and the resiliency factors to overcome them.
Each of the above mentioned programs involved partnerships with other organizations and started with a simple idea that grew into something bigger. CFGC is always open to conversations on new programs or services needed to fill gaps in Grundy County, you never know what idea will lead to the next successful program.