All Things Local
Summary: Hear ideas and challenges from people working in local government and nonprofit organizations. Hosted by Dr. Alicia Schatteman, Director of the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies at Northern Illinois University. We speak with public service researchers and workers across communities about topics and issues affecting their local towns, villages, cities, and neighborhoods.
For over 125 years, the St. Charles Public Library has served the community. In 1906, Andrew Carnegie, a library philanthropist, granted the library $12,500 to build a new free public library in St. Charles which had to be matched by $15,000 in local donations. That library still stands as part of a much larger library complex which we will hear about from Edith Craig, the previous director of the St. Charles Public Library.
Did you know there are nearly 9,000 units of local government in Illinois? This includes about 3,000 general-purpose governments and 6,000 special-purpose governments. General-purpose governments include counties, townships, and municipalities, and in Illinois, townships make up about 50% of these government units. Townships were one of the first forms of government created in the state going back to the Illinois Constitution of 1848. Townships provide general assistance to the public, provide real estate assessment assistance and maintain township-owned roads and bridges. Townships may also provide a number of youth and senior services and can also provide zoning, police and fire protection, and other services. They are governed by township boards that consist of a supervisor and members elected at large. Townships may also have separately elected highway commissioners, assessors, and clerks. To pay for these services, townships also levy property taxes and issue bonds. This episode is to catch up with some of our faculty doing researching township government; Dr. Kurt Thurmaier, Dr. Chris Goodman, and Dr. Jaehee Jong, faculty in the Department of Public Administration at NIU. Enjoy our conversation!
This month, I am speaking with Sister Kathleen Ryan, the Executive Director of the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora. Their programs help women find a voice in this country. The organization began in 1993, in her words, on a shoestring budget and a broken card table. Today, they serve hundreds of individuals each year. We also talk about Sister Kathleen’s personal journey and commitment to serving new immigrants in our community, and how her educator background took a turn into literacy education for immigrants. She also shares the importance of volunteers for their mission. Enjoy our conversation.
This month, I speak to Frankie DiCiacco, the founder and executive director of The Queer-Oriented Rural Resource Network that is dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ individuals in rural communities access the resources and services they need. In this episode, we talk about Frankie’s own experiences in rural Illinois and how he hopes to change not only access to needed services for LGBTQ+ individuals but also how we create a welcoming community. He also shares how he had the idea for this new nonprofit and some lessons learned in this journey so far. Enjoy our conversation.
Welcome to episode 19, an interview with Gretchen Sprinkle, executive director of the Kishwaukee United Way. In 1887, the model was created in Denver, Colorado to fundraise for local needs and then distribute those funds to local organizations. First called a charity organization society, then in 1913, the first Community Chest was created in Cleveland, Ohio which was widely used for United Way organizations until the 1950s. Today, there are over 1,300 local United Ways in communities across the United States. Locally, the Kishwaukee United Way is engaged in several programs that you will hear about including 211, Smart Money Initiative, and much more. They also fund 21 partner agencies in the county and organize an annual Day of Caring. Enjoy the episode!
The Housing Authority of DeKalb County has been providing affordable housing options since 1946. As a unit of local government with county-wide jurisdiction, but funded by rents and federal grants, not local taxes. They are governed by a five-member, all-volunteer board. They offer four federal programs including tenant-based assistance through the housing voucher program, unit-based assistance through the low-income public housing program, shelter plus care program for the chronically homeless and multi-family programs. They operate eleven buildings, with a total of 389 units. If you are someone you know needs housing assistance, you can find more information at www.dekohousing.com.
