First grants awarded under Skokie Community Fund

By: Mike Isaacs
Published: November 20, 2014

The new Skokie Community Fund awarded its first grants totaling $25,000 during a celebration Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the Skokie Public Library.

Skokie Community Fund Executive Director Kristin Winter called the night “a historic occasion,” which will lead to many other future celebrations with the help of a growing endowment.

“Tonight, the Skokie Community Fund is focussing on collaboration,” Winter said. “The Fund is awarding its very first grants to organizations that have applied together to create programs that serve Skokie residents and enhance our community.”

For the first three years, the Community Fund provided a matching grant of sorts to the village’s annual holiday giving program.

But otherwise, its main mission has been getting the word out, building its endowment and aiming toward an annual grant cycle.

That still appears to be the goal.

“At its early point in its existence, the endowment of the Skokie Community Fund is not as yet sufficient to support the awarding of tonight’s grants,” Winter said. “However, some Skokie residents wanted the fund to start addressing community needs even before the endowment could support its own grant cycle.”

The residents funded the first grants “to demonstrate the benefit that the Community Fund can provide.”

A longtime Skokie resident, Winter was approached by an anonymous founder to run the fund, which was established in 2010 by a small group of residents. Their goal is to “foster a supportive, engaged, and dynamic community in Skokie through meaningful giving, collaboration, and community programming.”

The fund seeks out and partners with donors and community builders who share a vision in building a community resource that will benefit Skokie now and 100 years from now, according to the fund website.

The Fund’s savings account is technically called an endowment. The bigger the endowment, the more interest is generated of which a percentage returns to Skokie.

Funds are provided through grants only to nonprofit organizations that give back to the community.

The Skokie Community Fund’s Steering Committee includes Carol Dammrich, Maria Franks, Chairman Gene Griffin, Kevin Mott and Jim Szczepaniak.

In getting the Skokie Community Fund off the ground, organizers collaborated with the Evanston Community Foundation, which immediately supported the idea. The Evanston Community Foundation has been in existence for 28 years.

“I’m a little bit biased in all of this,” said Evanston Community Foundation CEO and President Sara Schastok. “I think community foundations are a really wonderful way to go.”

Schastok noted some of the important ways in which Evanston Community Foundation grants have helped people who need them the most including recently providing critical school supplies for children.

She said once the endowment kicks in in Skokie, the Skokie Community Fund will be able to take on larger-scale initiatives.

“There’s a lot of common cause,” she said of Skokie and Evanston. “Our two communities are much more similar than they are different. It’s time to not let high school sports get in the way of what we have in common. We’re grownups.”

Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen said the Community Fund’s first grant winners read like “a who’s who of the very best in our spirit in the Village of Skokie.”

“Your spirit lifts the village to new heights every year, and we’re grateful because you are the ones who take care of those with the very least among us,” he said.

The five organizations awarded with $5,000 grants included the following.

• CJE Senior Life with the support of the Skokie Public Library: Funds will be used for CJE Senior Life’s Consumer Assistance Benefits Counseling Program, which assists older adults in determining optimal health insurance plans and accessing governing benefits.

• Youth Organization Umbrella, Inc. (Y.O.U.) with the support of Skokie-Morton Grove School District 69: Funds will be used to help support Y.O.U., which provides training in individual leadership, team building and community outreach and action.

• National Able Network with support of Childcare Network of Evanston: Funds will be used for childcare services to low-income clients, facilitating their participation in job-readiness training.

• The Talking Farm with support of Oakton Community College: Funds will be used to start a paid internship program during the summer months that promotes urban agriculture through farm-to-table education.

• Metropolitan Family Services with support of the Village of Skokie: Funds will be used to support the needs of youth and their families who are referred by the Youth Outreach Program and the Youth Ordinance Court.

For more information about the fund or making donations, access www.skokiecommunityfund.org.

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