Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce creates endowed scholarship at RLC

INA, Ill. (April 12, 2018) – Members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (JCCC) are making lasting impacts on their local community with the recent creation of a $10,500 scholarship to the Rend Lake College Foundation.

The announcement was made last week during the JCCC Annual Dinner by Board President Tony Wielt. The majority of the donation – $10,000 – will create an endowed scholarship that will begin awarding in the 2019-2020 academic year and will continue in perpetuity.

“We believe in Rend Lake College as a partner in education. We know we have the resources right now to be able to make an investment that will be able to help a student in Jefferson County to improve their education now and into the future,” said Wielt. “We may never be in a position like this again to be able to financially help a student. I’m honored to be able to do this: to serve as the Board President this year and make this announcement has been one of the best things the Chamber has allowed me to do. The decision this Chamber made will still be helping people 20 years from now, and that’s a great feeling.”

Wielt ZibbyDamron ChamberDinner2018WTony Wielt, LEFT, Board President of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, and Kay Zibby-Damron, RLC Foundation CEO, announce the creation of an endowed scholarship by the JCCC during the Chamber's Annual Dinner last week. The endowment will provide scholarship funds for students in perpetuity. Click on the image for a larger view.
(Photo: Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce)

The JCCC was able to create the endowed scholarship thanks to a boom in the local business market. Wielt explained the increase in memberships has allowed the Chamber to invest both internally and externally.

“A couple of things have happened over the last three years with the Chamber. The first being that our membership has grown significantly and, as a result, we have been able to make two big investments with the resources we have generated in memberships and sponsorships,” said Wielt. “One of those investments is the endowment, and the second is the additional personnel we’ve added to support a membership of nearly 500 businesses. It’s fantastic. The business climate in Jefferson County is improving every year, and these investments are a direct reflection of that.”

The endowment itself is the result of the organization’s interest in providing more financial assistance to local students. Additionally, the donation amount places the JCCC on the Major Donors Wall, located in the RLC Student Center on the Ina campus.

“We have a lot of members in the Chamber who have a heart for education,” said Wielt. “When I was meeting with Kay Zibby-Damron (RLC Foundation CEO) last fall about my personal scholarship, I said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice for the Chamber to do something like this,’ and it evolved from there. We had more and more people involved and had everyone’s full support.”

“We truly appreciate what the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce has done and we value our partnership with them,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “Helping a local student get a college education is a great way to invest in the community. Hopefully, those students will want to return to the area and contribute in their own way, whether that’s by joining the workforce or starting a business of their own.”

The remaining $500 of the donation will provide a scholarship for one deserving student in the 2018-2019 academic year. Because endowment investments take one year to mature, the JCCC would’ve had to sit out this upcoming year without the additional contribution.

“When we decided we wanted to make this investment for an endowed scholarship, we realized we wouldn’t be able to recognize a student until the fall of 2019, so we decided then to make an additional $500 investment so we could begin in the fall of 2018,” said Wielt.

The awarding criteria set by members of the JCCC is for any RLC student who resides in Jefferson County. Wielt said the members of many different committees decided not to limit students from applying.

“Members of the Chamber had lots of questions regarding choosing students and the parameters for the scholarship, but we landed on a broad opportunity. Applicants can be non-traditional or just out of high school, with no specific major. They just have to be a Jefferson County resident. It’s an equal opportunity for all who apply,” said Wielt.

In the end, the Chamber recognizes the importance of giving back to the community by giving back to those working hard for a new career, entrepreneurship, or advanced skills in their current workplace.  

“We truly believe in the community partnership of Rend Lake College. We have a common belief that it’s important to invest in your community. In fact, we speak about that among our membership. We want to help people as they complete or continue their education,” said Wielt. “To have students recognize it was local businesspeople and community leaders who helped support them, it’s fantastic.”

Kay Zibby-Damron, RLC Foundation CEO, echoed Wielt’s statement by saying the donation can be seen more as an investment in the local community.

“This generous investment is a testament that the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce values education and wants to change lives in our community for the better,” said Zibby-Damron. “This new scholarship will give life to dreams for many Jefferson County students for years to come. The RLC Foundation is very thankful to have the support of individuals, businesses, and organizations throughout our district who partner with us to provide more and more opportunities for our students to receive an affordable and quality education.”

Students can learn more about the scholarship by contacting the RLC Foundation at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1214.

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