87 charitable funds and counting, Starved Rock Country Community Foundation looks to grow impact

Foundation introduces new CEO Fran Brolley

Starved Rock Country Community Foundation co-founder Pamela Beckett poses with new director Fran Brolley during an event for supporters Thursday, June 1, 2023, in La Salle.

The Starved Rock Country Community Foundation is ready for takeoff, its chairman Reed Wilson said when he introduced new CEO Fran Brolley at an event Thursday.

Established in 2015, the foundation has helped the community establish 132 grants and scholarships, facilitated $1.8 million in community investments, grants and scholarships, managed $1.8 million in assets and established 87 community funds. In total, the foundation has amassed more than $5 million in total contributions.

Thursday’s event in La Salle, in part, was meant as a thank you to supporters who helped the foundation from the beginning, but it also served as a rally for the next chapter.

The foundation’s first board chairman Jay McCracken introduced foundation co-founder Pamela Beckett, whose leadership, dedication and passion was celebrated for “connecting people who care with causes that matter.” The foundation exists to meet the philanthropic needs of the community and the desires of its donors.

In the first days of the foundation, Beckett said she drove across La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties meeting with possible donors, explaining to them the mission of the foundation and how it can bring their charitable visions to life.

Beckett said the first donors put their trust in her, especially when they handed her a signed check for thousands of dollars.

“You put your faith in me,” Beckett said of the first donors.

Beckett gave special thanks to administrative assistant Cathy Rosen, bookkeeper Tonya Conmy, Karen Miller and Mary Brolley.

The foundation has helped donors with designed scholarships, such as the Rising Star Scholarship (created by Ethel McConnell who cherished her 40-year career as an educator) offered to a high school graduate in Seneca or Marseilles to continue their education at Illinois State University in elementary education or the Carol and Dick Janko Scholarship for Promising Entrepreneurs, among several others.

The foundation has responded to community needs setting up funding to aid residents affected by the Naplate-Ottawa tornado or those affected by COVID-19.

Funds, such as Streator Strong, Green Stock TEEN Fund, Flags of Freedom in Princeton and Maitri Path to Wellness, are just some of the examples established with specific initiatives.

Grants in excess of $65,000 have been awarded through the Arts of Starved Rock Country Fund.

Beckett said her work with the foundation was the best work of her entire career, because of the people she’s had a chance to meet. She shared a quote from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only that ever has.”

Board Chairman Wilson thanked Beckett for growing the foundation that started as an Ottawa project and grew into a regional movement. He said Beckett met with former Ottawa Mayor Bob Eschbach and he eight years ago to pitch the idea, bringing them on board.

After running the foundation on an interim basis during a transition period, Beckett is stepping down and handing the operation to Brolley, who recently resigned as the executive director of community relations and development at Illinois Valley Community College, also leading fundraising efforts with the community college’s foundation.

“This is a match made in heaven,” Wilson said. " ... The hope is [Brolley] will bring his rolodex to his new job.”

Brolley said he was excited to do “an enormous amount of good” with SRCCF. He will be joined on the SRCCF staff by Director of Operations Janice Corrigan, who served on the community relations team with Brolley at IVCC. The foundation also welcomed Pierre Alexander, Shelly Carey and Robert Hasty.

Beckett said Brolley and Corrigan bring experience, an incredible network in the region and powerful marketing capabilities to the foundation.

“We’re excited to see where they can take it,” she said.

As Wilson said: The foundation is ready to go to new heights.

Want to start a fund?

Call the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation at 815-252-2906 or email info@srccf.org to get started. Go to www.srccf.org for more information on the foundation.