Since it was formed in 1992, the Highland Park Community Foundation has provided more than $2.2 million in grants to nonprofits in the region.
Now it wants to do even more.
The foundation recently launched its Corporate Champion Program to provide opportunities for businesses to become philanthropic partners during a period of unprecedented need in Highwood and Highland Park.
Chicago-based Mesirow Financial, which has a significant presence in Highland Park, is the first Corporate Champion to sign on, making a fiveyear, $100,000 commitment to the foundation.
“For more than 80 years, Mesirow’s commitment to our clients and our communities has included investment in the places where we live and work,” says the company’s Executive Chairman and longtime Highland Park resident Richard Price. “We are pleased to be partnering with the Highland Park Community Foundation in a long-term investment to support and enrich the lives of those in and around Highland Park and Highwood.”
The Corporate Champion Program is an outgrowth out of the desire of the foundation’s board to up its commitment to nonprofits serving Highwood and Highland Park. In 2016, the board launched a strategic planning process and hired its first Executive Director, Terri Olian.
“The two main goals of bringing me on were really to raise awareness of the foundation and to raise funds,” Olian says.
The foundation’s focus areas include education, human services, senior services, services for people with disabilities, and the creative and cultural arts. The Corporate Champion Program will boost the foundation’s ability to do even more.
“We’re able to address the needs of the youngest in our community to the oldest in our community,” says Olian. “We support organizations that provide services for senior residents and we provide grants to organizations that tend to the needs of preschoolers and very young children as well.”
While the program was not a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing is right as so many individuals and families are suffering during this difficult time. The key advantage for individual and corporate donors to the foundation is that the foundation knows the community, knows where the needs are, and knows which nonprofits and charities are doing quality work.
That knowledge is why Mesirow Financial signed on as the first Corporate Champion.
“We are driven not only by where our employees and clients live and work but also by the passion of our employees, clients, and business associates,” says Ellie Forman, Vice President of Community Engagement for Mesirow Financial. “We have had a long relationship with the Highland Park Community Foundation, and I think there’s a misconception about the level of need in the communities of Highland Park and Highwood.”
The company focuses its funding on neighborhoods, including family service and education; on social justice, including tolerance and anti-gun violence; and, on opportunity and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
Among its grantees in the North Shore region are the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and Ravinia. The company also supports larger, Chicago-based nonprofits that operated programs in Highland Park and Highwood.
The newly established relationship with the Highland Park Community Foundation will just add to the impact of the company’s commitment in the area.
“The foundation does all the vetting and they keep up with a solid network of nonprofits,” Forman says. “To really be able to lean on and trust the organization that’s going to be distributing our funds, for the end user that’s really important.”
For more information about the Highland Park Community Foundation visit hpcfil.org.