Rotary Club of Joliet accepting applications nonprofits for funding

Rotary member buttons sit at a check-in table at a luncheon to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Rotary Club at Jacob Henry Mansion on Tuesday, Aug. 1 in Joliet.

Joliet — The Rotary Club of Joliet has opened applications for its 2024 raffle grant, which is open to all Will County nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits with a capital project or program in need of funding are eligible to apply for up to $40,000 in funding from the Rotary Club, which was raised through sales of raffle tickets in October.

“When someone becomes a member they agree to sell raffle tickets for this event,” said Rotary Club member and former President Mary Kay Sheehan. “We’re all about serving the community, and while we do smaller events throughout the year, this is our big fundraiser to support our local nonprofits.”

The Rotary Club of Joliet donated this year's raffle proceeds to the Warren Sharpe Community Center in Joliet. Pictured (from left) are Marc Gorsch, Tracy Simons, Mary Sheehan, Jeremy Bolden (executive director of Warren Sharpe), Daphne Payton (from Warren Sharpe) and Brian Cedergren.

In past years the raffle proceeds were only available to organizations looking to fund capital improvements, however, this year the club opened eligibility to groups looking to fund programming or services as well.

“Last year we had 16 applicants, and I suspect we will get more now that we opened it up more,” said Sheehan. “I think that was a deterrent, because not all organizations can afford brick and mortar facilities, or some of them can but capital improvements are a lower priority than actually supporting people.”

Sheehan said the club would like to see 20 to 30 applicants this year.

“If the word spreads about the need, we might be able to sell more raffle tickets next year,” she noted. “If we raise enough, eventually we might split the funding to support two $30,000 projects instead of one.”

In 2023, the group raised $30,000 from raffle ticket sales, which went to improve access for the food pantry at Warren Sharpe Community Center in Joliet. The funds allowed the organization to build a loading ramp into the pantry so supplies could be carted into the door, and also widened the door so large equipment can be moved in and out.

In addition to funding the project, the Rotarians also volunteered at the pantry during the holidays.

“There is so much need out there to help, I hope expanding the program helps this snowball and more people will contribute in the future.”

—  Mary Kay Sheehan, Rotary Club member and former president

Other previous awardees include the Boys and Girls Club, which received a renovated swimming pool in 2022, Guardian Angels, which built counseling rooms for sexual abuse survivors in 2021, and both Cornerstone Services and Easter Seals in 2020. The first four years of raffle proceeds went to construct the Rotary Sports Complex at the Galowich YMCA in Joliet between 1984 and 1988.

Applications for the 2024 funding are due by March 31. In order to apply, organizations must clearly identify a project and demonstrate how it will provide a long-term benefit to the Joliet community. Applications must include specific budgets for programs or bids for constructions projects to explain how the funding will be used, and organizations must agree to include the Rotary Club’s name in any marketing and brochures for programs funded by the club.

Finally, all proposals must be sponsored by a member of the Joliet Rotary Club. If an organization does not a have an existing connection to a Rotarian, they can reach out to the club and be matched with a member with experience in the nonprofit’s field. The organization’s sponsor will work with the nonprofit throughout the application process and, should the group be select, the member will monitor the progress of the project to report back to the club.

All applications will be reviewed by a 10-member panel of club members, including Sheehan and current club president Diane Cepela. The committee will select three finalists, who will then attend meetings in late April to present their proposals to the full Rotary Club. Club members will then vote on which project they wish to fund, and the winner will be announced in May.

“There is so much need out there to help, I hope expanding the program helps this snowball and more people will contribute in the future,” said Sheehan.

Nonprofits can submit their proposals or inquiries about sponsorship to Sheehan at msheehan@lightways.org or Cepela at gdcepel@gmail.com.