On Oct. 1, 2015, Pamela Beckett established the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation, and now, after more than five years at the helm, she is stepping down as president and CEO of the foundation.

Since the beginning, Beckett has been instrumental in taking the community foundation from an idea and turning it into an essential part of communities in the La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties area, which contains more than $3 million in funds to benefit these communities.

“My vision actually was for exactly what it’s turned out to be,” Beckett said. “I’m not disappointed in what we’ve accomplished, but there’s so much more to be accomplished.”

The transition has been taking place over the past couple months, as Beckett plans to remain involved in the foundation as a board member and consultant.

Beckett and the board of directors selected Clete Winkelmann to succeed Beckett as CEO and president.

“I’m really eager for Clete to pick up where we are now and maybe be able to double or triple our efforts,” Beckett said. “Keep everything growing and always keep raising that awareness.”

In the beginning of the community foundation, Beckett leaned on her experiences with surrounding community organizations ranging in fund sizes from a couple million dollars in Rochelle to more than a hundred million dollars in Rockford.

Beckett’s original goal after founding the community foundation was to focus on simple initiatives to help get the name Starved Rock Country Community Foundation to be seen.

“Nobody had really heard of a community foundation in this area, including every board member except one that we started with,” Beckett said. “So to get a community foundation established to raise awareness for what it is we are capable of doing and to put forth a lot of evidence of the good work we could do as quickly as possible.”

The foundation began with initiatives, such as the Little Free Library Program, to raise awareness of what the community foundation is capable of.

“I knew if we could get little free libraries out in three counties, with our little brass tag on the back, people would go, ‘Oh my gosh, why would a community foundation do that?’ ” Beckett said. “There’s nothing a community foundation can’t do that impacts the world of philanthropy.”

From there, the foundation has grown into an entity known throughout central Illinois that provides donor-designed scholarships, grants, sponsored events, established the Women’s Inspired Network, Flags of Freedom and more throughout La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties, even stretching into some of the neighboring counties.

Beckett’s successor has spent about 35 years working for nonprofits. With a background in foster care, residential care and mental health services and serving as CEO of two organizations before, Winkelmann has come to SRCCF looking to continue the work that was done before him.

“It’s been a very smooth transition, a very good transition,” Winkelmann said. “But there’s still a lot to learn. There’s still things I haven’t encountered yet that certainly will be important to have Pamela on the board of directors and still very close to the foundation.”

After beginning with the foundation in September, Winkelmann has spent his time learning about the organization and developing relationships with those who are a part of it.

Being from the area, Winkelmann said he personally wants to continue to drive the community foundation in a positive direction.

“We have a very strong board of directors that are here to help me succeed,” Winkelmann said. “Within me is the desire to leave the community a better place than when I returned because I’m from this community, the Princeton area. So it’s really about the foundational work, it’s about the passion that’s been brought, and it’s about the vision of the organization.”

While Winkelmann appreciates the hard work Beckett has put into SRCCF, he believes he was brought in to bring his own ideas and experience to the organization.

Moving forward, Winkelmann said he wants to be a data-driven organization. He believes this can help the SRCCF understand where specific needs of the community lie. 

At its heart, the foundation that Beckett established creates opportunities for Starved Rock Country that otherwise it wouldn’t have.

It doesn’t serve one municipality, but rather serves a region of rural communities. It tries to help everyone’s boats to float together instead of compete. 

“It’s always about something that affects somebody’s heart or their lifestyle or their children, whether it’s a disease or it’s the military or it’s the homeless or it’s the hungry,” Beckett said. “I saw the good stuff, too, putting up fabulous buildings or building a new playground or putting on a wing to a library for something specific. It’s just making people’s dreams come true.”

LaSalle County