A history of the Community Foundation of Grundy County

Foundation started 22 years ago and has grown ever since

Twenty-two years ago, Community Foundation of Grundy County (CFGC) came into existence under the name Morris Community Foundation (MCF). Through those years, the Foundation has changed programs and grantmaking as the community’s needs have changed.

In 2000, the Morris Community Foundation became recognized as a 501(C)3 charitable organization. Two years later, the first donor-advised fund was received and the first grant was awarded. In 2003, MCF was selected to participate in the Grand Victoria Foundation’s Communityworks Program, which allowed MCF to expand capacity and strengthen local philanthropy. Through Communityworks, local initiatives in early childhood education, workforce development, and land use were launched. These initiatives included: the Birth-to-Five Network, now called Grundy Partnership for Children; establishing the Illinois Headwaters RC&D; Challenges of the Future series; Grundy County Growth Conference; as well as joining the Business Education Council. 2003 was also the year that MCF hired Julie Buck as Executive Director.

In 2008, the Morris Community Foundation officially changed its name to Community Foundation of Grundy County to encompass the entire county. The Communityworks goal was achieved in 2008 and therefore, CFGC received $2,000,000 from the Grand Victoria Foundation and was able to hire two new staff, Judy Hauch as Accounting Manager and Sherey Zerbian as Program Director.

With the hiring of new staff, CFGC was able to focus on collaborating with other not-for-profits and stakeholders to increase programs, planning, and networking opportunities in Grundy County. Some of the new opportunities included: the Back-to-School Fair, Behavioral Health Alliance, case management wrap around program, Hoarding Task Force, Nonprofit Tools for Success, Senior Network, 8th Grade Career Fair, and disaster assistance. All of these programs and networks would not be possible without partnerships with other organizations. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with so many including, but not limited to: Grundy County Health Department, United Way, We Care, Operation St. Nick, Grundy Chamber of Commerce, Kendall-Grundy Community Action, GAVC, Catholic Charities, schools, villages, libraries, and so many more.

In 2011, after working in partnership with the Grundy Transit Stakeholders to secure additional grant funding for transportation, Sherey Zerbian was hired by the county as the Transit Administrator. Devan Gagliardo was hired to replace Sherey at that time.

2013 brought the start of five disasters over the next eight years: a flood, two tornadoes, a pandemic, and a lithium battery fire. After the flooding in 2013, the Disaster Fund was created as a way to accept donations and disburse funds to those who were affected. This fund has served its purpose by collecting a countless number of donations big and small over the last eight years and providing assistance to hundreds of area residents.

The Youth Philanthropy Program came to life in 2014 at Seneca High School. The purpose of the Youth Philanthropy Program is to educate local students on the organizations who serve their communities as well as the needs of those organizations. Through this program we also hope to inspire students to be community minded, philanthropic members of society. Since 2014, this program has expanded to include other high schools serving Grundy County and have provided $80,000 in grants to local not-for-profits!!

Our current building was purchased and renovated in 2015, allowing us to have more space for the community and area not-for-profits to use. With our new location came three offices that can be used by organizations serving Grundy County at a small cost based on usage. We also have a private conference room that can be used free of charge by the community for meetings. In 2019, CFGC accepted the donation of an office building in downtown Gardner, which is now called South Grundy Resource Center. This building can be used by social service agencies to meet with clients in the southern part of Grundy County. In 2019, CFGC was gifted the Peg Davis Farm in Seneca, that remains a working farm. CFGC’s portion of the farm income makes up the Peg Davis Civic Fund which provides grants in the Seneca area under the direction of the Seneca Civic Committee.

During the pandemic, CFGC was able to partner with United Way of Grundy County to push out 17 grants to local not-for-profits in the amount $75,000 from Illinois Covid Response Fund. In collaboration with the Grundy Chamber of Commerce, CFGC was also able to provide 42 small businesses with $1,000 grants to assist in needs brought on by the pandemic.

Since our first grant was awarded in 2002, we have continued to provide grant funding to not-for-profits from both donor-advised funds and our unrestricted grant program. In fact, in those 19 years, CFGC funds have provided over $3.7 million dollars of grants to not-for-profits.

Even though some of our programs have changed over the last 22 years, the Community Foundation of Grundy County has remained focused on improving the quality of life in Grundy County through leadership and philanthropy. We look forward to seeing where the future takes our beloved community.

— Devan Gagliardo is Program Director for Community Foundation of Grundy County.