In celebration of their upcoming 100-year anniversary in 2024 and to help out some local groups hit hard by the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Junior League of Evanston-North Shore (JLE-NS) recently surprised nine local non-profits with thousands of dollars to assist in facilitating their charitable work.
From organizations that serve the homeless to those that provide free legal assistance, JLE-NS gave out $100,000 in grants (in addition to their regular annual giving).
JLE-NS created the Community Grant Assistance Fund and surprised the nine organizations with the donations. The recipients had no idea the funds were coming, said Karen Burchell, PR and marketing chair for JLE-NS.
”The organizations didn’t even know we were thinking of them,” Burchell said. “It was a real surprise for all the organizations. We thought it would be a nice thing given the past year.”
The organizations selected for these surprise grants were chosen by a special committee based on the severe impact of the pandemic on their services, as well as the size of their donor base. The committee looked at tax documents and leaned toward groups that did not have as much financial support as others.
“JLE-NS recognizes that the past year has been extremely challenging, especially for local non-profit organizations that provide services for people in our community that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Burchell said.
Elizabeth Fales, program development manager for CASA Lake County said the unexpected donation was “an incredible gift.” “We are extremely grateful to have received the funds,” Fales said in an email. “It was totally unexpected. We had worked throughout 2020 with the Junior League to share information about the needs and experiences of children in the foster care system, particularly during Covid. We saw unprecedented food insecurity, and the children and families we serve needed more assistance with meeting basic needs than our agency has ever seen in our almost 30 year history. Our advocates provide court advocacy to children in foster care, but we also provide support and resources to the families providing care to ensure that children’s needs and best interests are met.”
Fales said when the junior league learned of CASA’s struggles during the pandemic they “wanted to do whatever they could to help.” Because of this compassionate support, CASA managed to continue to provide their much needed services to society’s most vulnerable.
Last year’s numbers of Lake County children in need of their advocacy reached “a record-shattering 624,” she said. The group was “honored and humbled” to receive the league’s donation.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone, but it was an especially challenging year for children experiencing abuse and neglect at home,” Fales said. “With the support of the Junior League and other local foundations and funders, we never stopped providing services to children in foster care. We just adapted and kept going.”
In addition to their regular annual giving, JLE-NS will continue to surprise local non-profits over the next three years with $100,000 in grants for a total of $400,000 in donations, Burchell said.
This year’s surprise donations were $20,000 to Connections for the Homeless, $20,000 to Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center, $10,000 to YWCA Evanston/North Shore, $10,000 to A Safe Place, $10,000 to Northfield Township Food Pantry, $10,000 to Moraine Township Food Pantry, $10,000 to Providing Advocacy, Dignity & Shelter (PADS) Lake County, $5,000 to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lake County and $5,000 Prairie State Legal Services.
JLE-NS raises money throughout the year to help support local non-profits and provide scholarships to high school seniors through events such as trivia night and via sales at The Thrift House, the JLE-NS non-profit thrift shop located at 920 Chicago Ave. in Evanston.
The Junior League of Evanston-North Shore is a women’s organization committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Since 1924, JLE-NS has contributed more than $3.2 million to Chicago’s North Shore community and its 275 members serve an area that extends from Evanston and stretches to North Chicago.
JLE-NS is always seeking volunteers and members. Get information on joining the league or becoming a volunteer. JLE-NS also accepts applications for smaller community grants each year. Get inspired by reading more about the history of JLE-NS and their charitable giving.
More from Better:
- Start Early Raises $1.2 Million to Transform Lives Through Early Education
- Better Makers: Grammy Winner Esperanza Spalding Performs During Gala for The People’s Music School
- Children’s Home & Aid Generates More Than $72,000 for Families in Need
Amanda Marrazzo lives in the northwest Chicago suburb of Algonquin. She has been a news reporter for 25 years, including 17 years writing for the Chicago Tribune. She is married with two adult daughters and two dogs.