'Hungry for positive change': Lake County Community Foundation finds powerful voice

FOX LAKE – Many aren’t aware of the Lake County Community Foundation or its mission.

The group’s members know this. They also know the potential power of a single voice. Most recently, the voice amplifying that mission and so much more is Malcolm Newsome of Fox Lake.

Involved with the foundation for a few years, Newsome became a member of the board last year. After the death of George Floyd and the unrest of the country amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Newsome wrote an essay about his experiences as a Black person living in Lake County.

He wrote of being stopped by a police officer while walking down the street eating ice cream and being questioned for “joy riding” in a residential neighborhood while test driving a car with a Black sales rep.

“I’ve gladly called Lake County home for over 35 years,” he wrote. “Yes, I’ve had painful experiences. But I’ve also experienced unspeakable joy here, as well.

“It is because of that love that I volunteer my time serving as a board member of the Lake County Community Foundation. It is because of that love that I urge everyone else in Lake County to take note – and not be dismissive – of the personal struggles many in the community face due to the color of their skin.”

Published on the foundation's website at www.lakecountycf.org, the statement both reflects the foundation's support of the Black Lives Matter movement and acknowledges that white privilege exists and is wrong.

It also encourages unity and has raised awareness of the foundation, which works to connect donors and community leaders with groups looking to improve Lake County communities.

“Let us band together to support those who are working tirelessly to reduce the pain and personal struggle caused by racism or insensitivity,” Newsome wrote. “Let us band together to help everyone experience more moments of unspeakable joy and why it’s so unique and important in the community.”

Through the creation of the Lake County Community Crisis Relief Fund, the foundation has responded to critical needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund also has become a permanent countywide funding resource in times of future emergencies.

“The foundation itself has been doing good work for many years, but very few people know that it exists,” Newsome said. “If we can continue to shine a light on that and continue to pique folks’ interest and curiosity in watching what we’re doing and taking part … that’s probably the biggest thing I care about.”

Among the foundation’s recent efforts is a new grant that provided seed funding to The African American Community Partnership Group and the Asociacion Comunitaria Latina.

The foundation also is working to create safe spaces where conversations about racism and inequity can take place, said Maggie Morales, Lake County Community Foundation executive director.

“We felt Malcolm’s voice front and center was really important,” Morales said. “I don’t think any of us realized the impact it would have and how well-received it’s been in terms of shaping voices in the community and bringing to light something that is a daily occurrence for many.”

The foundation has worked to bring awareness of poverty in Lake County, where one of the wealthiest communities in the state sits next to one of the poorest, Morales said. Yet, they seem worlds apart, she said.

And, like the rest of the country, more people are experiencing poverty-related issues, such as job loss and lack of access to food, child care and medical care, than before, she said.

Since Newsome released his letter, many have reached out to him in support, including someone who asked to volunteer.

“That, to me, was perfect. That was kind of the whole point of, ‘What can I do right here where I am? What’s an action I can take?’ Him reaching out to say, ‘Hey, I want to be involved.’ That excites me,” Newsome said. “It seems like there are a lot of people that really care and are really hungry for positive change.”

A father of five, Newsome also is passionate about writing and has written at least 30 children’s book, a chapter book and a young adult novel. He hopes to one day publish his work.

His books contain messages he wants his children to hear.

“I want them to also see themselves represented on the page because there are very few Black children, and even fewer biracial children – and my children are biracial – represented,” he said.