On this episode, number 17 of the All Things Local podcast, I speak with Tara Russo, Executive Director of Elder Care Services in DeKalb. She shares her personal background and commitment to seniors in our community. Her college education began in nursing but she quickly found that her heart was in social work, and specifically working with seniors. She talks about the wrap-around services her organization offers to help seniors in all facets of their life, to live their best possible lives at home. Despite the challenge of the pandemic, she has worked to form creative partnerships to serve our seniors, and even to assist other nonprofits to continue their work too. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
On this episode, number 16 of the All Things Local podcast, I speak with Courtney Strohacher, Executive Director of the DeKalb county convention and visitor bureau. She has been in this role about a year and she shares with us her path, her engagement with all sectors in DeKalb County, and her work with DeKalb County Unites. She shares with us how the CVB markets DeKalb County to local residents but also across the state and across the country. While we might not be able to travel very far right now, Courtney is working hard to focus on what we can do to still enjoy our local attractions and sites. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
On this episode I speak with Tia Anderson of Heartland Bank and Debra Boughton of NIU, who are leaders in Gather, a program of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. Now in its third year, Gather is a women’s leadership organization that helps strengthen the overall business and non-profit community in the DeKalb area. We talk about why the program was founded and how they are working to support all women. We discuss how women can get involved even during this pandemic. I am a proud member of Gather, along with nearly 100 other women, and I encourage everyone to think about how you can get involved. Go to DeKalb.org for more information. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
On this episode I speak with Fiona Cummings, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois. We chat about how Girl Scouts started, how it has evolved over time. We discuss their decision to be much more flexible so they can best serve their members, such as now only leasing space and putting those spaces in high traffic areas like shopping centers. They are also using technology in some very creative ways to keep the staff virtually connected to each and to continue to provide programs but virtually. She talks about the loss of revenue in many different areas and the impact on their programs and mission because of it. But without a doubt, she, her staff and her board know they can get through these challenges and continue to build strong and confident girls. Fiona taught me about the FAILURE, and fail just means first attempt in learning. And we can all learn a lot from her when it comes to lifelong learning. I hope you enjoy this episode.
Welcome to episode number 13 of the All Things Local Podcast. On this episode, I speak with Lynette Spencer, Founder and Executive Director of Adventure Works. We are four months into the pandemic now and Lynette and I chat about how her organization quickly adjusted and how they are continuing their mission of bringing mental health services to our community in some very unique ways. We discuss her collaboration with government agencies and other nonprofits, particularly in the University Village neighborhood in DeKalb. She shares how she found her passion of social work, and why she decided to take the leap and start a new nonprofit so that anyone who would benefit from adventure therapy would not be hindered by their ability to pay. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Welcome to episode number 12 of the All Things Local Podcast. On this episode, I speak with Keri Asevedo, Executive Director of the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. She shares how Habitat had to quickly adapt to COVID 19 when all building stopped and their Restore Closed to the public. She shares her career path from working in the criminal justice system to running a $3 million nonprofit with 22 employees and 1,400 volunteers. She admits she is not afraid to ask anyone for anything if its for a cause she believes in, like Habitat. Housing is one of those basic human rights, Keri argues, that is often tied up with politics of who gets to live where. Somehow we ended up discussing Kim Kardashian and Kanye West but also more timely topics like racism and classism and how all of that is related to housing. You’ll have to listen to hear the full story. I hope you enjoy our lively and informative conversation.
Welcome to episode number 11 of the All Things Local Podcast. On this episode, I speak with Michelle Donahoe, Executive Director of the DeKalb County History Center. She shares her journey as a public history student, as a volunteer, and now leading an organization that reaches across the county, preserving and sharing our county’s history. During this pandemic, the History Center reminds us all that history happens every day and encourages residents to share their stories, to document what’s going on in the world around them for future generations. I want to remind everyone that Give DeKalb County is May 7 and encourage you to make any size donation to any of the over 100 participating nonprofits. This is a critical time for nonprofits as programs and fundraising events have been cancelled, while many of them are seeing increased demand for their services. Share what you can and support Give DeKalb County on May 7. On behalf of these organizations and the people they serve, thank you. Enjoy this podcast episode and stay well.
Jo-Anne Stately is the Director of Impact Strategy for the Minneapolis Foundation in Minnesota. She kicked off the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies' 2020 Research Colloquium series on February 12 speaking about Native American philanthropy. This recording was made with a live audience so I apologize in advance for the audio quality.
I hope you enjoy this second part of my interview with the police chiefs of DeKalb and NIU. In this part of our interview, both chiefs talk about their department’s collaboration with nonprofits, about very specific events that turned them towards making a career in law enforcement, and then we get into a discussion of mental health issues facing first responders. I am editing this episode as we are all dealing with the disruption to our daily lives and the serious health consequences of the coronavirus. This episode is dedicated to all of those public servants, health care workers, and business employees that are risking their own lives and their family’s lives in order to help the rest of us stay healthy and safe. Take care everyone and enjoy the episode!