Locking Under Our Rocks

It is always difficult to describe what a community foundation does.  Over the years I have used several analogies to describe the activities of the Morris Community Foundation.  I have said that the Foundation should be the “burr under the saddle of the community” working on issues that no one else will tackle.  Often the Foundation acts like someone pulling down the strings of a dozen balloons on the ceiling.  We “pull down the balloons,” bundling together government, not-for-profits, and private individuals’ resources to tackle community issues.


Recently I discovered another function of the Morris Community Foundation.  We often “look under rocks” – or perhaps I should say we turn over rocks to see what is underneath.  The best example is what has happened this year regarding the issue of transportation in Grundy County.


It started when a donor wanted to give scholarships to Joliet Junior College in Morris for their students who are working single mothers who are seeking additional education in order to help them break out of their minimum wage jobs.  In talking to JJC, we discovered that the problem was not funding for education but lack of transportation to get to both the Grundy County JJC classes in Morris and the main JJC campus in Joliet.  As a result, the Foundation gave a one-year grant to JJC to fund customized transportation services for their Grundy clients so they can access classes, training, job interviews, and jobs.


We turned over the rock looking at the narrow issue of additional support for single mothers and instead found the broader issue of the need for additional public transportation to help a wide variety of Grundy County residents to access jobs, education, healthcare, and basic errands such as groceries and banking.


Now we “pull down the balloons” by convening meetings around this issue in order to develop solutions – we’ve held three transportation meetings already since summer.  We have invited everyone from school bus companies to all the not-for-profit organizations to meet with the experts from Western Illinois University’s “Rural Transit Assistance Center” to discuss the problems.  We are fortunate that Morris Hospital, the County of Grundy, the City of Morris, and the Veterans Assistance Commission all offer some form of transportation, but they all also have limits.  The Foundation is also funding a transportation survey to better understand the problems.


Yes, we have “turned over a rock” and discovered a real problem.  Yes, we have “pulled down the balloons” – getting many organizations together to work on the problem.  And yes, our intent is to be the “burr under the saddle” of the community until progress is made on this important issue.