Among Springfield’s major employers is Horace Mann, founded in 1945 and the nation’s largest financial services company focused on providing educators and school employees with insurance and retirement solutions.
With that presence comes responsibility to give back to its educator base and the communities in which they work and live. Historically, the company has supported educators in various ways, including locally through contributions to United Way of Central Illinois and Central Illinois Food Bank, said Ryan Greenier, Horace Mann’s chief investment officer.
Last year, Horace Mann teamed up with financial partner Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago and its Targeted Impact Fund to distribute $105,000 in grant funds focused on closing student opportunity gaps to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Illinois, The Matthew Project, Compass for Kids and Springfield Urban League. Those grants allowed the organizations to assist nearly 500 additional low-to-moderate-income families with targeted educational support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Safe and supervised remote learning sites are critical when parents are working outside the home to provide for their family,” said Tiffany Mathis, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Illinois. For other families, she said, a challenge to supporting learners is reliable internet access, which was provided to 200 students through this grant. The Matthew Project, a program that provides clothing, food, tutoring and mentoring to homeless Springfield District 186 students, partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs to expand existing remote learning opportunities for the Matthew Project children as well as provide food assistance.
Compass for Kids expanded its virtual Club Compass program for at-risk students in Springfield schools. It offers social-emotional lessons and support, enrichment activities, a book club and meals for students. The Springfield Urban League used its grant for emergency assistance for families facing uncertain circumstances with housing and overall financial stability in addition to providing digital learning support.
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“I’m a numbers guy,” said Greenier. “When we heard from these groups that the pandemic placed a challenge on their traditional ways of fundraising and they had to change their models, looking to more private sources, we were able to provide funds. The personal stories and the impact made on organizations and the individuals and families resonated.”
The pandemic, among other issues, caused the company to look deeper into its giving strategy. “We looked to best amplify our giving and honor employees who work to support local organizations,” said Greenier. The result was the formation of a nonprofit organization, the Horace Mann Edcators Foundation, seeded with an initial contribution of $1 million earlier this year.
The Foundation’s primary focus will be on providing resources for needs that specific educators, schools or districts identify as critical to students’ success, as well as for solutions to systemic issues identified as roadblocks. Applications for funds are by invitation only.