CRYSTAL LAKE – Marcy Piekos wants people to know the only difference there needs to be between for-profit and nonprofit organizations is in the first three letters that describe their businesses.
Piekos, executive director of Leadership of Greater McHenry County, has been part of a decade-long mission to bridge the gap between for-profit and nonprofit businesses to cultivate relationships that can benefit the entire community.
A graduate of the program she now oversees, Piekos said LGMC has played a vital role in developing community leaders and philanthropists throughout McHenry County.
“It’s all about breaking down the silos communities and businesses operate in and coming together,” Piekos said. “We can not only bring together leaders from all parts of our communities, but we can develop new leaders.”
Leadership of Greater McHenry County is a nonprofit group that encourages residents to become involved with nonprofits and give back to the community. Founded in 2004, LGMC builds community leaders by offering one-year programs that offer leadership training and information about how to get involved in area nonprofits. The group now has an alumni network of 314 members.
Piekos said there are hundreds of similar organizations throughout the country and it was one in Syracuse, N.Y., that led to the start of McHenry County’s chapter. She said Centegra Health System CEO Mike Easley went through the program and was inspired to gather community leaders to start a local program.
Influenced by her service on the Woodstock School District 200 board, Piekos went through the program before taking over as executive director.
“I’ve always had a passion for community leadership and the program helped me grow in so many ways,” Piekos said. “It is amazing what people accomplish by going through this.”
Alumni have started veteran services, nonprofits and fill needs on local community boards. The organization also started an annual event called Lend a Hand Day, where alumni help remodel and repair area nonprofits.
The organization continues to grow every year with a record 54 applicants vying for 32 spots in the class of 2015 set to start in the fall. Piekos said the growth in popularity comes from word-of-mouth through alumni that tell other co-workers about the valuable experience.
That was the case with Ryan Whiting of Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria & Pub who said he was inspired to join after the owner of Georgio’s went through it last year. Even after just sitting through orientation, Whiting said he was amazed to see how many opportunities there are to get involved in McHenry County.
The mandatory eight-hour meeting sessions each month is a small commitment to make to discover new ways to connect and give back, Whiting said.
“I’ve always been interested in community service but didn’t know a lot about boards and groups in the area,” Whiting said. “There are so, so many ways to get involved. I’m excited to be involved with it.”