As a relatively new organization, the Forest Preserve Foundation began with a big goal: to increase opportunities for everyone in Cook County to enjoy the many benefits of spending time in the preserves. By working with a variety of partners and aligning their mission with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the foundation worked toward achieving their goal in a major way this year.
Throughout 2015, the foundation awarded nearly $250,000 in total grants to several different organizations. The grants supported activities such as camping, restoration work and planning for preserve improvements.
According to Radhika Miraglia, development and community associate for the Forest Preserve Foundation, some grants were awarded to groups that partner with the Forest Preserves to accomplish education and/or restoration goals.
“We supported the community participation in Forest Preserves events through Wild Indigo by providing funding for transportation and supplies. We also supported Mujeres Latinas en Accion’s ability to bring their teen group out to camp at the preserves–most of whom had never camped before,” explained Miraglia. “Mujeres’ leaders attended a special training, called Camping Leadership Immersion Course (CLIC), conducted by the Forest Preserves to train youth group leaders on how to camp. The CLIC program was also supported by a foundation grant, in recognition that many people do not have the skills, comfort level or gear to go camping on their own. We wanted to help youth groups–and families–overcome those barriers.”
The Forest Preserve Foundation also provided a large grant to the Student Conservation Association to help support the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps program, which is run in partnership with Friends of the Forest Preserves, for their work in training and guiding youth interns as workers in the Forest Preserves.
“This group works closely with the Forest Preserves to accomplish important restoration work while giving teens valuable life and work experiences. It’s an amazing program that is helping grow the next generation of conservationists while providing economic and educational benefits to them and their families,” said Miraglia.
While 2015 has been an exciting and successful year for the Forest Preserve Foundation, their work is far from done. Looking toward the future, the organization’s leadership recently completed their first strategic plan, outlining their goals for supporting current and future priority programs of the Forest Preserves. Foundation support will continue to focus on restoration work and camping accessibility.
For an organization that began in 2012 and granted $3,500, to what the foundation has accomplished this year, the future appears bright. Using their strategic plan as a guide, the foundation hopes to grant $1 million by 2021, and provide meaningful opportunities for the public to enjoy and learn from the Forest Preserves.
To learn more about the Forest Preserve Foundation, visit their website at forestpreservefoundation.org.