Wilmette Park District eyeing dormant Ouilmette Foundation
WHAT: The Ouilmette
WHY: Formed in 1983, to help fund Wallace Bowl restoration
WHY NOW: Regeneration could meet other Park District funding needs
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:57PM
WILMETTE — Wilmette Park District commissioners could soon consider reviving The Ouilmette Foundation, a group formed in 1983 to help fund the restoration of Gillson Park’s Wallace Bowl but which has been dormant for the past several years.
If its tax-exempt status can be updated, and if staff and park board members can reshape its original mission, a revitalized foundation could help generate money for other district projects.
“People periodically express interest to us about how they’d like to make donations or gifts, or otherwise support the district,” park board President James Brault said. Because the district doesn’t have an effective mechanism to do that, he said, staff members who brought the issue to a July meeting of the board’s financial planning committee are now reviewing the possibility that the foundation fit the bill.
Board Commissioner Darrell Graham agreed, saying a foundation could provide funding to supplement property taxes and user fees that are the district’s only two other income sources.
District Director Steve Wilson said that after successfully raising money to help in the Wallace Bowl restoration, foundation activity slowed. Board members moved away in ensuing years and “follow-through slowed to where it has done nothing.
“It’s something that I’d zeroed in on at the beginning of this year, because people had asked me about it,” he said.
Before commissioners can discuss the idea later this year, however, staff will have to research the foundation’s original mission and review its tax status, Brault said.
Although the foundation was originally registered as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt group, park board officials learned last June that the status had been revoked because necessary IRS paperwork hasn’t been filed for the past three years.
Ken Eppelheimer, the district’s finance superintendent, reported last month that officials checked with a district attorney, who said filing the back reports and paying about $700 in requisite fees should complete the process.
Wilson said re-certifying the foundation shouldn’t be difficult, largely because the only recent income has been interest; its assets now stand at just $11,524.34.
He is now contacting other park districts and communities that have similar foundations for information on how they run them.
“We’re getting organized. We’re not looking for any (new foundation board members) now, but I think we’re hoping that by this fall or at the end of the year, once our board members have had a chance to talk about it and make a decision, if they decide, we can be ready to seek volunteers,” he said.
“We’re excited,” Brault added. “The extent of giving within our community is terrific, so we want to create the right format to allow that to happen here.”