WAUKEGAN, IL – When Donna Funk got a call from The Lake County Community Foundation, she felt a relief she had not even let herself dream about.
Amidst a contentious, community-dividing teachers strike that was dragging on longer than anyone thought possible, Funk, the Resource Development Director at The
Boys & Girls Club of Lake County, closed her eyes and thanked her lucky stars.
“I started to cry. I was so moved and so overwhelmed it was such an unexpected blessing and a wonderful opportunity,” Funk said of Foundation inquiries about how the Boys & Girls Club was responding to the urgent need for parents to find a safe place for their children during the strike. “I knew at that moment ‘It’s going to be OK, we’re going to make it.’”
During October, the Waukegan Teachers’ Council was out on strike, asking for pay on par with other school districts in the state, keeping more than 16,000 students out of Waukegan School District 60 for the entire month.
Parents’ scramble to find childcare in the overwhelmingly blue-collar municipality went from annoyance to emergency in but a few days. Moms and dads across the county seat used up sick and vacation days in frantic efforts to find programs to take care of their children so they could return to work while local nonprofit organizations marshaled all their resources to provide care, meals and even limited instruction for confused and often bored school children.
The Boys & Girls Club of Lake County committed to keeping their doors open from 8:00 to 4:00 to current Club members and to accepting new children, all while maintaining a high level of care and instruction – and food. Traditional after school programming at the Club during the school year is 2:30 to 6:30.
“We knew the food alone was going to be a challenge, but staff leapt into problem solving mode and decided upon providing a mini-summer program, fully staffed with limited, but still engaging, projects and activities for the kids,” said Cesilie Price, Chief Executive Officer of The Boys & Girls Club. “We all did our stints on site with kids and made sure staff was able to handle the extra hours, keeping up our Club standards.”
Price and Funk were discussing how the Club’s spring programming would potentially have to be cut in order to make up for the shortfall in budget that was created as a result of the lengthy contract negotiations when the call from The Lake County Community Foundation came in.
Funk knew that Foundation support was not guaranteed on the basis of one call, but the very fact that the county’s central resource for the nonprofit sector was calling to learn how it could help make frayed ends meet, meant the world to her.
“I was speechless. Words can’t express it – I instantly wanted everyone else to know that someone realized what we were doing and recognized the challenges it could bring upon the Club,” Funk said.
Maree Bullock, Interim Executive Director for The Lake County Community Foundation kicked off the chain of events.
“I was driving in to work and I stopped at a corner where the teachers were picketing and I said ‘Thank you for what you do,’” Bullock told the Foundation Board of Directors at the November board meeting last week. “I got into the office and said, ‘What can we do to help?’ and staff knew right where to turn.”
Within a matter of hours, the breadth and scale of impact that the Boys & Girls Club’s services was having on Waukegan’s families became clear – even in an environment where so many
other nonprofits had rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to care for the thousands of displaced students.
In just days’ time, the Foundation board had unanimously passed a resolution to extend a
$10,000 donor advised fund grant award to the Boys & Girls Club of Lake County. The grant was designed to help offset costs incurred at the Genesee Club site from the expanded programming offered to approximately 100-130 Waukegan youth ages 6-18 every day for the 4 weeks of the strike, providing breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack.
“Only a community foundation with individual donors can respond this quickly to emerging issues,” said Bullock, adding that the Foundation also awarded an emergency grant of $6,000 to YWCA Lake County to support the organization’s additional program expenses. “This truly demonstrates the power of how nimble and responsive community foundations can be.”
Dilcia Campos, a working Waukegan mom of two boys, was relieved to find help close to home. “I was grateful that the [Boys & Girls Club of Lake County] was open and I was able to take them,” Campos said referring to her sons Efrain and Felipe. “I usually just take them during the summer but since school was on strike they were there when I had no one to watch my kids.”
Price and Funk think it is imperative for people to understand that a grant or donation of any amount has a critical impact on organizations’ ability to serve the neediest in our community.
“When you make that $5, $100 or $5,000 dollar contribution, the change that you’re making happen is really significant,” said Price. “It ripples out far beyond just writing a check.”
About The Lake County Community Foundation
Since 2003, The Lake County Community Foundation, an affiliate of The Chicago Community Trust, has partnered with donors to leverage and guide their philanthropy to help transform the lives of the most vulnerable people across our county. Together, we have contributed over $2.5 million to 80 nonprofit organizations that support basic human needs, community development, education and health throughout Lake County. By connecting the generosity of donors across Lake County with the most pressing needs of the community, we ensure that our county thrives today and for generations to come.
GROWING PHILANTHROPY, BUILDING COMMUNITY