FACE celebrates 10 years of good work in Fulton

It started slowly and with much caution, but the founders of the Fulton Association for Community Enrichment (FACE) say they could not be more pleased with the strength and reach of the organization this year as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

“We went into it blind,” said Betty Wiebenga, one of the original FACE advisory board members. The organization is a Geographic Affiliate Fund of the Quad Cities Community Foundation.

The original idea to have a community foundation in Fulton came from community member Nancy Kolk. “She saw a need,” Wiebenga recalled. “There were public endowments in other area towns, but nothing like that in Fulton.”

The original advisory board moved slowly as they figured out the legal and logistical requirements of forming a foundation. “It was very slow going early,” she added. “We were very tentative. There were all kinds of good things that could come from it, but it was very frightening.”

It was just after the advisory board had submitted 501c3 paperwork that they connected with staff at the Community Foundation. “It was like a huge weight had been lifted,” Wiebenga said. As a Geographic Affiliate Fund under the umbrella of the Community Foundation, they didn’t have to wade through the difficult questions of how to manage the funds, invest the funds and maintain state and federal requirements. 

During the past 10 years, FACE has provided thousands of dollars to local groups and individuals through grants made possible by local donors. It has made a big difference at the Fulton Public Library, said Library Director Britni Hartman. “We’ve gotten grants for so many things,” she said, adding that sometimes they have been for small items that had a big impact. For example, the library received a grant for café tables one year. “We have very limited floor space, but we needed more seating. They get used a lot. We have several middle school kids who come in and do homework at those tables.”

She said the library has been able to provide better reading material and services to community members because of FACE, including the purchase of audio books and children’s math and science books. There was a time when the Fulton library had a very limited selection of large-print books, which were often in demand. “We had people who had read the entire collection,” she said.

A grant from FACE allowed them to expand—today there are patrons who have returned to the library after a long absence and are pleasantly surprised to find so many more books. “FACE has really helped us out and given us a nice boost,” Hartman said. “We hope people will continue to give. We want them to be around for a long time.”

Fulton County School District Technology Coordinator Cheryl Piercy feels the same way. The district has received numerous grants over the years, allowing the district to purchase technology and other tools for students they wouldn’t have otherwise. “They’ve been very gracious and it’s allowed us to purchase items that are not in our budget,” she said. “We’ve been able to use the funds to be forward-thinking and have state-of-the-art technology.”

That includes grants to purchase iPads, a poster printer, 3D printers, and virtual reality headsets. A $4,000 grant last year to assist the district as it reconstructed its science department and purchased new science equipment was particularly important. “A lot of the time our funding goes toward renovating buildings and we can’t use it for equipment and things that support learning,” she said. “This allows our students to have equipment we would not have been able to provide.”

It is exciting for Wiebenga to hear the positive stories today, a decade after the first advisory board slowly worked through the process of educating the community on what a community foundation does and has the potential to do. “It’s huge,” she said. “It’s just pretty amazing that it has been in existence for 10 years. As an original advisory board member, there’s no way I would have thought that we could have gone from nothing to the number of groups and organizations and people who now have a chance to leave something for this community.”