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“Celebrate!Evanston” Marks Evanston Community Foundation’s 35th Year.

Annual Fundraiser Draws 250 Evanstonians, Politicians, Activists, Nonprofits

By Maudlyne Ihejirika

Some 250 supporters turned out for the Evanston Community Foundation’s 35th anniversary event raising funds to continue its work, which rose to the forefront with the Evanston Community Rapid Response Fund it launched in response to the #pandemic last year.

Celebrate!Evanston, held Saturday on the lawn of Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s Joseph E. Hill Education Center, drew elected officials, community activists, nonprofit leaders, and area residents — all of whom had to show proof of #vaccination to join the celebration.

And the event was successful — raising $130,000 for the impactful work of a small foundation founded in 1986 to help this #NorthShore community thrive as a vibrant, equitable and inclusive suburb. #ECF grants help nonprofits and community organizations deliver their missions.

“My favorite thing about #Evanston is how much Evanstonians love their homes,” ECF President and CEO #SolAnderson told the audience gathered on a balmy afternoon, with weather cooperating.

“I still remember meeting people from Evanston when I was in college. They were the only people from #Chicago suburbs who didn’t claim they were from Chicago. They always proudly said they were from Evanston,” he quipped.

“Since that Sept. 29 date 35 years ago, many groups have stepped up to build the #EvanstonCommunityFoundation into something that would be here for Evanston forever, something that would make the community stronger, and improve lives,” he said.

“We have seen that impact during a pandemic that has hit our community hard. Our friends and neighbors lost homes, lost jobs, had to close #smallbusinesses, and even lost loved ones. But the Evanston Community Foundation was there to step up, bringing the right mix of speed and thoughtfulness, listening and action.”

It was the first in-person event for the foundation since before the pandemic. Its annual event last year went virtual, as with so many organizations. That #Zoom event featured a fireside chat with Angela Glover Blackwell, founder in residence of PolicyLink, about ECF’s role in the #economic and #racialequity sphere.

This year’s event was a coming out of sorts for Anderson, who took the foundation’s reins in June, after a national search spurred by the exit of ECF’s former President and CEO #MoniqueJones, in December 2020.

When Jones left to lead the statewide Forefront nonprofit, Anderson became the third person ever to lead the Evanston foundation, joining ECF from I Grow Chicago, where he was executive director. Based in the #SouthSide #Englewood neighborhood, that nonprofit works to eradicate roots of #violence.

ECF and its 21-member board broadly representative of the community, currently are operating under a strategic plan focused on #equity, listening, #sustainability and service.

Its programs including the Evanston Reparations Community Fund, intended to be a perpetual resource for Evanston’s Black community, complementing the $10 million cannabis tax revenue stream earmarked by the city for initial #reparations remedies.

The ECF reparations fund is intended to ensure funding is available for reparations once city tax revenues are no longer available, and it specifically supports the work of the Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston (RSAE), a 501c3 organization which will be responsible for distributing grants within Evanston’s Black community.

The fund that ECF launched to combat #COVID’s impact on March 18, 2020, has been replaced by what it calls the NOW Fund — focused on rebuilding a more resilient and equitable Evanston. ECF has distributed some $4,649,655 to Evanston organizations through both of those funds.

“In the words of Mr. Rogers, we looked for the helpers, and we partnered with them and we invested in them, and this was both nonprofits and small businesses, so that we could support members of our community who were hurting most,” said Anderson, whose past positions includes former executive director of #LIFTIncorporated, an organization that partners with parents to break the intergenerational cycle of #poverty.

“But our work is not done. We know that #communitiesofcolor were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and thus need the most investment to recover,” Anderson said.

“So we all have to partner together to build an equitable Evanston that nurtures all of its residents. But I know ECF is ready to help build that future, because I know our past. We have strong partnerships like our partnership with Northwestern University’s Dance Marathon, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Their investment helps us do our work, and is evidence that #philanthropy can show up in many different ways and at many different ages.”

Anderson, who has lived and/or worked in Evanston the past 15 years, previously served in leadership roles for the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing, Cristo Rey Community Center, and SCORE! Educational Centers, and one of his earliest positions included Youth Coordinator for the city of Evanston.

“At ECF, we know Evanston to be a community of great resource and privilege, but we also know it to be a community of great generosity and so we ask everyone to make a gift that is meaningful to you. Help us to reach our goal to be there for Evanston, for now, forever and for everyone,” Anderson said.

The audience responded, surpassing this year’s event fundraising goal of $100,000.


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