When the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect Oak Park-River Forest and surrounding communities, Joanne and Ted Despotes rallied around the Oak Park-River Forest (OPRF) Community Foundation’s call for donations to its Rapid Response and Recovery Fund. The couple say Foundation staff have earned their trust, which made their choice to support organizations helping front line workers and vulnerable families and individuals an easy one.

“When I read who some of the recipients were I said, ‘Oh, it’ll be a lot easier for me to give [to OPRFCF] and let them figure out specifically who to give funds to. Because I trust them,” says Joanne. “Honestly, there’s so much need and the Rapid Response and Recovery Fund is where the money needs to be. I think it’s a great thing that the Foundation is doing.”

In addition to their recent contributions, the Despotes have made unrestricted donations and included the Foundation in their estate planning. They value the Foundation’s knowledge about the needs of the communities it serves today – and with eyes toward the future.

“The Foundation is still going to be supporting the types of organizations we are already committed to, so it seemed like a good place to make a legacy gift,” Joanne says. “We know that we’re supporting a community we really love.”

Active participants with several local non-profits – Ted and Joanne volunteer for the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association where they are members, Joanne co-chairs the annual Crop Walk, which raised it largest total during its first-ever “virtual walk” in May, and both are closely involved with First United Church of Oak Park – they encourage potential donors to do some homework.

“One piece of advice I have for anyone contributing to an organization, this one or others: Allow the gift to go into their general fund so they can make decisions about where it’s going to go when they need it to, versus telling them where it has to go,” says Ted. “It’s a way to spread your donation as far as you can.”

As children of immigrants, both Joanne and Ted are grateful they’ve had opportunities to work hard and create savings. They consider their contributions a way to support both community and country.

“Giving becomes a way of life when you do it,” says Joanne. “I think it’s a wonderful way of life.”

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