Nonprofits Leading the Way

My work has enabled me to get to know many of the leaders of the region's nonprofits.
by Tucker Kennedy, Ameren Illinois
Tucker Kennedy, right, with Steve Thompson of Easterseals Central Illinois
Tucker Kennedy, right, with Steve Thompson of Easterseals Central Illinois

One of my responsibilities at Ameren Illinois is to assist our executive leaders in evaluating the hundreds of applications we receive each year for charitable donations. With a limited amount of funding available, we carefully evaluate each proposal with an eye on providing resources to those who can deliver results. 

I'm fortunate that this work has enabled me to get to know many of the leaders of the region's nonprofits. Their work is difficult, with responsibilities encompassing fundraising, operations, volunteer management and legislative relations.

I almost always come away from my interactions with these leaders amazed by the breadth of talent we have in this region. Below are some of those leaders and their attributes that have resonated with me. By no means is this an exhaustive list—and if you don't see your name, it's only because I was given a limited number of words. I'll catch you next time.

South Side Office of Concern – Christine Kahl. A tireless advocate for the homeless and disabled, Chris has that rare mix of financial, program management, development and political skills that have enabled her and her organization to improve the lives of hundreds of those less fortunate in our region. 

Black Business Alliance – Denise Moore. It’s one thing to say we need to improve job training opportunities for our citizens; it’s another thing to make it happen by sheer force of will. Denise brings that refuse-to-say-no attitude to all of her initiatives. 

Children’s Home – Matt George. A dynamic, personable leader, Matt and his team have built a stable operation in times of declining state funding support. I appreciate how he lends his expertise to help build the fabric of the entire social service structure in our region. 

PCCEO – McFarland Bragg. When you’ve been with an organization for 40 years, you must be doing something right. I’m always impressed with how McFarland has his finger on the pulse of the community—and he makes things happen for the people he serves.

Center for Prevention of Abuse – Carol Merna. Always sunny and cheerful, Carol’s energetic approach brightens the lives of those who are impacted by abuse and harassment. 

Dream Center Peoria – Andy King. If Andy tells you he’s going to do something, you book it. He combines a compassion for others and a business and marketing sensibility to get results. Plus, you gotta love the accent.

Easterseals Central Illinois – Steve Thompson. Polished and personable, Steve embodies the nonprofit leader who builds trust and inspires confidence in his organization and the cause. He’s the one we all turn to if we need advice or a solution.

George Washington Carver Center – Ken Hinton. Ken wanted to retire, but the Southside community needed inspiration. His efforts have breathed new life into a bedrock Peoria institution. Passion doesn't begin to describe him. 

Camp Big Sky – Brad Guidi. Spend just a few minutes with Brad and you'll see why he works so hard to give those with disabilities the chance to experience the outdoors. PM

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