Grant program invests $500,000 into rural Illinois

In 2023, more than $500,000 was invested into many rural Illinois charitable organizations, thanks to CoBank’s Sharing Success Program and its members, including several of Illinois’ electric cooperatives. Since its inception in 2012, CoBank and its customers have together provided more than $86 million in support to charitable organizations across the nation.

“At CoBank, we’re grateful to all of our customers, including Illinois’ electric cooperatives, for allowing us to partner with them to make life better in the communities they serve,” said Sherry Johnson, director of corporate social responsibility at CoBank.

Sharing Success reflects two key cooperative principles — “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” and “Concern for Community.” CoBank matches contributions by its cooperative members to charitable organizations, schools and government organizations that serve a public purpose and are consistent with the program’s guidelines. The nationwide program runs April through September every year, or until the $5 million fund runs out. CoBank matches charitable donations of up to $10,000 made by its member organizations.

“This program is a really nice way to leverage additional contributions to several key organizations in our communities,” said Kelly Hamm, McDonough Power Cooperative’s energy services manager, in a news release announcing the co-op’s 2023 recipients.

Through this program, McDonough Power was able to donate $5,000 each to four area nonprofit organizations — half from the co-op and the other half from CoBank. These funds helped stock The Crossing-Macomb’s food pantry, assisted Jamieson Community Center in providing food security and other services to its community, financially assisted Western Illinois Museum with needed renovations, and helped provide warm winter coats for area children through McDonough Power’s Coats for Kids program.

For the past five years, Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative has utilized CoBank’s Sharing Success grants to assist schools in its community, and 2023 was no exception. A total of $20,000 was donated to Auburn, Northwestern and Pawnee school districts to help fund various education programs, by providing science and lab kits, music equipment, art supplies, math kits and more.

EnerStar Electric Cooperative has participated in the Sharing Success Program for 12 years, distributing $165,000 throughout its service territory. This year, EnerStar and CoBank donated a combined total of $10,000 each to Friends of Lincoln Trail State Park and Walnut Point State Park.

With the help of Menard Electric Cooperative, Sharing Success Program donations this year helped support the Ashland Fire Protection District in fixing and replacing the district building’s roof, allowed the Athens Area Food Pantry to purchase additional goods to help area families in need, and assisted the Central Illinois Lutheran Camp Association in purchasing materials for a newly redesigned outdoor education program.
In addition, Menard Electric was able to donate a total of $6,000 to the Cooperative Family Fund, a newly formed national organization which aims to support the minor children of electric co-op employees if a parent dies while employed at a cooperative.

During its time participating in the Sharing Success Program, Shelby Electric Cooperative has donated $135,000 to organizations within the co-op’s service territory with the help of CoBank. This year, the Autism and Movement Project (AAMP)/Autism Movement Therapy in Pana received $15,000 to expand its sensory gym. Additional funds went to the Pana Historical Society to support its sensory garden and to Brewin’ Hope Coffee House, which is staffed by AAMP students, to help purchase equipment.

Through the program, JCE Co-op was able to continue its annual Sharing Success tradition. This year, four organizations in its service territory received $5,000 each. Elizabeth Community Ambulance Service used its funds to replace the oldest ambulance in its fleet, Hammond Henry Hospital utilized the grant for a nurse call system that allows patients to call for staff assistance, funds awarded to the city of Mount Carroll were used to help establish child care centers in the area, and the Fulton Historical Society used the money to continue the remodel of a local historical building.

These are just a few examples of co-ops in Illinois supporting their local communities through the Sharing Success Program. In total, CoBank matched nearly $260,000 of donations in 2023 that went to help rural nonprofit organizations across Illinois.
CoBank is a cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. It is one of the largest private providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy and delivers loans, leases and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states.

“Over the past 10 years, Sharing Success has helped CoBank and our customer-owners contribute in a big way to the growth and vibrancy of rural America,” said Thomas Halverson, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer, in a news release announcing the 2023 program. “We are privileged to partner with our customers in their charitable efforts and look forward to many more decades of Sharing Success.”