Leaders Among Us

Our community is fortunate to benefit from the leadership, wisdom and service of this year's Local Legends.

by Mark Roberts, Community Foundation of Central Illinois
Preston Jackson works on a mural to enliven the space outside of Proctor Center on the Southside of Peoria.
Preston Jackson works on a mural to enliven the space outside of Proctor Center on the Southside of Peoria.

The Community Foundation of Central Illinois (CFCI) celebrates the 2021 Local Legends and congratulates each of them for this well-deserved honor. CFCI has been honored to work alongside several of these Local Legends, as well as other past honorees who have been fundholders, donors, board members or committee volunteers. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in the celebration of those individuals who have had—and continue to have—a major impact on this community.

Unique Placemaking Through Art

CFCI had the great privilege to witness and be involved in the incredible work of renowned artist Preston Jackson as a result of a grant made from the Emerging Philanthropists Fund. CFCI’s Emerging Philanthropists Fund is an initiative designed to invigorate emerging community leaders to come together as philanthropists. Its members are comprised of a cross section of central Illinois professionals who have an interest in making a positive impact on the quality of life in our community through grantmaking. Members collectively build the Fund, and these dollars are invested with a percentage made available for distribution each year through the grantmaking process.

In 2017, Friends of Proctor Center was chosen as the Emerging Philanthropists Fund grant recipient. The organization received $4,300 to support “A Show of Hands,” a program designed to provide a unique, safe and inexpensive opportunity for youth, families and residents of Peoria’s 61605 zip code to participate in the sport of handball. In addition to the program, Friends of Proctor wanted to build a welcoming community space that serves both as a handball court and a place for the neighborhood to gather and host events. It was then that Preston Jackson graciously agreed to help paint a mural on the handball court to enliven this unique space. The program, art wall and space now serve as a valuable amenity to neighborhood residents and draw people from the community to the Southside of Peoria.

Martha Herm was the recipient of the 2018 Women’s Fund Legacy of Leadership Award, recognizing her continued excellence in community service.
Martha Herm was the recipient of the 2018 Women’s Fund Legacy of Leadership Award, recognizing her continued excellence in community service.

Empowering Women and Girls

Another individual who has made a legendary impact in the Peoria area also happens to be an influential part of CFCI and its growth over the years. A founding member of CFCI’s Women’s Fund, Martha Herm previously served as executive director of the Center for Prevention of Abuse, a respected nonprofit organization that has received many Women’s Fund grants over the years in support of their lifesaving work.

The Women’s Fund endowment supports projects that strengthen families and communities by empowering women and girls. Since its inception, the Women’s Fund has contributed more than $400,000 in grants to support local nonprofit organizations. For the first time in its history, the endowment is now well over $700,000. This permanent fund creates a legacy that will live on beyond all of us.

Asked in 2020 why she supports the Women’s Fund, Martha replied, “We need to help young women and girls become competent and caring citizens and community leaders so that our country’s future bends more strongly toward justice, equality, a vibrant economy, and the elimination of extreme poverty. The United States’ 2017 National Security Strategy states it best: ‘Societies that empower women to participate fully in civic and economic life are more prosperous and peaceful.’”

Martha Herm has been honored by the Women’s Fund over the years, most notably as recipient of the prestigious Legacy of Leadership Award in 2018. This award recognizes a former Leader Luncheon Award recipient and Women’s Fund founding member who has continued to exhibit excellence in service to her community and/or in her profession. It honors a woman whose lifetime achievements demonstrate a legacy of leadership that is inspirational and will leave a lasting impact.

Leaders like Martha Herm and Preston Jackson have certainly helped shape the community for the better, and CFCI is honored to have crossed paths with them along the way. To learn more about CFCI, the Women’s Fund, Emerging Philanthropists Fund and more, visit communityfoundationci.orgPM

Mark Roberts is chief executive officer for the Community Foundation of Central Illinois. For more information, call (309) 674-8730 or visit communityfoundationci.org.

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