Changing her community through art, and an endowment

Marge Dickinson was a longtime Galva High School art teacher, former president of the Illinois Art Education Association and now, a retired teacher. She started the council to support and encourage artists in her small community and quickly found success thanks to the community’s support.

Marge Dickinson can’t help but feel humbled and excited when she walks by the Galva Arts Council storefront and sees local artwork hanging on the walls or kids taking an art class. “There’s art hanging, music, events, classes… and sometimes it even transforms into a coffee house on Saturday nights,” said Marge, who started the organization 30 years ago. “It has changed our community tremendously.”

Marge was a longtime Galva High School art teacher, former president of the Illinois Art Education Association and now, a retired teacher. She started the council to support and encourage artists in her small community, and quickly found success thanks to the community’s support. The council purchased a building, operated on fundraising, and Marge eventually saw the need for a permanent home for the council’s funds.

“It was operating beautifully, and I wanted to ensure that it could do that forever,” she said.

That’s when the Galesburg Community Foundation came into her life. President and CEO Joshua Gibb invited her to an informal presentation on funding for nonprofits. It was just what she needed to hear, and she set up the Galva Arts Council Endowment Fund soon after. “The Community Foundation is so efficient. You have questions and they know the answers. You may not know what you’re doing, but they do,” she said.

It was an easy decision to partner, Marge said, because of the Community Foundation’s reputation and the seamless process it offers. “When I started the endowment, I didn’t have a huge amount to give, but it’s grown through contributions,” she said. “Josh said that in 25 years, it could be double. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it. What’s wonderful is the endowment is growing all the time and providing money that the council doesn’t have to raise.”

There’s no doubt in her mind that the Galva Arts Council has made its mark on the community and Marge is happy to know it will be supported indefinitely. She’s a believer in the power of an endowment. “I had thought before of just giving where I wanted, when I wanted,”she said. “But this endowment has meant so much more because it is permanent and it doesn’t depend on me or anyone else now.”

The programs provided by the council have enhanced life in Marge’s hometown. The organization has twice been the recipient of a national grant from the Levitt Foundation that brings one music artist a week for 10 weeks to Galva for free concerts in the park. “Our population is only about 2800 and sometimes there are several thousand people in the park,” she said. “People are driving from farther and farther away to come to our community.”

The endowment has created a safe, reliable place for people to give, reminding community members of the value of their hometown. “Small towns are struggling but Galva has a lot going for it,” she said. “This gave everybody a whole lot of confidence.”

None of it would have happened as smoothly as it did without the Community Foundation, she said. “The arts council was my baby,” she said, laughing. “And I appreciate the Community Foundation for helping me with it. They took my hand and led me through the process. Not only was it easy, but also one of the better things I have done in my lifetime.”

One of the greatest joys of our work is partnering with people like Marge to help them give back to their community. Let’s talk about how we can help you spread your generosity in the community you love. If you have a dream for your hometown, we’re here to help you do that easily through your giving. Contact us at JGibb@YourGCF.org today, or give us a call at 309.344.8898.

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