Tony Martinez, Jr., president and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation (photo by Carrie Summy)

Over the course of the past two years, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation has taken a hard and honest look at philanthropy and its ability to address systemic racial inequities. We understand that our work, from grant-making to our investment portfolio to how we operate overall, must intentionally, comprehensively address the racial disparities that exist in order for all members of our community to thrive and prosper. 

This journey has led the Foundation to evaluate and assess all its policies, practices, and work. Our mission is focused on uniting community members and mobilizing resources to advance a racially just society and equitable outcomes for residents of Oak Park, River Forest and surrounding communities. Through strategic investments, strengthened partnerships, leadership and advocacy, we are redoubling our efforts to make sure that we are doing our best to ensure everyone has the opportunity they deserve in order to live a fulfilling life.

This starts with learning and listening, and building trust within our community, to deeply and fully understand the many barriers and disparities that exist right here in our towns. Ultimately what we want to know is, what keeps a family up at night? In the months ahead, the Foundation will be meeting with community members throughout the West Cook County region to learn more about the challenges we face. This assessment will be of great value not just for the Foundation and nonprofit sector, but for local government, schools and the community at large. Together we will identify holistic solutions – including philanthropic resources – which will offer greater benefit to our community’s most vulnerable residents, and will address the socio-economic and racial disparities of our region.

At the end of the year, as we reminisce with family and friends, and make plans for a bright future, so too will the Foundation reflect on all the things we’ve learned along the way and our hopes for a better tomorrow. As a community foundation, we are responsible to do more for the benefit of those who call west Cook County home. Our capacity to do good together is greater than we can imagine. Please join us on this journey.

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