RACF to reach $1 million in community grants since its inception in 2005

The Rochelle Area Community Foundation will reach $1 million total in community grants this year since its inception in 2005, RACF Executive Director Emily Anaya said.

‘Rochelle and the surrounding area are truly generous’

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Area Community Foundation will reach $1 million total in community grants this year since its inception in 2005, RACF Executive Director Emily Anaya said.

RACF made its first grants in 2006. It was established with a generous gift from the late Leonard Carmichael who was a farmer, businessman, philanthropist and community leader. RACF offers an opportunity for individuals, families and businesses to leave a legacy for future generations and is a public, charitable organization designed to attract gifts that will be shared with Rochelle-area nonprofit organizations for the benefit of the community.

Anaya credited Carmichael, past RACF Executive Directors Ann Rice and Kim Montgomery and past and current board members for reaching the milestone.

“I know Leonard would be so proud to see how his seed has grown,” Anaya said. “Even though he's not with us anymore, I'm sure he's looking down and saying, 'Wow. Look at everything that's being done.' I think this just shows how generous our community is and we're going to keep growing. Because we have a lot to support in the area of Chana, Creston, Esmond, Kings, Lindenwood, Rochelle and Steward. There's so much need and we're starting to get our name out more and more. I feel really good about where we've been and where we're headed."

On April 26, RACF will announce and present its latest round of grants to recipients at Salt 251 from 4-6 p.m. The event will include free wine, beer and appetizers. Anaya urged the community to attend and nonprofit organizations will have booths set up to show the community their causes.

“There's no set group that we support,” Anaya said. “It is a plethora of people and you'll see all different services and big and small nonprofits. “I think it's really important to see what these organizations are doing. I think people don't fully understand all the things that go on here and I think this is a great way for people to take a moment and walk through and see it."

Anaya said the upcoming round of grants, currently going to the RACF board for approval, is one of the foundation’s largest granting opportunities. In 2022, RACF’s Community Needs grants totaled $85,000 in local support.

RACF has seen larger grant numbers in recent years and Anaya said that’s the result of adding more donor-advised, agency and designated funds, which helps build RACF’s portfolio to give back to the community.  

The RACF endowment fund is the foundation’s least restricted fund, and the grants committee can make a recommendation to the board to grant funds out of it. RACF donor-advised funds are more specific to certain causes. 

“We just have a really big number this year and it really makes your heart happy to see the donor advisors and people who donate,” Anaya said. “Even the people who round up their change at Liquor N Wine and donate it to us, that money makes a huge difference. Every little bit helps. All these different support systems are raising funds and all of it gets pulled together and it's very impactful."

Past RACF grant recipients have included local libraries and schools, the Flagg Township Museum, HOPE of Ogle County, Vince Carney Community Theater, Floyd J. Tilton VFW Post 3878, Foundation for Focus House, Habitat for Humanity of Ogle County, Northern Illinois Food Bank and Shining Star Children's Advocacy Center.

RACF is now a standalone organization after previously being under the DeKalb County Community Foundation umbrella. Anaya was RACF’s first full-time director when she was hired two years ago and the foundation recently hired a part-time administrative assistant in Stephanie Messer.

“I think it's an exciting time for the foundation,” Anaya said. “I keep saying that, because each step, day and month is something new. But it keeps getting better and better and I can't wait to see what happens next. Hopefully we'll raise our next million in less than 17 years. I'm hoping we'll hit $2 million a lot sooner than that.”

Anaya recalls when she started working in foundations for another organization as her first job and hearing from people that didn’t believe Rochelle had much fundraising capacity due to its size. She has found that to be false.

“Rochelle and the surrounding area are truly generous,” Anaya said. “There are generous people out there. There are people that want to leave a legacy in honor or in memory of people. There are people that just want to do good. There are people that want to be a part of the solution. I think there are so many good things to offer here in Rochelle and the surrounding communities. I just want everybody to know about it. This is a very generous area and community.”