Growing anything takes work and time. And a Community Fund is no exception. Just ask Carol Shaw, Roseville Community Fund advisory board member. “I’m going to be honest with you,” she says. “It’s taken three years, but now people are really starting to get excited about what we are doing here.”
Last year, a project funded by the Roseville Community Fund installed planters in downtown Roseville. Like those flowers, now that the Community Fund has bloomed, Shaw says, “it has brought a lot of joy and beauty to our community, and it’s only going to continue to grow.”
In 2015, Knoxville residents worked with Galesburg Community Foundation to establish a local Community Fund. Since then, four more funds—in Alexis, Monmouth, Roseville, and Williamsfield—have been organized by local communities. Each is overseen by an advisory board made up of community residents.
“As an advisory board, our goals are to grow the fund and to make sure the money is going to local organizations making a difference,” says Toby Myers, mayor of Knoxville and Knoxville Community Fund advisory board member. “Our work is supported by Galesburg Community Foundation and the people in this town, and I’m happy to say it’s paying off.”
Local Community Funds are endowed resources that will support the community for generations. Now, Myers and his fellow board members want to make sure more people know about what the funds are doing and how to contribute.
Donations remain in the community and go toward the projects that matter most to residents. “We try to have different perspectives on the board,” says Alexis Community Fund advisory board member John Elder. “It’s important to hear from different age groups, business owners, and people with different interests. We want the fund to serve everyone in Alexis.”
It’s working. Though it was established just two years ago, the Alexis fund is already drawing attention. “I see it as a way to maintain what we love about our hometown,” says Elder. “We have received donations from people who have moved away, we’ve received gifts as memorials, and we see gifts from people who live here now—everyone cares about the town and wants to see it thrive.”
Galesburg Community Foundation works with each local advisory board to establish the fund and offers support as needed to develop projects in each community. “The connection with the Galesburg Community Foundation is invaluable,” says Shaw. “They help us with marketing, let us know about new opportunities, and are always ready to answer questions. At the end of the day, they are there to support what we think is best for our community.”
Shaw says that support has translated into exciting developments for the Roseville community. “We’ve been able to make grants to the local food pantry and provide families with food around the holidays. We made a grant to upgrade restrooms in the Community Center to make them more accessible, and we upgraded the sound system there as well.”
This summer, the Monmouth Community Fund reached their fundraising goal to endow the fund and awarded community grants to six local nonprofits. One of those nonprofits was the Buchanan Center for the Arts for their Art Presenter Program for local grade schools. “These grants help make Monmouth a better place to live, to raise our families, and to keep people coming back here,” said Trevor Davies, Community Fund Advisory Committee Chair. “We’ve reached our first milestone, but we’re not going to stop there. We’re going to keep educating the community and letting everyone know about this fund and the great work that we’re doing with it.”
In Williamsfield, a Community Fund grant to complete a disc golf course is not only popular with residents but is bringing visitors to the community. “We’ve had clubs from Galesburg and Kewanee come use our course, which brings revenue to our other businesses,” says Williamsfield Mayor Robert Johnson. “It’s definitely been money well spent.”
Community Funds rely on gifts of all sizes, and they fund projects big and small. “We’ve made several grants to the schools here, some for classrooms and one to the music department,” says Elder. “They’re not always huge amounts, but in a small town, they can make a big difference. And the fund is growing every year, so we’ll be able to do more and more.”
Myers says there was some skepticism when the fund was launched. “I think people weren’t sure how this would work, where the money would come from, or where it would go. But now that we’re a few years in, people are seeing the potential of this fund—it’s a real benefit for Knoxville, and it’s only going to continue to grow.”
Photo: Grade school students in Monmouth display their artwork created through the Buchanan Center for the Arts Art Presenter Program, supported by the Monmouth Community Fund.