A few weeks ago we learned of the death of Nancy Follett. Wednesday Journal remembered Nancy as an energetic and very involved community leader [Obituaries, Feb. 7]. The board and staff of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation are particularly mindful of her impact, remembering her work to make the foundation what it is today. Her efforts began two generations ago when she set forth a path for the foundation with her vision and determination to see our community prosper.

Nancy Follett was instrumental in organizing the foundation’s focus to become a more active participant in the community, aiming to address long-term needs. 

Previously, the Community Foundation had been a trust with representation from each of the regional banks and was managing a $250,000 contribution made from the Austin family. River Forest resident Ann Pepper was serving as a part-time executive director, working out of her home. 

Nancy could see that if the foundation was going to be a viable effective organization, it needed office space, a more public presence, and professional staff with more time to focus on growth and development.

She believed that the foundation should be a strong organization so it could be a repository for philanthropic gifts that would be of greater help to the community. Thanks to her leadership, the foundation increased staff, found space and began to build assets. She was a charter member of Women Leaders in Philanthropy, bringing similarly-minded women together to build an endowment from which grants could be made.

Women Leaders in Philanthropy is now 94 women strong. Beginning with assets of $250,000, today the foundation manages $37.8 million. With these assets, last year the foundation provided 47 impactful grants to nonprofits, 447 scholarships to students, capacity-building seminars for local nonprofits as well as Leadership Lab, Success of All Youth, and PlanitGreen funding.

All of this is possible because of Nancy Follett. What was an idea generations ago is today a fulfillment of her vision and commitment. We are forever grateful to this most extraordinary leader.

Stacey Williams 

Board Chair 

Sheryl Martin

Interim president & CEO

Oak Park-River Forest Community

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