Short History Part II

In 2003, the Foundation was selected by the Grand Victoria Foundation in Chicago to partner in a program called “Communityworks.”  After a year of study, Grand Victoria concluded that community foundations have the potential to make a greater impact on the quality of life across Illinois than any other community organizations.


Eighteen community foundations were selected to participate and focus on three areas of concern across Illinois: (1) childcare and early childhood education, (2) workforce development, and (3) land use and protection.  Staff spent over a year assembling an Advisory Committee, studying the issues, hosting public meetings, and developing a plan of action called “Connecting the Visions: An Impact Plan for Communityworks.”  It was debuted at a public forum in September 2006 and remains a guiding plan for the Foundation.


The Morris Community Foundation board wrestled with participation because of the fear of being micro-managed by Grand Victoria and having too many hoops to jump through.   Some concerns were justified, but, frankly, in hindsight we appreciate that the requirements caused our foundation to become more professional through the adoption and implementation of “best practices” in governance and financial management.  The first requirements were to hire a full-time executive director and rent our first office.  In late 2008, part-time staff positions were added in program development and financial management and we moved our office to a first-floor location for better visibility.



Program Focus

Unlike other non-profit organizations, the Community Foundation of Grundy County does not provide direct service such as feeding the hungry or disaster relief, but instead we identify community issues and attempt to mitigate them by convening groups with similar interests and missions, making grants to non-profits, and running programs in-house that other non-profits are not ready to take on.  Examples of our convening, grantmaking, and internal programs include:

  • Convening – The first Childcare Summit was held in 2003 which led to a multi-year grant to Jump Start, a parents-as-teachers model that was offered in Will County but not in Grundy County due to lack of state funding. Dozens of at-risk families with young children are served through the program annually and it has now been adopted as a program of Easter Seals.  Over the last four years the Foundation has granted nearly $200,000 for this early childhood program.
  • Grantmaking – The majority of our grants through our grant application process are for less than $2,000 each but make an impact because we have a fast turn-around for approval and are for items that would otherwise take not-for-profit months of fundraising to achieve. Grants have funded the replacement of phones and computers due to lightning strikes, new & improved software, staff training & conferences, and seed money to try new programs such as the YMCA summer camp.
  • Internal Programs – While networking with fellow non-profits, the Foundation often envisions an idea to improve the quality of life in Grundy County, but no not-for-profits or government organizations are poised to take it on, so the Foundation launches and manages them:
    • 941-HELP is am information and referral system that lists Grundy-specific health and human services to make it easier for residents to find help in their time of need, especially during evening and weekend hours when agencies are usually closed. 941-HELP is available 24/7 via phone, website, computer kiosks, and card racks in over 50 locations around Grundy County.
    • The Foundation’s workforce development research plus the 2009 countywide needs assessment both ranked transportation as a top priority for Grundy County. Grundy’s residents who are low income, disabled, seniors, and temporarily without cars need to get to work, shopping, appointments, school, and training.  With technical assistance from the Illinois Rural Transit Assistance Center, staff has been convening the Grundy Transit Stakeholders to develop a coordinated transit system that will bring additional transit dollars to Grundy County and increase the availability of transportation (more vehicles and more hours).
    • Foundation staff convenes the Grundy Partnership for Children who in 2010 developed the first-ever Back-to-School Fair for our county’s low income families with school-age children. This partnership of Operation St. Nick, We Care, Morris Hospital, the Grundy County Health Department, the Morris Lions Club, United Way, and the Foundation was successful in serving over 500 children in one day in one location for their immunizations, dental screenings, vision screenings, school physicals, school supplies, clothing, and shoes.


After convening so many partners and developing programs that impact residents from across the county, the Foundation realized that name “Morris Community Foundation” was too narrow so the name was updated to “Community Foundation of Grundy County” and revealed at the 2008 Donor and Partner Appreciation Night.


Next month we’ll wrap up by highlighting our finances, investments, and the donor funds that we steward.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 941-0852.