CRYSTAL LAKE – Speakers and attendees of the McHenry County Community Foundation’s Grants Gala Celebration discussed the increasing role of philanthropy in a struggling economy Monday morning.
Headlined by a presentation by Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Community Trust, the 2012 gala brought together more than 50 McHenry County organizations receiving grants ranging from $500 to $19,500.
In all, the foundation received about 120 applications – an increase from past years – from local agencies, with more than $450,000 awarded. Suzanne Hoban, a member of the organization’s board of directors, said those numbers are a testament to the ambition and willingness to help in the community.
“It’s also a testament to the incredible needs of the community,” Hoban added. “It’s no surprise we were only able to fund about half the applications.”
Mazany, who recently served as interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools, talked about the importance of philanthropy as public funding becomes less attainable.
“More and more, we’re being asked to shoulder larger initiatives,” Mazany said.
Spending about an hour in front of a filled banquet room at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn, Mazany addressed a wide scope of economic and social issues from increasing debt and income disparity to public transportation and obesity rates.
“One of the things that a good community foundation does repeatedly is to assess what are the needs of the community and formulate its plans around that,” he said.
Mazany urged community leaders to think collaboratively and draw on each other’s resources.
Jennifer Streit, chair of the foundation’s board, said Mazany was the right speaker to get people thinking on a more regional level.
She said it’s important to look at what other counties are doing and apply some of those principles locally.
“We have to think about the needs that we meet regionally,” Streit said. “None of the borders in the Chicagoland region are closed. ... It’s good to say, ‘What are the best practices in other counties? What do we do well that we can share?’”
As in previous years, the foundation spread its grants among organizations of many sizes and aims, including chapters of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Sage YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, Family Alliance, Inc. and Raue Center for the Arts.
Many of the organizations receiving grants also had benefited in previous years. But Streit said the foundation is always looking to facilitate the growth of endeavors they haven’t previously backed. The foundation hosts a class on how to apply for their grant each year.
“We work hard every year to do a broad cross section of grants, and those agencies do really wonderful work,” Streit said. “We’re just really honored to be able to contribute to that through them.”
Kris Hall, president of the Woodstock Fine Arts Association, said the $4,000 in funding her organization is receiving will go toward costs associated with transporting kids to their annual children’s program in the fall.
“It means that the really good programs that we’re already doing, we can continue to fund them,” she said. “We can’t have good programs if we can’t get the kids there.”
Steven and Monica Szalaj, of the Crystal Lake-based community choir Voices In Harmony, said at Monday’s event that they’re thankful the foundation exists to fund community projects like their own.
Voices In Harmony received $7,000 this year, which will allow them to put on their annual Sing-Along Messiah at the Raue Center in December.
Steven Szalaj said it’s been tougher in this economy for arts organizations to get sponsorships from local businesses. Without funding from the foundation, Voices of Harmony likely would not be able to put on its biggest event of the year.
“It really has meant the world to us,” Szalaj said.
Receiving grants at the McHenry County Community Foundation’s Grants Gala Celebration Monday were: Adult & Child Therapy Services - $8,000 Animal Assistance Programs, Inc. - $7,500.00 Big Brothers, Big Sisters of McHenry County - $5,000 Blessing Barn NFP - $1,000 Boone Creek Watershed Alliance - $10,000 Boy Scouts of America- Blackhawk Area Council - $7,000 Canine Companions for Independence - $3,000 CASA of McHenry County - $10,000 Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology - $9,000 Community Action Agency for McHenry County - $5,000 Consumer Credit Counseling Service of McHenry County - $10,000 Encore Music Academy - $7,500 Environmental Defenders of McHenry County - $5,000 Faith in Action of McHenry County - $6,000 Family Alliance, Inc - $10,000 Free Guitars for Future Stars - $8,000 Garden Quarter Neighborhood Resource Center - $5,000 GiGi’s Playhouse McHenry - $4,700 Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois - $3,490 Girls on the Run of Northwest Illinois - $7,500 Habitat for Humanity - $10,000 Harvard Community Unit School District 50 - $4,000 Hispanic Housing Development Corporation - $10,000 Hospice Foundation of Northeastern Illinois - $5,000 Jail Brakers - $3,500 The Land Conservancy of McHenry County - $3,500 The Land Conservancy of McHenry County - $19,500 The Last Chance House - $12,000 Little Cherubs Pre School - St. Paul Episcopal Church- $3,000 Main Stay Theraputic Riding Program - $7,500 Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program - $5,000 Marengo Resource Center - $1,500 Marengo United Methodist Church - $10,000 McHenry County Adult Program - $3669.60 McHenry County Workforce Network - $13,500 NISRA Foundation - $8,000 Northern Illinois Food Bank - $10,000 Northwest Area Arts Council - $ 3,500 Openlands Project - $3,000 Options & Advocacy for McHenry County - $10,000 Pioneer Center for Human Services - $4,500 Pioneer Center for Human Services - $5,200 Pioneer Center for Human Services - $5,300 Pioneer Center for Human Services - $5,400 Principled Minds - $2,400 Raue Center for the Arts - $10,000 Sage YMCA - $5,000 Senior Services Associates, Inc. - $10,000 Transitional Living Services - $8,200 Turning Point, Inc. - $9,000 Voices in Harmony - $7,000 Wellness Place - $5,000 Woodstock Fine Arts Association - $4,000 Woodstock Fire/Rescue District - $10,000 Woodstock Police Department - $5,000 Woodstock Public Library - $500 Woodstock Public Library - $2,500