ROCHELLE — When raising money with other Rochelle Township High School cheerleaders to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade years ago, Emily Anaya realized she had a skill — and a passion — for fundraising.
“That was the first time I realized, 'This is what I'm going to do,’” Anaya said. “It had an impact on me.”
Anaya was named the new executive director of the Rochelle Area Community Foundation in recent weeks and started her position June 1. After growing up in Rochelle, Anaya worked for Rochelle Community Hospital for nine years as foundation and community events coordinator before becoming supervisor of philanthropy and major gifts at SwedishAmerican Foundation in Rockford.
Anaya has also served on the allocation committee of the Rock Valley United Way.
“You see that impact,” Anaya said. “It's about the legacy that the donor is leaving behind. You forever have a hand in helping somebody or a family or community. I think that for me is what makes me feel good and I know it's rewarding."
After being in healthcare for 16 years, Anaya was ready for something different. She has an appreciation for the impact that RACF has had on the local community. She’ll replace Kim Montgomery, who was executive director for 12 years.
Upon her exit, Montgomery recommended to the board that the executive director position be changed to full-time. That’s what Anaya will be.
“It was good timing,” Anaya said. “I think the RACF is looking to grow and the education and experience I received up in Rockford kind of made this a good fit. I just kind of came in here and interviewed with no expectation. I was really excited and wanted to hear more about them and what their goals were. Everything just really kind of aligned.”
Anaya plans to be in the RACF office during business hours each day and by appointment to meet with donors and the community to grow the foundation. When it comes to running a foundation and working with donors, you can’t put a time limit on the work, Anaya said. Donors want to meet at all times of the day and being accessible to the community is important.
Anaya said the RACF board is extremely passionate about growing the foundation and it knew expanding the role would meet those goals.
“Hopefully we can exceed those expectations they have,” Anaya said. “I know I have my work cut out for me and I'm excited to do that. I'm very eager and motivated."
Anaya remembers from her time at RCH when the community foundation was started by its founder, Leonard Carmichael. The biggest draw of the position for her was the RACF board.
“They're all ages and from all walks of life,” Anaya said. “You don't really see that, how active they are. They have a passion for what they're doing and it's great to see Leonard's legacy really go forward."
Anaya said one of the causes she’s most passionate about is children. She has four kids. She wants to lay a good foundation for a stronger community for the next generation of leaders. She feels children have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways.
In Anaya’s opinion, the pandemic hasn’t hurt philanthropy.
“I know a lot of fundraisers have said people are tightening their belts,” Anaya said. “But I disagree with that. I think no matter what, it doesn't need to be a financial impact. It's ‘how can I help?' I think COVID-19 has brought out philanthropy in a different way and I think that fundraisers are starting to see that and adapt to what it means."
As far as her goals for her new position, Anaya wants to make the board and Montgomery proud. And she wants to get people talking.
“When people talk about Rochelle, I want them to know there's a Rochelle Area Community Foundation,” Anaya said. “I want it to fall off the tip of their tongue.”