The ETHS Philanthopy Club’s presents funds to local non-profits in the school’s lobby, with an audience of about 40 people.

Members of the Evanston Township High School Philanthropy Club presented $4,000 to three Evanston nonprofit organizations on May 15, as the final step in their process of meeting weekly throughout the school year to evaluate grant requests and allocate funds to worthy causes.

The Talking Farm, Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, and Dajae Coleman Foundation were this year’s recipients.

The Talking Farm received $1,500 for general operating and capital expenses at its Howard Street Farm, an educational and production farm. The Talking Farm collaborated with ETHS in 2009 to create the Edible Acre plot across from the high school, which produces vegetables that are sold at the Downtown Farmers Market and used in ETHS cafeterias.

“Basically, we are the community’s farm,” said Lali Watt, Talking Farm board president.

The Infant Welfare Society of Evanston (IWSE) received $1,500 for their young fathers program. “We reach out to young dads, ages 17-27,” Executive Director Stephen Vick said.

The IWSE’s early childhood programs at Baby Toddler Nursery and Teen Baby Nursery and the home-based Family Support Services have helped children and families since 1913. IWSE programs target Evanston’s youngest and most vulnerable residents. “Ages 0-5 early childhood education programs are the core of our mission,” Mr. Vick said.

The Dajae Coleman Foundation (DC3F) received $1,264 for programs that motivate youth and instill the positive characteristics embodied by Dajae Coleman, who lost his life to gun violence at age 14. The grant included the proceeds of a Philanthropy Club’s Mother’s Day fundraiser, which honored Dajae’s mother and DC3F founder Tiffany Rice.

Philanthropy Club Sponsor Mary Collins described Ms. Rice as “an outstanding mother whose care has reached beyond her family to the entire Evanston population.”          

Each year since 2005, the Rose F. & Alice M. Koffend Foundation has given  Philanthropy Club $3,000 to give to local nonprofits of their choice. This year, the club’s funding pot increased, thanks to a private donation from philanthropy consultant Cleopatra Alexander.

“I was so impressed with the students that I personally pledged an additional $1,000 to support their grant-making initiative,” said Ms. Alexander, who met with club members last fall to share some strategies for evaluating grant requests.

Meeting with local philanthropists early in the process helps club members learn about the business of giving money. Club co-chairs Holly Cunningham and Molly Conover, both ETHS seniors, led the group through the process of selecting causes members are passionate about, researching local nonprofits that serve those causes, conducting interviews, and deciding how to allocate the grant funds, based on the impact the grant would make, volunteer opportunities offered for students, and the population served.

“Philanthropy Club is something you don’t find at other area high schools,” said Molly, who has served as co-chair for the past two years. Holly, who has co-chaired the club for three years, shared, “What I thought was really cool is that we met with representatives from organizations throughout Evanston, and the experience gave me a perspective on the problems faced by the larger community.”

District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, who attended the event, said,  “They do such a conscientious job of this, and really take it seriously.”

The Evanston community can certainly take pride in a club that has all the hallmarks of service-learning at its best.

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.