Root2Fruit, the brainchild of Ann Balusek and her sister Nancy Mammel, is a grant program that nurtures grassroots not-for-profit organizations in Evanston. Just like the organizations that it helps, Root2Fruit started with a simple idea grounded in giving back to the community.
Utilizing the resources of a family foundation set up by their father, Balusek and her sister have been giving back to their communities for years, including through a program similar to Root2Fruit in their native Omaha. The Evanston version of the project started when Balusek approached the Evanston Community Foundation with an idea for a program that focused exclusively on small not-for-profits in the Evanston area.
Seven years later, Root2Fruit thrives. Many organizations are successful “graduates” of the 3-year grant period, and more than 10 others currently receive support. Root2Fruit chooses grantees based on many factors, and is not the sole financial supporter of any of them.
“All of the organizations [that we consider] have so much to offer, but we want them to benefit from the collaboration. It’s about the family,” says Balusek of her thought process in choosing from many deserving organizations.
Root2Fruit is, above all, a community umbrella under which all of these great causes can come together and learn from each other in order to make an even bigger difference.
During our interview, Balusek referenced the many colorful personalities with whom she comes into contact on a daily basis. From mothers who have turned their personal struggles into community crusades, to musicians and artists channeling hardship into expression, the range is wide but the message is the same. All of these people have set out to make their community better and they have all found a valuable resource in the form of Root2Fruit. It is clear that this operation is truly about fueling and supporting people’s passions.
As its name suggests, Root2Fruit is about the growing process. The grant program lasts 3 years and acts as a springboard from which these organizations can hopefully begin to thrive. Many of the organizations that it helps are in great need of the money that Root2Fruit can provide them, but they are also in greater need of publicity and awareness of their cause. One of the major tenets of the program is encouraging not only success within a not-for-profit community but also volunteer participation from everyone who has time to give.
Please note: Applications for 2010 are due Oct. 5, 2009. Finalists will be chosen by late October to be interviewed in mid-November. Grants will be announced in December. Root2Fruit’s purpose is to build organizational capacity. Proposals that envision specific projects will not be funded within this program. This is an initiative for small organizations. For more information, visit: www.evcommfdn.org/grantees/root2fruit.html.