On a chilly day in February of 2022, a small group of warm-hearted people cheerfully delivered a total of $5,000 to three area non-profit organizations, and they had great fun doing it. It was the inaugural effort of a new giving circle called Give Chippewa County. It was no coincidence this happened on Valentine's Day. The plan is to inspire a love for the community on a great big scale.
These first grants, made possible by generous donors to jump-start the program, provided an immediate "lift" to people doing great things in their communities and demonstrated what a giving circle is all about. It is about projects such as an agriscience teacher restoring a greenhouse in the Lake Holcombe School District, where students grow vegetables for the school lunch program and give plants to families to grow their own food; parishioners of a Cadott church filling backpacks with food for school children to take home on the weekends; a group in Chippewa Falls creating housing for the homeless.
Give Chippewa County Development Committee hosts social events where people can network, learn about giving opportunities in the county, and what it means to be part of a giving circle. Giving circle members commit to a modest annual fee that both supports local grants and builds an endowment with the Community Foundation of Chippewa County. Give Chippewa County members vote and then award local grants twice each year.
It's common to think of philanthropy as something people do later, at a certain age, or when a person reaches a certain amount of wealth.
"People observe that things are happening and assume the support for activities, programs and needs in the community will always be there," said Jacobson. "We can't expect the next generation of givers to be there if we don't encourage them to participate now."
For this reason, the group is personally encouraging people to join the giving circle and experience firsthand how easy -and gratifying- it is to make an impact. "Sometimes you just need an invitation," Jacobson said.
Patti Darley, also a Development Committee member, takes part in inviting new people to the giving circle. She admits to being out of her comfort zone when she's in front of people.
"I was asked to work on a fund drive for the Chippewa Valley YMCA and then for the new zoo at Irvine Park. It was a stretch for me," Darley said. "Eventually, you realize that it's very heartwarming to do your part. I want other people to know they can do it, too."
Amy Forcier-Pabst, Development Committee member, said the giving circle is different from anything she's ever been involved in. "I have made some new friends for life. Joining this group has made me so proud to be a part of this community."
Grants from Give Chippewa County support arts, culture, community development, education, environment, animal welfare, and health and human services. The endowment fund will ensure that a portion of their philanthropy efforts now will seed grant availability for generations to come."
Many of us have lived here for a long time, but there's so much more to be learned, and so much we can do," said Forcier-Pabst. "We'd love to have more people join us!"