DeKALB – Charlie and Mary Roberts founded the DeKalb County Community Foundation in 1993 and initially contributed $3.5 million to it from their family foundation.
Since then, the foundation has grown to serve more than 350 different charitable funds and has managed a total of $54 million in the past 25 years, the foundation’s Executive Director Dan Templin said. He said the foundation now distributes about $2.5 million annually for grants and scholarships.
“So this very generous gift from a single couple really gave the community foundation a strong start,” said Templin, who has been executive director since 2008.
About 175 donors, beneficiaries and community supporters attended a dinner Thursday night at the Duke Ellington Ballroom in the Northern Illinois University Holmes Student Center meant to close out a year of celebration.
That also included the organization periodically raffling off $2,500 grants at various events throughout the county, community foundation officials said. The dinner also ended with a drawing for one of those grants that was awarded to Neighbor’s House, a nonprofit that sponsors reading and homework clubs in DeKalb County.
Templin said the organization is not unique in merely existing as a community foundation, especially with the concept itself being about 100 years old in the country.
“But our unique story here in DeKalb County and the 25-year mark was a significant time for us to spend this year to reflect on that and to thank people who have been a part of the story over the years and propel us into the future,” Templin said.
The event also included a discussion with past and present executive directors, which was moderated by board President Frank Roberts. Richard Ubl, who was executive director from 1993 to 1999, participated in the discussion, as did DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith, who was the community foundation’s first full-time director from 1999 to 2008.
Doug Roberts, one of Charlie and Mary’s sons who also was involved in the foundation’s operation over the years, offered his congratulations to its staff and directors during the event.
“It takes a community to make a community foundation,” Roberts said.
Roberts said his parents would be proud of the work that the foundation has done thus far, but the philanthropy work is not done yet. He said the population, demographics and the issues each group faces within the county continue to evolve as the county keeps growing.
“We will need to be more creative with what we ask for and how we spend it,” Roberts said.
Nevertheless, Roberts said, he was grateful for the organization and to be part of a rich giving community such as DeKalb County.
“It’s been quite a ride, and it’s only just started,” Roberts said.
Templin said the foundation’s mission is to continue to improve the quality of life for the people in the county for years to come.
“We really want to be relevant to every community in DeKalb County,” Templin said. “As we look to the next 25 years, we continue to fulfill that mission and continue to be a countywide organization that provides meaningful resources to help people in the community.”