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Leading Locally: Cape Area Community Foundation

Based along the Mississippi River, the Cape Area Community Foundation is headquartered on what’s said to be one of few inland capes — points of land that extends into a body of water, such as a river.

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Serving neighbors in southeast Missouri

Even though it has “cape” in its name, the Cape Area Community Foundation covers more than just the hub city of Missouri’s southeastern corner. The foundation serves more than 100,000 residents of Cape Girardeau County, as well as neighboring Bollinger and northern Scott counties.

An affiliate of the Springfield-based Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the CACF was founded in 2015. In the years since, it has distributed more than $1.6 million in grants to the community. It now holds assets totaling $1,200,459 as of June 2023 and has nearly 40 funds under its umbrella.

“I got to see some of the challenges a lot of these communities are facing, and I learned to appreciate and better understand that there are individuals who have done very well and want to share the wealth,” says Skip Smallwood, president of the CACF, of his professional work across the region. “They want to reinvest in the community. That’s always kind of intrigued me a little bit: How do you get more people to think that way?”

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Cape Girardeau, where the CACF is based, is situated along the Mississippi River.

Local support so far has been distributed by the CACF through grants to community causes. An example is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, which received funding to provide temporary financial assistance for families in the southeast Missouri service area.

Another is the Community Counseling Center Foundation; it was selected to receive support to cover the cost of care kits for its CoNEXTions Street Outreach Program.

Still in its early years, CACF President Skip Smallwood says the foundation is determining if its grant funding should have a specific focus. Right now, any nonprofits or organizations with similar tax-exempt status like schools, faith-based organizations or governmental entities are eligible to apply for grants.

“We decide as a committee if we want to carve it up, or if we want to give it all to one organization, or do we not want to give it all,” Smallwood says. “It just depends on the applications.”

Cfo 2023 affilaite awards cape area

The CACF supports Cape Girardeau County, as well as neighboring Bollinger and northern Scott counties. It was chosen as a CFO Affiliate of the Year in 2023.

Yet not all funding distributed through the CACF is solely through the Cape-based foundation. Other funding the CACF has been able to spread the word about has come through grant programs administered by the greater CFO.

Such is the case with Safe House for Women Inc. and Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence in Cape Girardeau, which received more than $57,000 in January 2024 from the CFO, in partnership with Children’s Trust Fund.

“So far, we’ve probably had eight or nine organizations receive grants,” Smallwood says. “The irony is — we’ve also received grants from the CFO because they’ve had donors make programs available. Especially during the pandemic, I think we had something like $110,000. I don’t think people realized the money that was coming from the CFO through us as an affiliate. There’s been a real educational process we’ve gone through; we’re still kind of going through that a little bit.”

The CACF is considering new initiatives, such as a giving circle. The concept allows members to contribute a set amount of money in exchange for a vote on how it’s used. After learning about possible grant recipients, the members vote on which causes will receive the funding.

The CACF’s work has led to rapid impact — so much so that it was chosen as one of the CFO’s affiliates of the year in 2023.

It was selected because it created seven new charitable funds and distributed nearly $200,000 in grants in 2022. Additionally, the CACF has actively engaged city leadership to promote charitable causes, including the development of a disaster recovery funding program.

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