HIGHLAND PARK/HIGHWOOD – After Terri Olian was appointed the first executive director of the Highland Park Community Foundation (HPCF) by Chairman Peter Flanzer, she was so excited she wanted to shout out from Port Clinton Square, the center of downtown Highland Park.
But then it hit her.
“If you walk down the street and randomly ask 10 people do you know what the HPCF is, you wouldn’t find very many people who know what it is,” said Olian. “The fact that they don’t know about the foundation also leads me to believe they probably don’t know what the different organizations do — and they do a lot.”
The HPCF provides grants to support new and innovative programs as well as scholarships to cultural, educational and social service agencies for Highland Park and Highwood residents.
The foundation was created 25 years ago, and this year the foundation surpassed the previous year’s grants by awarding nearly $183,000 to 35 non-profit community agencies and organizations, according to Olian.
Olian is no stranger to HPCF, as she and her husband, Rob Olian, have been financial supporters for a several years, and would periodically go to the HPCF grant awards reception when she served on the City Council. In addition to serving on the City Council, Olian has also served on the North Shore School District 112 Board of Education, and more than 19 civic and community organizations.
At least 51 percent of the population served must be from Highland Park and Highwood in order to submit a grant application from the foundation.
“There are some cultural organizations that receive funding that may not serve unmet needs in the same way as some of the other organizations that help individuals with disabilities, provide childcare services, or provide senior services, but they’re still important to the community,” said Olian.
The National Hispanic Institute Summer Program is one of the organizations that’s receiving funding through Highland Park High School (HPHS). Because of the funding that the foundation provides, more HPHS students are able to attend this institute.
“It’s all about leadership and creating opportunities that enable these students to develop skills to merge and flourish,” said Olian.
Aliza Gilbert is the HPHS coordinator for the National Hispanic Program, and she explained what an incredible impact the program had on the students at the 2017 HPCF grant awards reception held on October 18.
HPCF also provides funding for College Bound Opportunities (CBO), an organization that partners adults with students. CBO is an ongoing mentorship program that continues throughout the student’s college career. Olian explained that initially an adult meets with a high school student, they form a relationship and help each student go through the application process.
“It’s a wonderful mentorship program and most of the students who go through the program, are first-time college attendees for their families,” said Olian. “We provide extra resources for not-for-profits to carry on with their work.”
This is the first year that HPCF will provide funding for Random Acts of Flowers, an organization that provides flowers to individuals in nursing homes or hospitals. “There are some people who don’t have family and have outlived their friends, so receiving these floral arrangements brings joy to the patients,” she said.
Olian has lived in Highland Park since 1984 in three different homes all within a mile and a half of each other. “We moved into our third and final home after our kids were grown about six years ago, and we have no intention of ever leaving Highland Park,” she said.
Olian has two married children who are living in New York; one of whom is expecting a baby, and her youngest child lives in Highland Park.
Her love for the city is apparent in all of her philanthropic endeavors. “I think it is a phenomenally rich community in many ways,” said Olian. “It’s a diverse community with economic differences and social background differences. There are needs throughout the community that by and large people aren’t aware of. All of these differences enrich the community.”
Olian is thrilled to be surrounded by such “hard-working and devoted” board members. She’s also enjoying meeting people in the community who want to learn more about the foundation.
“To educate the whole community about what we’re doing is a challenge, but it’s one that I’m willing to take on, because that’s what has to happen to reach our major goal to bring more donors into our tent,” said Olian. “It would be wonderful if we could double our endowment.”
For more information visit: hpcommunityfoundation.com