Leaders are individuals who inspire passion and motivation in others. Three leaders in Knoxville—Lance Humphreys, Charlie Knapp, and Jim Wenstrom—inspired their community to establish a legacy that will benefit their hometown forever.
The three have reached their term limits as the last of the founding advisory board of the Knoxville Community Fund, which was established by the Galesburg Community Foundation in 2015. But while they have stepped down from the board, Humphreys, Knapp, and Wenstrom look back with pride at the support they and fellow board members Peg Bivens, Tom England, Gina Martin, and Rick Yemm received from the Knoxville community as they were establishing the fund.
“I’m certainly not a fundraiser, but I knew what a foundation could do,” said Humphreys, a local farmer who was also an original member of Galesburg Community Foundation’s Board of Directors. “I talked to several people in Knoxville I thought would understand how this could work. Thankfully, three or four of those people just jumped right on.”
To encourage members of the community to donate to the fund, which was the first of its kind in the region, Galesburg Community Foundation offered to match the first $25,000 raised.
“I wasn’t sure if we could meet the goal, but low and behold, we did,” said Wenstrom, retired Knoxville school superintendent. “It was a real indicator of people’s loyalty to the community. When we explained the potential of the fund, people listened.”
The decision was made to honor those who contributed $500 or more to establish the fund. There are 72 names on a plaque inside the new city hall to recognize those individuals. “I had several give $2,500 instead of the $500 I asked for,” said Charlie Knapp, retired music educator.
“Members of the community respect Lance, Jim, and Charlie,” said current Knoxville Community Fund Advisory Board chair Christopher Hroziencik. “They really inspired people’s imaginations, to think about what this could be, not only now, but 10 or 20 years from now.”
As an endowed fund, the initial funds raised to establish the Knoxville Community Fund were invested by the Galesburg Community Foundation. In less than eight years, those funds and additional donations have grown the fund to nearly half a million dollars. The returns from that investment are being used to administer grants in the community. “Sometimes, nonprofits don’t have the resources to fulfill their missions,” said Wenstrom. “We help them do that to benefit everyone.”
Since the fund was established, more than 60 grants totaling almost $80,000 have been awarded to Knoxville’s nonprofits, schools, churches, and government agencies. From new equipment for the Knoxville Police Department to updated trash receptacles on Main Street, a community food pantry freezer, and upgraded classroom technology, the fund ensures the community has robust resources to address opportunities and challenges today and in the future.
Humphreys, Knapp, and Wenstrom are excited about what the fund has become, and what it can be. “It’s an active group,” Wenstrom says of current advisory members Tim Engebretson, David Wilt, Brett Wright, Mandy Balser, Toby Myers, Mary Austin, and Hroziencik. “They are having a significant impact today that will make a difference in the Knoxville community well into the future.”
Humphreys agrees. “We have people with the foresight to see how these funds can benefit the community for the long term, who look at the funds that are available, visualize what the community can be, and then invest in the future of Knoxville. So if you’re proud of your community, this is certainly the way that you can benefit it. This is forever.”
Learn more about the Knoxville Community Fund.