By Kristen Bruckner (article appeared in the Redstone Review March 2017
The Lyons Community Foundation board last year created a policy to continue to provide support to the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF). LCF has been supporting LEAF and its predecessors since LCF’s inception 10 years ago. Since LCF began awarding grants in 2009, funds allocated to LEAF/Food Pantry/Basic Needs Fund have accounted for over a quarter of all money awarded by the foundation, or almost $103,000.
The new policy will grant LEAF an amount equal to 20% of all of the grants given to other organizations that LCF supports. The funds are intended to pay operating expenses of the important “Human Services Safety Net” LEAF provides to members of the Lyons community.
Since its beginning, LCF recognized the importance of serving those most in need in our community and began supporting what was then the Basic Needs Fund. Both organizations operate independently and serve residents in very different capacities, yet there remains a bit of confusion about what LEAF does vs LCF. It’s helpful to understand each nonprofit’s history and mission of service to appreciate why each is critically important to the residents of Lyons.
When the Lyons Community Foundation was started (a process described in the February Redstone issue), locals realized that a regional foundation wouldn’t address the unique needs of our community. As described by Laura Levy, Co-Executive Chair of the LCF Advisory Board “The Lyons Community Foundation was formed in response to a wide range of cultural interests as well as a call for public service in town. We are here to provide a conduit for those who seek to enhance lives in a broad range of ongoing community interests”. Grantees such as the Clarifier Project, Lyons Volunteers, the Sandstone Summer Concert Series, and scholarships for Lyons-area students indicate the diversity of projects funded. LCF is able to grant to non-profits backed by local citizens who perform the arms and legs of project-based work.
In the immediate aftermath of the epic flood, LCF raised over 1M dollars that was disseminated through LEAF to help individuals, families and local businesses. Typically LCF can only grant to non-profit entities 501 c(3)’s, but by partnering with LEAF, individual critical needs were addressed. Recently, the partnership with LEAF/LCF was able to facilitate the allocation of the last of LCF’s “Rebuild Lyons” fund to residents in the confluence still facing hurdles in getting back and remaining in their homes.
- Improve the Quality of Life: Add to community culture by supporting public art and music, local history, area ecology, public school enrichment, community events and more.
- Build a Culture of Giving: A bridge to connect groups such as Lyons Volunteers and Lyons Leos; provide a platform for residents who want to donate their time, talents, expertise, inspiration and financial resources
- Encourage Positive Change: Serve as a catalyst for progress. Projects ranging from Rebuild and Recovery from the flood; promoting sustainability; providing support for many human services.
LEAF’s mission is to offer a human services safety net to those in need in the Greater Lyons area. LEAF began in 2008 when the pastor of the Lyons Community Church, Claire McNulty-Drewes had the compelling idea of starting a food pantry and basic needs emergency fund. In her role as pastor, she had noticed that there were residents of Lyons who didn’t have enough to eat, and that sometimes local people ran into emergencies where they needed help paying for basic needs like heat, electricity, rent and medical bills. The pastor went to her congregation, where members volunteered to help out in creating a food pantry and a Basic Needs Emergency Fund. LCF began supporting the Basic Needs Fund (BNF) in this very first year. LEAF officially became its own 501 c (3) in 2016. Local resident Emily Dusel is the Executive Director.
LEAF serves those in need in the Greater Lyons area in three basic areas:
- Lyons Community Food Pantry: providing food on a weekly basis to roughly 30-40 families living in poverty
- Lyons Meals on Wheels: serving frail elderly and people with disabilities
- Basic Needs Assistance: helping residents find resources they need including rent, utilities and medical bills; guiding clients to a road of self-sufficiency.
- To help frail and elderly, people with disabilities and those returning from the hospital to remain self-sufficient and in their own homes for as long as possible
- To serve our community by promoting client health and independence through good nutrition and social interaction
- To ensure that no one in the greater Lyons area goes hungry
- To provide support for basic needs assistance through resource matching and financial assistance
So what are the reasons to have both organizations?
LCF can address a wide range of community interests
LCF is able to fund long-range programs and diverse groups
LCF grants to 501c (3) organizations, not individuals
LCF addresses community culture, public education, and enhancement of public spaces
LCF is a catalyst for local volunteerism and public engagement
LEAF aids residents in their critical time of need; resources for food, rent, utilities, etc
LEAF works to increase awareness of poverty on a local level
LEAF can work with individuals through client advocacy services
LEAF can assist residents in tapping into available resources
Both LCF and LEAF rely heavily on volunteer support. Both organizations have volunteer board members as well as dozens of citizens who perform the hundreds of hours of work of each organization’s mission each month. Without LCF, things like the 9Health Fair, the Lyons Art Walk, and the Holiday Parade of Lights likely wouldn’t continue. Without LEAF, there would be no local safety net for the estimated 1 in 4 people who will fall into poverty at some point in their lives. Both LEAF and LCF are eternally grateful to area residents who volunteer, donate, and participate in the programs offered. To find out more visit www.Lyonscf.org and www.leaflyons.org.