The village of Williamsfield is home to a barn unlike any other in Knox County. Standing proud in Doubet-Benjamin Park, the bright red two-story structure is actually a playground for kids.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this barn special. Erected by dozens of volunteers of all ages and financed by a $150,000 joint fundraising effort among several community organizations, the Playground Barn-Raising Project is a testament to the power of community collaboration and vision.
The project’s success suggested the potential for the community to come together in even bigger ways—potential that is now being realized through the establishment of the Williamsfield Community Fund at the Galesburg Community Foundation. As an endowed fund, it represents an opportunity for Williamsfield to support critical community needs far into the future.
“When we were raising funds for the playground, how nice would it have been if 30 or 40 years ago the community leaders had established a fund like this to draw on?” said Dustin Courson of the Williamsfield Parks Association.
For Lora Kutkat, who is joining Courson on the fund’s steering committee, long-term planning is especially important for small towns like Williamsfield, which has a population of roughly 550. “The village operates mainly on taxes, and those may not cover the capital and infrastructure improvements we know will have to happen in 20 or 40 years,” she said. “With this fund, we’re setting Williamsfield up for long-term viability.”
“It’s nice to make a donation and see immediate impact, but you have to look ahead,” added Courson. “In the early years, we’ll have a few thousand dollars available for grantmaking, but imagine decades down the road having potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. For a community of our size, that will have a huge impact.”
Courson and Kutkat envision the fund being a key resource to public entities like the village library, school, and fire department, as well as nonprofits like the historical society, the food pantry, and, of course, the parks association. “But we’re just thinking through the possibilities,” said Kutkat. “We’re hoping to open the door so that there is a way to fund the projects that will enhance the community.”
To Williamsfield and other towns that open Community Funds, the Community Foundation offers financial resources: not only $5,000 to seed the fund but also a match for the first $25,000 raised. “To be able, essentially, to double the fund like that—it gives us a lot of power for planning,” said Kutkat.
The Community Foundation is the right home for the fund, according to Courson, who saw the benefit of working with it on the playground project. “The assistance they gave us probably cut six months to a year off of our timeline,” he said. “They offer a wealth of resources, and they’re always there to help with whatever we need.”
To find out how to donate to the Williamsfield Community Fund—or how to start a fund for your community—give us a call at 309.344.8898. Or, donate online here.