Perfect Match: Patty and Ken Hunt, pictured above, have pledged 50,000 to the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation's "Rapid Response and Recovery Fund." Photo provided by Patty Hunt

Oak Park residents and philanthropists Ken and Patty Hunt have pledged $250,000 in a matching challenge to support the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation’s “Rapid Response and Recovery Fund.”

“The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation is something we’ve been involved with for a while. This is the most significant contribution we’ve made,” said Ken Hunt.

When COVID-19 began to spread in Illinois, the Hunts donated directly to non-profits. To make the greatest impact and support many non-profits, the Hunts decided to continue their efforts through the community foundation.

“During this particular time, we feel we have to help those most in need,” said Patty Hunt. “And that’s why we chose to support the community foundation.”

The “Rapid Response and Recovery Fund,” established in March, has provided financial relief to local organizations providing services, resources and aid to vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19.

In April, the foundation released the fund’s first round of grants, dispersing a total of $260,000 to such organizations as New Moms, Thrive Counseling Center, Sarah’s Inn, Beyond Hunger and Housing Forward among others. Growing Community Media also received a $5,000 first-round grant.

Money raised in the challenge grant will go directly to the “Rapid Response and Recovery Fund.” The Hunts will match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $250,000.

The Hunts hope their pledge will encourage others to donate what they can to the fund, so that other local organizations can receive the necessary financial aid to continue serving the community.

“Oak Park and River Forest, they’re wonderful towns. Everybody pulls together,” said Ken Hunt.

COVID-19 has ravaged not only people’s health, but that of the world’s economy. The pandemic has plunged many non-profits into dire financial straits, despite the increased need for the services they provide.

“No one knows the landscape of this pandemic situation,” said Patty Hunt. “I think there’s going to be a lot of need out there for a long time and so we hope that this will be able to provide enough assistance to get us through the worst of this.”

The Hunts have committed to donating the entire $250,000 to the foundation’s fund, even if the matching challenge goal goes unmet.

 “It would be our hope that [the foundation] raises more than $250,000 and they come to us and say, ‘Hey, you guys, we’ve got another $30,000 that maybe you ought to match,'” said Patty Hunt. “That would be a happy thing for us.”

The Hunts’ commitment and support has not gone unappreciated or unnoticed by the foundation.

“We are grateful to the Hunts for the generosity and care they have expressed by offering this challenge, and we remain committed to helping organizations who are stretched to their limits in providing help to at-risk populations such as the elderly, the socio-economically disadvantaged and those with health challenges,” said Tony Martinez, foundation president and CEO.

The Hunts are no strangers to giving back. The first of his family to get a college degree, Ken Hunt donated $1.5 million to fund the full-ride Ken Hunt Running Back endowed scholarship at his alma mater, the University of Miami.

While a student, Hunt was a running back for the university’s football team until he got injured in his sophomore year. The university allowed him to keep his scholarship.

“For that reason, he’s always been very grateful to those who gave him a lot of opportunities,” Patty Hunt said.

Living in Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Arthur Heurtley House, the Hunts have opened their home to benefit the Chicago Academy for the Arts and the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Patty Hunt serves on the board of both organizations.

Patty Hunt credits Wright for making Oak Park the architectural hub it is today and appreciates the trust for preserving that.

“If he had not chosen to live here and work in these communities, it would be an entirely different place,” said Patty Hunt. “We feel like it’s a very vibrant part of the community, which is why we support them pretty significantly.”

Like many others, the trust has also fallen on hard times, having to close Wright’s home and studio, as well as having to furlough some of its staff.

“That’s something the community should also support,” said Ken Hunt.

Patty Hunt volunteers with Oak Park Mutual Aid, a coalition of neighbors created in response to COVID-19 that provides food assistance, grocery and medication pick up, financial assistance, as well as resources to mental health services. Oak Park Mutual Aid serves those in Oak Park, as well as River Forest, Forest Park and other neighboring communities.

“There’s a tremendous amount of need right now in our community,” said Patty Hunt. “It’s been very rewarding to work with this Oak Park Mutual Aid group because we’re just people helping people.”

The Hunts established their charitable organization, called the T. Kendall Hunt Family Foundation over a decade ago. A lot of their philanthropic pursuits revolve around education, something particularly important to Ken Hunt.

“Largely we focus mostly on our philanthropies around education because that’s what Ken feels is so important and was able to lift him up out of a pretty poor financial situation,” Patty Hunt said.

The Hunts have a long history of working with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation as well.

Ken Hunt was a member of the EntrepreneurLeaders in Philanthropy (ELP); ELP is a giving group established by the foundation. Patty Hunt serves on the foundation’s Women’s Leaders in Philanthropy, a group honoring woman and supported by women.

The Hunt family’s philanthropic endeavors also include ensuring the preservation of local history. A few years back, they issued a challenge grant to help the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest move to the historic Oak Park pumping station at Lake and Lombard. It also rebranded as the Oak Park River Forest Museum.

“It was pretty amazing to us how the community rose to the challenge. People came out of the woodwork to support that,” said Patty Hunt. “It was very rewarding to see how our challenge spurred so many people to invest in the community.”

The Hunts hope their foundation matching challenge will garner the same level of support from the community.

“Let’s support the community. Everybody can do a little,” Ken Hunt said. “Everyone can do their part.”

If you would like to make a donation please visit: Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation

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