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Views: Doing our part to make Grundy County better

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

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A week ago, Caroline Portlock of the Grundy County Chamber and I traveled to Peoria for a conference of communities where business, education and community foundations are partnering in a “collective impact” model to better help students identify careers and complete the education that will get them there.

Parts of it were dry, think “data collection,” but most of it was worthwhile, networking is always good, and there were even a few “A-ha!” moments that we are bringing back to our Business Education Council that the chamber convenes.

But, again, Grundy County was the smallest and most rural community there. It’s not a complaint – it’s an observation. And it’s one that the nonprofits of Grundy County have noted for quite some time.

Grundy County has our share of “data” that makes us attractive to state and federal funders. But those outside grants have been decreasing in quantity since I started here 11 years ago. We simply don’t have the urban centers as our colleagues – think Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Champaign and the Quad Cities. We might have portions of our county qualified as “poor” or “in need,” but the urgency of need isn’t there when you compare us to those other urban areas.

Therefore, Grundy County has to take care of its own. But it takes a team and one way we play our part is by convening, listening and acting. And I learned at the Peoria conference, that’s a “collective impact” model.

There are a number of networks where we convene or co-convene stakeholders to discuss issues, align resources, identify gaps and take action toward solving problems. Our role is to watch for gaps where we can bring philanthropy to the table. These networks are:

• Grundy Partnership for Children – a network of professionals who serve families with children. The Back-to-School Fair came out of this group and last year they made a big push to educate parents of infants and toddlers about “Ages and Stages,” showing parents how to keep watch on their child’s development and when to ask for assistance.

• Business Education Council – a group chaired by the chamber and made up of public school, higher education, vocational training, human resources and business and industry. The goal is collaboration among the stakeholders so that we are all better serving the students, workers and the companies who employ them.

• Grundy County Area Planners – is comprised of elected and appointed planning officials, other taxing bodies and professional planners. Co-hosted by the Community Foundation and the Grundy Economic Development Council, the goal is to bring training, education and resources to planning officials so that the land use decisions they make are based on best practices.

• Behavioral Health Alliance – professionals who work in the behavioral/mental health field. Mental health in all of its forms is a growing issue in our nation and this alliance collaborates to make sure that Grundy County’s residents are well served.

• Grundy County Interagency Council – this council is comprised of the government and nonprofit organizations who serve Grundy, and covering all topics and segments of our society including youth, seniors, disabled, low income, veterans, nursing homes, education, legal services, workforce development and mental health.

That’s the path we’ve chosen – how we’ve chosen to use our assets to make a difference and care for our own.

Next question: Can we help you use your assets to make Grundy County stronger and to assure that we continue to take care of our own?

The Community Foundation of Grundy County is not out to dictate to others how to use their wealth and where to steer their philanthropy. But we do offer donor-designed funds that help you achieve your charitable goals. By stewarding donor-designed funds, we put the power of philanthropy into the hands of Grundy County’s residents and companies who want to be directly involved in how their donation is used.

Types of funds that we hold and manage are donor-advised, field of interest, donor-designated, scholarship and agency endowments.

If you have assets (not income) that you want to convert to a charitable gift to address the issues and causes that you care about, we invite you to learn more about these donor-designed funds. We think you’ll be impressed with how personal these funds can be – they truly are meant to be customized by you to tackle the issues you care about.

You can learn more by visiting our website, calling or stopping by our office. All conversations are confidential and funds can be anonymous.

The “collective impact” model is alive and well in Grundy County, but most progress hinges on funding. You can be the philanthropic funder who makes sure that your favorite cause doesn’t falter in Grundy County.

To contact the Community Foundation of Grundy County, visit cfgrundycounty.com, call 815-941-0852 or stop into the office at 102 Liberty St. in Morris.

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