PodCamp: The First Employee of the Community Foundation

Jul 9, 2018

Hello, I'm Mackenzie for the NPR Illinois PodCamp.

John G. Stremsterfer is the CEO and President of the Community Foundation of the Land of Lincoln. He has been been employee since 2002, and was the 2007 "Oustanding Fundraising Professional" award recipient. He was born in Springfield and still lives there today.

The Community Foundation deals with large amounts of donations, and John oversees the grant making.

“We take the money that's earned off of that and we give it to non-profit charitable organizations. So, it all depends on what the donor cares about. The donor (or donors, if it’s a family) give us the money and, let’s say they care about arts organizations. They want to help all the art groups in town, and they have given us $500,000 to give away, so we then facilitate that whole activity. We may give $100,000 to the Hoogland Center of the Arts, $200,000 to the Arts Association, and another $200,000 to the Springfield Ballet.” 

The Community Foundation gets large amounts of money each year and distributes them to organizations, various causes and people in need.

“In this way of helping people there’s no obligation to giving away money. That always presents a challenge, so hopefully we can inspire people to want to engage in this work  and be charitable, and although at sometimes it can be frustrating, even with giving away $2,000,000 last year that's not nearly enough to affect the change you want to see happen to help all the causes that need help.”

John was  The Foundation's first employee and has been working there since 2002. He worked at UIS before the Foundation was made.

“That’s when the Sangamon County Foundation was just getting started here in Springfield. In 2002 they created the organization and then in 2003 I was hired as its first employee. When I worked at *WUIS I’ve never even heard of Community Foundation, so it was a new thing in our community back in 2002, but when I was your age I wanted to play baseball for the Chicago Cubs or basketball for the Chicago Bulls.”

“It certainly is work that gives you hope for human beings, and the goodness of people. We get to have glimpses of that every day at the Community Foundation. So, yeah, again, it can be frustrating like anything else at times when you see the needs and want to do more and more, but all in all, it's a pretty good gig.”

A job that can be different every day, but always has the community’s needs at heart.

"I think it’s meeting all the wonderful people I get to meet every day. Going out to WUIS PodCamp camp will participate in that (laughs) or, just working with the donors who are very generous and organization that are at the front lines of helping the poor here in this community, helping various causes just, again, I am blessed to meet so many nice people like that. Not a lot of people do that, lots of people deal with cranky people."

Many people want to know how to help the Community keep doing what it does, and maybe make someone else’s life a little bit better in the process.

“The best way to start is to look at our website, which is cfll.org, and there is a lot of information there. We love it when people give us a call or send us an email, or stop by the office. We always say ‘This is your Community Foundation’ so we want people to take advantage of that and I've always believe that anybody can play a role in the Community Foundation."

This has been Mackenzie for the 2018 NPR Illinois PodCamp.

  NPR Illinois PodCamp is an annual program teaching media literacy, civic education, journalism, and technical skills to aspiring students.