GALENA–There’s a lot of work that goes into the success of Galena Country Fair each year. Hours are logged by the planning committee, volunteers and many others who play a role.
But perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of the annual events is what comes after the fair wraps up and the funds are counted.
Each year, the board of directors of Jo Daviess County Country Fair Charities awards thousands of dollars in grants to not-for-profit organizations throughout Jo Daviess County. The board members find that process incredibly rewarding and the grant recipients are grateful for the funds that make their good works possible.
Serving on the board
Stockton resident Chuck Jackson found out about the open board seat by word of mouth. He’s volunteered at the fair in the raffle booth for years for his sister-in-law, Nancy Brashaw, so he was happy to take on a role with the board. He’s been on the board for about 15 years and has served as president the past five.
Since joining the board, he has been amazed by all the different organizations that apply for grants to provide services to residents of the county.
“I didn’t know they were there,” said Chuck Jackson of many of the programs he’s learned about.
Chuck Jackson said he’s met many great people through his involvement, both on the board and at the fair.
“There are just so many nice people,” he said, recalling how one year during his 11 a.m. to the end of the day shift at the raffle booth he chatted with a man from Huntley and ended up selling him $100 in raffle tickets. “It’s a great time.”
Galena resident Judy Jackson got involved as a volunteer in 1985 after being invited by her friend Louise McCormick from Hanover. Judy worked in a lot of different booths through the years, and then in the 1990s, joined the planning committee.
When the switch happened in 2003 to Jo Daviess County Country Fair Charities, Judy joined the board, serving for 10 years as president. Since 2015 she’s been vice president.
She loves the enthusiasm that goes hand in hand with being a part of the fair, and she loves handing out grants.
“There are so many different organizations that we have donated to throughout all these years,” she said. “That’s something that keeps you going.”
Galenian Craig Albaugh has served on the board for about 16 years. Elly Renner, who was leaving the board, asked Albaugh if he would be willing and he agreed, well aware of the good that comes from the dedicated volunteers.
Albaugh volunteered in the brat tent for several years, running the cash register.
The time commitment to the Country Fair board isn’t too bad, as boards go, Albaugh said. The board meets about six or seven times a year at the West Galena Town Hall.
The board does the budget, decides on grant recipients and audits the expenses and revenues at the end of the year.
For Albaugh, the grant process is sometimes the most difficult part because there are so many entities that are worthy and it’s difficult to turn any down. Like anything, there’s only so much money to go around.
“It would be a shame if we lost Country Fair because it does a lot of good through the county,” said Albaugh, referring to the organizations and the grants that make some extra things possible.
Ruth Foley has represented Scales Mound on the board since 2014, when Ron Doser left the board and recruited Foley to fill his seat.
“I like being able to work with so many great people and enjoy seeing many groups receive money and do things that otherwise they may not be able to do,” said Foley. “This group works for the entire county, not just one area.”
Gratitude for grants
From law enforcement to food pantries to libraries, churches and fire departments and EMS, grants distributed each year through Jo Daviess County Country Fair Charities make a big impact.
In fact, in the past 16 years, 454 grants have been awarded to 110 not-for-profit organizations for a total of $668,489.71.
Rachel Lenstra, children and teen services librarian at the Galena Public Library said the library was a first-time awardee this past June when the grant she wrote received $1,800 for the library’s STEAM Club. Lenstra used the funds to purchase six iPads for the youngsters to use, which was a huge help since they were previously sharing seven laptops.
“I’m very grateful,” said Lenstra. “It makes my job teaching the class a lot easier and the kids were very excited.”
Norma Schwirtz of the Elizabeth Food Basket learned of Country Fair grants through her church. She applied for the first time last year and ended up using the funds awarded to purchase special dietary foods for the food basket, which is open each Monday from 10 a.m. to noon and the first Monday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Last year the special food items for diabetics went over very well, Schwirtz said, so this year she applied for another grant, this time for fresh produce.
“Our clients really gobble that stuff up,” she said, adding how important it is to have nutritious foods for those in need.
Jo Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Turner said the department has been awarded several grants the past few years that have allowed them to do things above and beyond what may have been budgeted. They purchased radar, portable radios, squad vehicle printers and canine equipment.
Galena Police Chief Lori Huntington agreed that Country Fair grants are incredibly helpful. Her department has received funding through Country Fair for radios, wireless microphones, a projector and projector screen for the training room, security cameras and funds were used toward the speed sign. For a small department, the grants are a big deal.
“Everything that they give us has helped,” said Huntington.