Good Cause: Mom launches I Support Community
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun February 11, 2013 3:04PM
Naperville Sun columnist Michelle Linn-Gust
At A Glance
What: Giving Hope Through Stories fundraiser for I Support Community, featuring guest speaker Johnny Imerman, founder Imerman Angels
Cost: Tickets are $45 and include appetizers and one beer or glass of wine
Where: Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., suite 131, Naperville
When: 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Feb. 22
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:18AM
When Marion Ruthig set out to start the nonprofit I Support Community, she did it because nonprofit work always stuck in the back of her mind. And when she learned about Hesed House, the shelter service in Aurora, it made her wonder why there wasn’t a website where nonprofits could tell their stories.
Ruthig believed that a website would help busy people like her to quickly find a nonprofit they could donate time or make a financial donation.
As an accountant who had done work with nonprofits, she was ahead of the game with a business background, but it would be something else to leave her job and start I Support Community because she is one-half the income that she and her husband use to support their family of three children.
The organization’s website, launched in December, gives nonprofits a place to tell their stories through video at no cost. Ruthig’s goal is to fundraise and secure corporate sponsors to pay for the videos.
While Naperville’s KidsMatter recently joined the project, the only video filmed on the website at this time is for Russell House in St. Louis. “We’re always looking for new ways to publicize,” said Sharon Meusch, the executive director of the women’s shelter in Missouri. “Video is a new way of storytelling. There are so many things we can’t do with a website, that we can do with words.”
Ruthig hopes to have 25 organizations on the website by the end of the year. She is in talks with several, but having just left her accounting job last fall, she feels like she only hit the ground running in January.
Ten percent of each donation made on the website goes back to I Support Community to support their mission, but the rest of it goes to the organization. While her focus is a 30-mile radius around Naperville, she eventually hopes people will want to start regional chapters so she can centralize the accounting in Naperville.
“My goal is to grow this organically, community by community,” she said.
The process is slow, but Meusch is seeing a difference for her organization already.
“Donors feel a lot more secure when they see the things we do and see the staff,” Meusch said.
For Ruthig though, making the decision to leave her job for a big unknown meant sitting down with her husband, Greg, and figuring out if they had the means to make it work.
“We looked at all the factors,” she said. They scoured their budget and realized they could take the risk for a year and a half years. “Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
But while their financial situation has changed, there are many areas in their lives that have paid dividends in a short term.
“Marion has always liked her jobs, but I’ve never seen her so excited,” said her husband, an assistant biology professor at North Central College. “This is worth any cost. I like seeing her so happy.”
Her decision to start this in Naperville was made easier because of Greg’s academic route. They traveled around for his doctorate, and post-doctorate work. Now that he has tenure at North Central, they know they can put roots down in Naperville.
“She can invest in the community long term,” he said.
Their three children are spending less time in daycare because Ruthig is able to arrange her schedule around them.
“My older son gets off the bus and comes home,” she said.
It also helps that her children can see her doing this kind of work. “I want to get the kids involved to see how fortunate they are.”
With Ruthig’s infectious belief in I Support Community, there is no doubt it will catch on quickly.