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The Evanston Community Foundation

(ECF) will receive a $2 million endowment grant this month from the Grand Victoria Foundation to support “Every Child Ready for Kindergarten, Every Youth Ready for Work,” ECF’s 2006 impact plan to build a stronger community, beginning with young families and the organizations that support them. The partnership of the two foundations has already generated more than $1 million in contributions to ECF.

ECF will receive $1 million for its Communityworks endowment and $1 million for its operating endowment, as well as an additional $2 million in matching funds by raising an equal amount by the end of 2010.

“We are elated to build on the project we have begun with our partners here in Evanston,” says Sara Schastok, ECF executive director,” and by Grand Victoria’s willingness to commit $4 million to endowments for Evanston – what an opportunity.”

The Communityworks Initiative

The Communityworks Initiative, begun in 2003, was designed to help Illinois community foundations identify and address issues that determine the quality of community life and help them raise local dollars to effect changes that community members wish to see.

“We organized more than 35 listening sessions and public meetings in just 30 months that began in 2004. This process led us to zero in on the years birth to three as the most strategic place for us to focus initial Foundation efforts. We have established a learning community relationship with our grantee organizations and have engaged an evaluation team,” says Ms. Schastok.

Evanston has been recognized for its strong Communityworks Advisory Committee, chaired for more than three years by local resident Paul Finnegan. This committee has led the effort to develop a three-year implementation strategy for the ECF’s impact plan and advises its board of directors. “Through our community meetings and listening sessions, and through working with local and national experts, we created our ‘Every Child Ready for Kindergarten, Every Youth Ready for Work’ plan,” says Mr. Finnegan. “Our initial focus on young families with children aged 0-3 is designed on a solid base of research. This is Evanston’s great chance to seize an opportunity – we look forward to creating a broad community partnership to reach our goals.”

ECF Board Chair Kendal Gladish said the Foundation has an “unprecedented” opportunity to help families and childcare organizations prepare Evanston’s youngest residents for success in kindergarten and beyond. “We all have a responsibility to stand with Evanston families to build the strength of this incredible town. The Board of Directors is honored and excited by Grand Victoria’s new commitment that positions us to do more,” she added.