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Non-Profit Volunteers Power And Benefit From Ribfest

By Mike Fourcher | Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Concordia Place volunteers raised $1,367 at Ribfest last year. Photo from Sarah Spraker.

Since 2006 volunteers have been a major component of Chicago Ribfest where an unheralded program allows hundreds of people to contribute their time so local non-profits can earn tens of thousands of dollars from the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce.

“Basically we pay non profits and schools for their volunteers. [If a group can provide] 30 volunteer shifts, we give them a grant for their volunteer time,” says Northcenter Chamber Associate Director Brad Ball. “It started in 2006 when we gave a couple thousand dollars back into the community. In 2010 the grant total was over $19,500.”

The organizations participating range from schools to art programs to social service agencies. The funds plug gaps for non-profits finding faced with fewer and fewer funding sources.

“Last year we raised $1,367,” said Concordia Place Program Director Sarah Spraker. ”We are piecing together funds from a variety of sources to completely renovate our playlot out front. The total cost is over $60,000. So our strategy is every little bit helps!”

Probably the most aggressive Ribfest volunteer fundraiser is the the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club at 2501 W. Irving Park Rd.

“Last year we had 126 volunteers and were awarded $4,733, the most awarded to any of the non-profit groups,” says Bill Abplanalp, NBGC’s Director of Development. The funds NBGC received from Ribfest went to the group’s annual general operating fund.

Ravenswood ArtWalk has benefited from Ribfest in a number of ways. ”Last year we raised $3,167 through volunteering at the Ribfest,” says Alexandra Jamroz, Ravenswood ArtWalk Executive Board member. Last year ArtWalk also received a second grant from Ribfest to assist with their general operations, says Ball.

“The dollars go towards the basic funding of the main event in October. For the printed material, maps, posters, postcards and the advertising on the CTA and various art publications,” says Jamroz.

Later in the year, Ribfest makes additional grants to local non-profits. Since 2009 has given over $50,000 on top of what was earned through volunteer work. For instance, earlier this year a $5,000 grant was provided to Coonley Elementary to purchase iPads for students. And in 2010 Ribfest contributed $8,000 to the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club to help pay for renovation of their gym.

“[Ribfest] funds 20 other non-profits in the area. Nobody else is doing that,” says Ball. “It’s a wildly exciting time to be doing this.”

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