The Georgia and Donald Petty Family Fund
Greg Petty and his wife Christine Anderson Petty started the Georgia and Donald Petty Family Fund. Christine is a graduate of Moline High School and the couple graduated from Augustana College. Greg shares his story of what led their charitable hearts to honoring their loved ones and supporting mental health services by setting up a fund through the Mount Carroll Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Quad Cities Community Foundation. The Petty’s fund is one of the first to qualify for the Community Foundation’s 50th anniversary 50 for 50 Challenge, allowing them to recommend a $1000 grant to the charity of their choice in 2014.
Here is Greg’s story in his own words.
Late in 2010 my mother Georgia Petty’s physical health began deteriorating and my sister Susan and I were forced to begin thinking of alternative living arrangements for her. At the end of April 2011 we moved my mom to an assisted living facility outside of Rockford so she would be near my sister.
When mom moved away, it ended 168 years of our line of the Petty family living in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. There are of course other family lines, including Oberheim, Ross, Fulrath, and Warne. Still, mom moving made me think about our connections to Mt. Carroll and how I could give back to the community.
My work experience had brought me into contact with the community foundation in Rockford and the two community foundations in the Quad Cities. I contacted three of Mt. Carroll’s community leaders and told them how much I thought a community foundation could do for our town. They took the initiative, and along with others in town, established the Mt. Carroll Community Foundation last year. The Mt. Carroll Community Foundation is an affiliate of the Quad Cities Community Foundation.
In September my wife and I completed the arrangements to create an endowed fund for the Mt. Carroll Community Foundation. It is called the Georgia and Donald Petty Family Fund. It both honors my mom and dad and gives back to support my particular passion—mental health services for this area.
My dad grew up in Mt. Carroll and married Georgia Warne shortly before he left for World War II. He came back, got a college degree supported by the GI bill, and became a teacher in Shannon, IL. He was offered a job as Superintendent in his early 30s and took it, but in 1955-56 he suffered an emotional low point and took a leave of absence. A combination of forces—job pressures, probable PTSD from the war, an experimental drug for depression later found to make depression worse, and very poor mental health care—made his situation worse and he committed suicide. My mother, 2 year old sister and I (8 years old) moved to Mt. Carroll to live with dad’s parents, Robert and Mabel Fulrath Petty.
People in Mt. Carroll were understanding and supportive. But, Grandma Mabel died within a year, Robert remarried a few years later, and mom had to support us with very little work experience or skills. The fact that she was able to support us was to her immense credit. However, my father’s suicide took a toll on all of us in ways I know he never imagined. Certainly, depression was one of the effects on me, and unfortunately suicide continued to impact us. My mom’s best friend, and much later my daughter’s best friend, also committed suicide.
An endowed fund uses the earning from the principle of the fund to provide grants in perpetuity. Our fund will provide support for additional mental health services to Mt. Carroll and Carroll County. Currently the organization that can best do that is Sinnissippi Centers, which has its main office in Dixon, IL and a satellite office in Mt. Carroll. This summer, in response to a series of local suicides, Sinnissippi Centers called together a crisis group of local leaders, offered an informational meeting in Mt. Carroll to talk about how to respond to people who are seriously depressed, and will be offering special intervention training to key people.
I share our story because so often people are embarrassed or ashamed to talk about mental health. Totally coincidentally, our fund was established during Mental Health Awareness Week, which is an effort to demystify and reduce the stigma of having mental health issues. We all have problems and sometimes they are too much for us to handle alone.
One of the great advantages of a community foundation is that the Board of the Foundation can direct funds to the best place many years into the future. Someday Sinnissippi Centers may not be the best organization to provide support, and the Board can direct funds somewhere else to support mental health services. For now, the support from our fund will be small. But with earnings, more contributions and eventually our estate gift, hopefully our fund can make a bigger difference in the future.
I want this fund to also show my appreciation to Mt. Carroll throughout the years and the kindness the community showed our family when mom died in 2011. I hope it might encourage some of you to consider giving to the Community Foundation to support causes that mean the most to you.