Looser-Flake initiative moves forward

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Russell Medley of the U of I Extension at Thursday's meeting. Some of the information sheets filled out by those present are in background on wall.

The Looser-Flake Foundation is an asset that only Mercer County has. Planning moved forward Thursday (Jan. 21) evening to put together a steering committee to attempt to reach a goal of submitting a proposal to the Foundation's trustees by April.

Government officials, business people, retired teachers and many other residents packed the cafeteria at Genesis Medical Center to plan where the effort goes from here. The meeting was conducted by Russell Medley of the University of Illinois Extension and Al Zwilling, Foundation and Community Outreach Program Director for the Mercer Foundation for Health.

"Is Mercer County competing with other counties for the Looser-Flake funding?" Zwilling asked. "No."

Roberta Looser and Dorothy Looser-Flake, both teachers, left the county $6 million. The money is to be used in Mercer County mainly for economic development and education.

A group met Oct. 22, 2015, to begin the process. Those attending Thursday's session were told the steering committee will likely have 22-25 members.

Individuals at each table were asked to write down facts about their backgrounds and professional and political contacts.

"See, again, how we're learning all the assets available to us that was may not have been aware of before," Zwilling said as the information was read to the group.

He said there may be even more assets. Those present were asked to name groups not represented at the meeting that should be part of the process. Zwilling said they are also looking for representation from all areas of the county.

"I want to remind you, young people are very important to this process," Medley said. Although Mercer County has an aging population, there was a good representation of young people at Thursday's session.

"There's amazing things you can get from people who are from Mercer County who don't live here any more," he said. "You have a lot more wealth and knowledge than you know."

Potential planning models were shown, along with a discussion as to how each works and the pros and cons of each. For instance, the "Heart and Soul" process of the Orton Family Foundation was one looked at favorably.

"Many of our communities are doing park development," Zwilling said. "The Orton process, they would ask 'why?' What are the passions for the people in those communities?"

He said the Galesburg Community Foundation has chosen Heart and Soul as its planning model.

Zwilling explained the money from the Looser-Flake Foundation should be looked at as seed money to be used along with other grants.

Those at the meeting were asked to put a star by their names on the sheets about each person if they are willing to be on the steering committee.

"It (Looser-Flake Foundation) is an incredible opportunity," Medley said.