By Jan Mathew
Needs can be as simple as a few leaf bags or as complex as wireless vital sign monitors.
But the beauty of The Community Foundation of Macon County’s Wish List lies in its links — the many ways of connecting donors of all ages with opportunities to share their time, talent and treasure.
“The joy comes from specifying a gift and knowing exactly how it’s being used,” says Natalie Beck, president of The Community Foundation of Macon County. “Connections are made through the Wish List that we simply can’t make over the Internet.”
Established about two years ago, the Wish List itemizes the needs of The Community Foundation’s 60 legacy members and is among the benefits included with their annual dues. Each member can itemize up to five wishes, and the list is updated frequently. To date, more than $400,000 in requests have been funded.
“The initiative took off very well and has definitely exceeded our expectations,” Beck says. “Legacy members are encouraged to submit a broad range of wishes and to keep their requests updated.”
Among this expansive range, food items are still the most needed. “That’s somewhat surprising,” Beck admits, “and more nonprofits, such as Baby Talk and Empowerment Opportunity Center, are stepping in to help fill the void.” Wishes include filling elementary school students’ backpacks with food for weekends and funding transportation vouchers for residents to visit food pantries.
“In general, there’s always a huge list and successful funding for youth and children’s needs,” says Beck of requests from nonprofit members like the YMCA and Decatur Daycare. Recently funded wishes have included providing pizza for a Boy Scouts event and gifting transportation grants that facilitate student field trips.
Often, familiar organizations such as the Beautify Decatur Coalition fly under the radar. “Residents may not realize that their relatively ‘small’ asks have a big impact,” Beck explains. “Beautify Decatur plants and waters the downtown planters and also provides cigarette butlers, which are things that everyone appreciates.”
The range of donors matches the range of requests. While many family funds have been in place for years, Beck is particularly delighted when young donors, like 16-year-old Mt. Zion High School sophomore Nia Morris, join their ranks.
A passionate artist and member of the school’s Art Club, Morris donated earnings from her summer internship at the Children’s Museum of Illinois to Macon Resources Inc. — a $250 contribution (matched by her family’s fund) that made the organization’s wish for art supplies a reality.
“I wanted to contribute something that would be put to good use, and art supplies will allow people to use their creativity,” says Morris, who plans to pursue a career in art and automotive design. “I’ve contributed to our family fund before, but this was the first time I chose where my contribution would go.”
Donors can either deliver items or checks to The Community Foundation’s downtown location or arrange a connection through the foundation. “Donors can also visit the organization directly, which is a great way to connect personally,” Beck says. “Filling volunteer needs is another part of the Wish List mission.”
In the spirit of the season, businesses sometimes use the Foundation’s Wish List to play Santa Claus. “Last Christmas, a local bank chose to fund numerous wishes,” Beck recalls. “Employees bought the items and then, collectively, made surprise deliveries to the organizations. It’s an excellent idea for corporate philanthropy.”
Beck is encouraged by the “great momentum” that currently fuels local philanthropy. And donors like Nia Morris give her confidence that the energy will power future generations, too.
“I’m thankful to be able to give, and I was glad art supplies were on the wish list,” Morris says of her choice.
“When it’s something you care about, it makes giving fun.”
To help make wishes come true, go to maconcountygives.org and click on the Wish List link. You can also contact The Community Foundation of Macon County at 217-429-3000.
One Wish . . . Made For All
A diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer in 2017 led Natalie Beck, president of The Community Foundation of Macon County, directly to the wish she committed to fund personally: A total of $643 to support a Millikin University research study on the possibility of treating thyroid cancer without surgical removal of the entire thyroid.
“I had two surgeries to remove my thyroid, followed by radioactive iodine therapy,” Beck shared via a blog on the Foundation’s website. “I now take daily doses of a thyroid replacement hormone and I continue to struggle with weight gain and low energy.”
After granting the wish, Beck was invited to meet with the requestor, Millikin’s Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, professor and director of the School of Biological and Environmental Studies. In touring Schroder’s teaching laboratory at the Leighty-Tabor Science Center, Beck witnessed first-hand the professor’s enthusiasm for working with students and the many opportunities she provides for hands-on experience.
Beck learned, too, that the Millikin student leading the research project is also being treated for thyroid cancer.
“I granted a funding wish that I hope will lead to finding a cancer cure,” Beck says. “Truly, that would be a wish granted for all of us.”
Jan Mathew is a frequent contributor to Decatur Magazine.
This article originally appeared in the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Decatur Magazine. It may not be reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part without the publisher’s consent.
© Copyright Decatur Magazine – First String Productions. All rights reserved.