The Lyons Community Foundation (LCF) has been a go-to resource for locally based community philanthropy for the last ten years. As other non-profits and public based groups are established and gain momentum in Lyons, the best of small town cooperation and collaboration is continuing to flourish.
At a recent reception for LCF Annual Grant award winners, it was evident just how small and interconnected our town really is. Almost every single non-profit’s work in some way benefits or overlaps with one another. Small or large LCF grants are able to be leveraged in a really effective way through the synergy of complimentary missions and the hard-work of volunteers. There are now quite a few non-profits that one might think compete with each other, but instead all tend to work together to get important work done in Lyons. This may be aided by the fact that many of the active citizens who engage in civic-minded work tend to volunteer for a variety of causes and may span several different projects, but it is also clear that philanthropy and volunteerism tend to be contagious.
An excellent example of a continuous loop of work is the “garden to table” program that was initially funded through an LCF grant in 2016. Kim and Andy Doering, long standing crusaders in many environmental and school based-programs started the school plantings with an LCF grant for irrigation in 2016. This grant paved the way to re-ignite gardening-based curriculum at Lyons Elementary that was started with an LCF-funded salad cart initiative in the early days of the foundation. The extension of that work didn’t stop there. The curriculum allows for students to study botany and ecology all the way through its life cycle with its eventual bounty delivered to the Lyons Food Pantry. LEAF and the Food Pantry are the largest beneficiaries of LCF grant funding. Students in classroom projects, the Lyons Elementary Eco Club, and the Pathfinders after school program all have a hand in cultivation, harvest and delivery to the food bank.
As vegetables grow, the students continue their hands on work during Lyons Elementary’s Science Leadership curriculum. This trail blazing program, also supported through LES Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) funding, is in its pilot year, focusing on leadership and team building skills with a science and ecology focus during a once per month all-day outdoor curriculum.
The possibilities for providing leadership opportunities for Lyons High School students along with mentoring and outdoor curriculum expansions at the elementary school appear endless. Lyons High School students who are members of a study group called “River Watch” have been folded into the program, leading elementary school students in measuring local river health. The goal is to eventually build even more pathways between to the two local schools creating more opportunities for leadership and collaboration.
Lyons Elementary School Principal Andrew Moore, a champion of this program comments “we are so fortunate to have engaged parents, teachers, area environmental groups, and local citizens who are all working together to see this program succeed. We’ve been able to initiate a school-wide initiative that has touched so many facets of outdoor-based study by leveraging our community resources, the great people of Lyons”.
The Lyons Historical Society, another long-time LCF grant beneficiary has also combined forces with the Elementary School. School groups are brought to the Redstone Museum on regular basis to study museum science and learn about local history.
The Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission is another organization that also benefits from LCF granting and collaboration with area artists and the Town of Lyons. The art installations you see on Main Street are a result of LCF grants along with LAHC funding and the dedication of the commission whose mission is to support and enhance the artistic community. LAHC also sponsors such community-wide efforts at the art shows in town hall, the Lyons Film Festival and the annual Art Walk. LCF granting that funds the Sandstone Summer Concert Series also gives back directly in supporting local musicians and providing amazing, free entertainment for residents.
Other service groups that have been supported by LCF continue to show up just about everywhere in town. Lyons Volunteers, started initially for flood response and recovery now lends itself to a variety of community needs. The recent success of the Lyons Chill Fest, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, was made possible by the work of these volunteers along with Lyons Leos, a youth-based service organization. The Leos and Lyons Volunteers have also poured many hours into the Habitat for Humanity construction of affordable housing currently underway.
This is the beauty of living and working in a small town. Residents feel empowered to make an impact. By supporting community-based philanthropy either through financial support, hard work and dedication or just providing the inspiration for projects that will positively impact our community, we are all brought closer and make our local world just a bit brighter. If you aren’t yet involved in any community based work, go ahead and jump in. With a small town, you have the opportunity to really impact things that you care about. Volunteer at the school, join a Town of Lyons commission or board, or just show up at the next community event. Here in Lyons we have a festival, a music concert, an outdoor event or race, or a school event just about every week.