Evanston Community Foundation appoints its first director

Abbie VanSickle

The Evanston Community Foundation on Monday launched a plan to raise its community visibility, appointing Sara Schastok its first executive director, foundation officials said.

The philanthropic foundation receives its funding primarily from community donors – including Northwestern’s Dance Marathon – and now has an endowment of more than $3 million. With this money the foundation was able to gain its independence from United Way, its parent organization, said Karl Berolzheimer, the foundation’s chairman.

In light of this independence, Berolzheimer said, the executive director will perform duties for the foundation that previously had been handled by the director of the United Way.

“Schastok’s hiring gives the ECF the opportunity to sharpen its mission and expand its financial capacity to serve the community,” Berolzheimer said.

Schastok, an Evanston resident who has long been active in community and nonprofit organizations, first became involved with the foundation in 1997 when she participated in the Leadership Evanston Program, a program in which people interested in Evanston can learn about the city’s history and leadership opportunities.

When Schastok saw a notice advertising the position of executive director, she was immediately excited about the opportunity, she said.

“I wanted to reconnect with Evanston,” Schastok said. “There are lots of wonderful opportunities with not-for-profit organizations. I hope to increase the foundation’s involvement and increase the gifts for nonprofit organizations.”

Schastok said she has a clear vision for the future of the foundation – one that involves increased communication with Evanston residents and businesses.

“I’m looking to talk with donors,” she said. “I also want to ask the community what kinds of dreams and ambitions they have. I want to talk to people of all backgrounds and with not-for-profits. I’m hoping the foundation will stimulate conversation in Evanston.”

She also plans to continue the foundation’s relationship with DM, she said. In addition to securing donations to the foundation, DM board members serve on the foundation’s Grants Committee, which decides how to allocate the endowment money.

Schastok said she’s excited to meet the students at this year’s DM, which starts March 2.

DM and the foundation share a “common ground through our efforts in community service,” she said.

The foundation, which was created as a community service project of the Evanston United Way in 1986, helps provide funding and guidance to community organizations, and it also gives grants and leadership training to community members.