Karen Mowers' ties to Geneseo run deep. Her parents were once farmers in the area and Mowers was born, raised and now lives there with her husband Dick. “But agriculture isn’t the same as it used to be,” said Mowers, who is a 12-year-member of the Geneseo Is For Tomorrow (GIFT) Foundation, a Geographic Affiliate Fund of the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend.
Young farmers and ranchers face different challenges than her parents did, Mowers said, which is why it made sense to set up a family scholarship fund through GIFT to help students studying agriculture in college. It is also a way for her to have a continuing tie to her community, even after she is gone.
Giving back, particularly to a community you love, is important to both Karen and her husband Dick. The couple is part of the Endowment Society at GIFT, and will leave part of their estate in the care of GIFT after they are gone. “We knew it was a way to contribute back to Geneseo,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we could make a difference in the community for years to come.”
Dick agreed. “It just feels good,” he said. “I went to college on an Illinois state scholarship and I want to pay that forward.”
Karen said the best thing about an endowment is the security of knowing your funds will be used appropriately. “The advisory board is made up of people who also believe in this community,” she said. “We know the money will never be used in a way we didn’t want it used.”
Mowers tries to encourage others to do the same, mostly through her continued work on the Geographic Affiliate Fund Advisory Board. “GIFT was started because there were quite a few foundations here, but none that were community foundations,” she said. “We support the needs in the community and the organizations with our endowment giving.”
GIFT was started in 2002 when Geneseo Chamber of Commerce directors began brainstorming ways to improve the community. Right now, they are gearing up to give their annual spring scholarships in May. They provide $10,000 each year to local high school and college students. An additional $5,500 is given to nursing students. GIFT also provides Community Impact Funds to organizations and projects in the community. This year, $4,500 will be awarded.
“It’s amazing, because we can help meet the needs in the community that maybe no one else can help,” she said.
At times, community members share with her that they don’t have enough money to start an endowment, so they don’t think they can give anything. “Some people say, ‘I only have $500 to give,’” she said. “But it all adds up and when that money goes into the Community Impact Fund, it makes a difference.”
Learn more about the good work happening in Geneseo here.