Deep within the implications of “community” is an intertwined network of actions we all take to sustain, enhance, and grow that relationship which connects us. Intentional acts of volunteerism, charity, service, and generosity toward each other affirm the foundation of the community and leave it stronger for the generations to come.
This positive sense of obligation and duty to our home is what motivated Mary Bailey Haywood, a longtime resident, teacher, and volunteer in Galesburg, and her late husband, Dr. Bruce Haywood, the former president of Monmouth College and a founding board member of Galesburg Community Foundation, to lead lives of service to the community. To ensure that they are able to share back part of the blessings they feel they received in life, Mary and Bruce established an endowed fund at the Community Foundation that will transform the face of Galesburg and spark local vitality well into the future.
Mary underscored that acts of service are what we can do as people who share a stake in the community. “Without community, what would we have?” she asked. “It’s the pillar of our culture. I think it’s extremely important that people are involved. The more involved they feel, the more active they are, and the happier they are.” Mary affirmed that community truly is more than just the people and places around us, but the act of building and sustaining the bonds that connect people and places, too: “It’s a good feeling to be part of something more than just yourself and your immediate family–that’s certainly the core, but it’s nice to feel a part of the community as a whole. I think that we have a pretty strong sense of that in Galesburg.”
Giving people in the community opportunity lies at the heart of Mary and Bruce’s fund at the Galesburg Community Foundation. Called the Bruce and Mary Bailey Haywood Fund for Community Enhancement, the fund is intended to “eliminate eyesores, decrepit property beyond repair, or to acquire neglected buildings to be renovated to a useful purpose.” Mary explained that the spirit of the fund is to be a progressive force for Galesburg. “It just seemed like a natural thing to become involved to promote Galesburg as a good place to live. I wanted to keep it vibrant.”
Joshua Gibb, president and CEO of Galesburg Community Foundation, added that “one of the things Bruce talked about quite a little bit was when you look around the Galesburg community, and all the things we have, and the cost of living, how easy it could be for someone to move or retire here and live really well. The purpose of Bruce and Mary’s fund is really to find those buildings that need some incentive, some catalyst, and to invest the dollars needed to bring them up to repair.”
Recalling the conversations he had with Bruce in the early days of the Community Foundation, Gibb details how Bruce had often talked about the need for an effort to revitalize the town, and how, even in years since he had been on the board, Bruce “kept thinking about it, and came to a place in his own life where he said, ‘I wanted to make this type of gift, and I want to use my estate to do it.’ It was inspiring and humbling to think here’s an amazing individual who believed in himself, the community, and the Community Foundation as the vehicle through which to double down on Galesburg.” Gibb concluded that “for opportunities that exist in small rural communities in this region, this fund is huge.”
Bruce and Mary’s fund is well-positioned to become a key force in the continued growth and vitality of the Galesburg Community.
Whether it’s through an endowment fund, a life of dedicated volunteerism, or even a single act of service of year, Mary stressed that any effort to uplift and improve our community is valuable. “There’s lots of need and opportunity for helping others, and helping others isn’t always as easy as it seems…but it’s certainly worthwhile.”
She ended on a note of hope and encouragement for anyone wanting to engage the community, especially those who think it impossible or too difficult: “Think about what your interests are. You are always more effective if you’re volunteering in a field that you’re interested in, that you have heart for, that you really care about. Find something that really speaks to you and then go into it with the idea that not only are you going to help someone else, but you’re going to help yourself because it’s going to make you a better and more fulfilled person.”