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Leading Locally: Meramec Regional Community Foundation

An eight-county region of mid-Missouri is supported by the foundation for resource development, community grantmaking, collaboration and public leadership.

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Creating community good together

Finding collective solutions for common good is the goal of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission — an approach that extends to fundraising through the Meramec Regional Community Foundation.

Founded in 2010 as an affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the MRCF serves as the philanthropic arm of the MRPC and source of support for eight counties in mid-Missouri: Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington.

Since its inception, the MRCF has distributed more than $1.6 million to support the region. It also holds assets totaling $4,481,021 as of June 2023.

“It just kind of felt like that was something that we needed to do — to give our region, our counties and their constituents, a vehicle to make philanthropic contributions,” says Bonnie Prigge, executive director of MRPC and an at-large member of the MRCF board of directors. “Something that was easy, that they could take advantage of; they didn’t have to worry about setting up their own foundation.”

Cfo 2023 affilaite awards bonnie prigge meramec regional

In 2023, Bonnie Prigge of the MRCF received the Fred Lemons Achievement Award from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. The award is named for the late president of the Lockwood Community Foundation, who demonstrated remarkable leadership during his 15-year tenure until his death in 2014.

The region is wide — “Sitting here in St. James, it’s about an hour and 15 minutes to the edges of our region,” Prigge says — but the needs are common. That reality allows the MRCF to address top-level needs based around what regional needs have been identified.

In the years since the foundation’s start, several other affiliate foundations have started to serve more concentrated areas within the MRCF’s footprint. Prigge shares that the approach isn’t competition, but simply allows the chance to serve needs in ways that most make sense.

“If there’s a donor that comes forward from one of those counties or cities that has its own foundation, we’re going to make sure that this is where they want to be, make sure that they know that they have a local foundation as well,” she says. “But if what they want to do is more of a regional approach, then we can help them with that.

“A rising tide floats all boats. I think that by working together, that we’re all creating a greater awareness of the opportunity, as well as the needs that are in our region.”

That approach ties in with annual grant rounds. An example came in late 2022, when community grants were distributed to three nonprofits serving unsheltered individuals; children with developmental disabilities and delays; and families that need tools and education to help overcome the challenges that have kept them in poverty.

St james area leading locally 16x9 2

The MRCF is based in St. James, which is home to the Meramec Regional Planning commission, but serves an eight-county area of mid-Missouri.

A new focus began in 2023, when the foundation opted to concentrate on low-income families with children and on economic development efforts.

“We’re focusing on programs that serve low-income families, whether it’s food or books or clothing — just whatever that may be,” Prigge adds of the new focus, which will grow the foundation’s distribution through two $750 grants. Previously, the foundation has allocated $17,400 to 64 community projects throughout the region.

Another example of the foundation’s work is its scholarships to help local students.

“That’s always a great feeling — just knowing that it does make a difference,” says Prigge. “With one of our scholarship funds, we do an interview each year with those students, and it’s rewarding when they talk about how big of a difference it’s made.”

Looking forward: Growing grantmaking

As the MRCF looks forward, one goal is to grow its grantmaking funds. This would allow even more projects to grow throughout the eight-county service area.

“We would just really like to grow that fund and be able to give more than $1,500 a year,” says Prigge, who also shares efforts the board has made to help educate others about the work it does in the hope people might want to get involved.

“We just try to let folks know that we’re here, and what we can do,” she says, an example being board meetings and lunches where visitors are welcome. “We try to create that awareness of not only just participating in our grantmaking, but how they can set up their own funds, and try to accomplish some of the things in their communities.”

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