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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
Dozens of community members gathered Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Pittsfield Community Center to honor the philanthropic work of Don Kirk.
Kirk was recognized by the Community Foundation of Western Illinois and Northeast Missouri as a “Friend of Philanthropy” as part of the Foundation’s observance of Community Foundation Week, which ran from Nov. 12-18. Kirk served as a board member for the Community Foundation from 2005-2010, and he continues to serve on the Pike County Endowment Fund Council.
“Don is committed not only to advancing the Community Foundation’s mission through his time, talent, and treasure,” Community Foundation CEO Catherine Bocke Meckes said in a news release. “He is committed to advancing rural philanthropy in Pike County and beyond. For this, we are incredibly grateful.”
During the award ceremony on Thursday, Kirk was recognized for playing an integral role in the inception of the Community Foundation’s county endowment fund program in 2009. The county endowment fund enables individual counties within the Community Foundation’s service area to build a permanent source of charitable support for its needs and opportunities.
Kirk, a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual, reported that his interest in creating a fund serving Pike County non-profits stemmed from continually witnessing client wealth transferring out of Pike County between generations. Kirk believed if there was a vehicle for that wealth to be given to for charitable purposes, it could keep some of that wealth in Pike County.
“When we see a farmer pass away or a business owner pass away, that money usually leaves because the beneficiaries live outside of the state,” Kirk said in a release. “Therefore, that wealth leaves the county. We thought that maybe someone would be interested in leaving some of that money here as a legacy and they can do that through the county endowment fund program.”
As a result of the effort of Kirk and others, the Pike County Endowment Fund was created as a pilot program by the Community Foundation. Today, the Community Foundation’s six county endowment funds are worth more than half a million dollars. Collectively, they have granted more than $86,000 to qualifying organizations.
As part of Kirk’s award ceremony on Thursday evening, he was asked to nominate a non-profit organization to receive a $1,000 grant. Recognizing its impact and potential, Kirk selected the Pike County Endowment Fund.
The $1,000 grant in Kirk’s honor will be matched through the “Double Down for Pike County” matching gift challenge. The “Double Down” matching gift challenge was made by an anonymous donor, who has pledged to double all donations made – up to $25, 000 – through the end of the calendar year.
Kirk’s ceremony took place during Community Foundation Week, which was created in 1989 by former president George H.W. Bush, coinciding with National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15, to recognize the important work of community foundations through America.
“November is a month for us to celebrate what we can achieve when we work together.” Bocke Meckes said. “There is a tangible impact that can be seen in the lives of those that our hardworking, selfless grantee organizations serve. Each dollar that is distributed is a reflection of a generous and forward-thinking donor’s legacy and desire to do good not only today, but for generations to come. We are more determined than ever to honor these legacies and intentions through grants and collaborations on both sides of the river.”
Kirk indicated that the Pike County Endowment Fund will continue to grow and benefit more non-profit organizations in the county. Kirk said that the longer the organization continues its charitable mission, the more likely it is that more Pike County residents will choose to invest in the fund.
“We’re going to keep growing,” Kirk said. “The longer we keep doing this, eventually, someone will choose to drop $250,000 or $500,000 on us – or $1,000,000. It will happen.”