Using Community Foundations to Build Community

Don Forrest, Farnsworth Group, Inc.
Jerry Smith, DeKalb County Community Foundation

Community foundations use different approaches and structures to facilitate development and progress by providing the resources to execute projects, plans, and policies. While the projects they support are important, so too is the “atmosphere of opportunity” they inspire. Community Foundations engage citizens, giving them the opportunity to be involved and to become leaders. They reduce the reliance on taxpayer dollars and the over-extension of government. They inspire enthusiasm and a willingness to set bold goals and high ambitions for the community. Their successes reinforce the key elements of every successful community: innovation, a willingness to try new things, collaboration, civic responsibility, optimism, and commitment. In the end, a successful Community Foundation helps residents help themselves.

Although they are modeled differently, the Elmwood Community Foundation and the DeKalb County Community Foundation share the same basic mission: to improve the quality of life for residents of their communities. These Foundations recognize what is important in their respective vicinities and have crafted means to address those needs, desires, and ambitions. This session will describe the achievements and challenges of these two Foundations, and demonstrate how they intend to ensure a bright future for Elmwood and DeKalb County.

About the Presenters . . . .

Don Forrest lives in Elmwood with his wife and two daughters. Don works at Farnsworth Group Inc., an architecture-engineering firm, where he is responsible for community relations, marketing, client management, and corporate development. Don was Chairman of the Board, and continues to serve such organizations as Rural Partners®, the Elmwood Community Foundation, and the Rural Coalition on Development. Currently, he serves on the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Business Advocacy Committee, Friends of Wildlife Prairie Park, the Illinois Central College Advisory Committee, and is a Trustee with the United Methodist Church of Elmwood.

Jerry Smith joined the DeKalb County Community Foundation in 1999 as its first full-time Executive Director. The Community Foundation is recognized as a leader in the area’s philanthropic arena, having grown its asset base to $20 million. Smith helped establish the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations in 2005, and serves as treasurer. Prior to coming to the Community Foundation, Smith was Chief Executive Officer of Castle-PrinTech in DeKalb, a regional printing and graphic arts business. Active in numerous civic affairs in the DeKalb area, Smith and his wife, Ging, remain involved in the community. They have a grown son, Eric, who resides in Peoria.


Laboratory for Community and Economic Development | College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Extension | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign