Article by MIKE SORENSEN Herald-Whig Staff Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org | January 19, 2022
QUINCY — The watchword of the day at the Bella Ease Teen Reach facility in Quincy was “community,” as the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund distributed more than $44,000 in grants to 21 organizations, a record distribution for the fund.
Known as the Sammy Fund, June and Chuck Otte created the charitable program in memory of their daughter, Samantha, who died in March 2000 at age 10. Through its partnership with the Community Foundation Serving West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri, the Sammy Fund has distributed more than $460,000 over 22 years.
Previously funded through a weekend of activities, in 2015 the Quincy Breakfast Kiwanis announced they would continue the Sammy & Kids Golf Outing with a portion of the proceeds going into the Sammy Fund for continued growth.
In a statement announcing the grants, June said the grants will bring joy to and open doors of opportunity for area children.
“These grants will impact lives in so many positive ways,” she said. “We are deeply grateful to all who have made this possible, and we continue to be humbled by the generous community support that allows these blessings in Samantha’s memory.”
Along with being a recipient of one of the grants, Bella Ease’s Teen Reach program was asked to play host to this year’s grant distribution. Program director Dennis Williams said he was thrilled to open the center’s doors to the Sammy Fund.
“The main thing for us is community, to give kids a place to be,” Williams said. “If we can provide a place for them to be in our community, that’s what we want to do. So when the Community Foundation asked us to do this, we said absolutely. It gives people the chance to come in and see what the kids do here.”
For Teen Reach, the grant money will go toward its College Bound program, helping first-generation college students afford some of the necessities to help them succeed.
“Kids that are going to college that might not otherwise be able to get books or things for dorms, this is going to help as much as we can,” Williams said.
A few of the other recipients of the grants this year include Covered Bottoms Diaper Bank, Birthday Blessings, both Boy and Girl Scout organizations, and the Quincy Children’s Museum.
Chuck said being able to give back has been healing for his family. Along with his wife June, he was joined by their son Chris and his wife Rebecca, all of whom serve on the board for the Sammy Fund.
“It’s been so helpful to know that these types of organizations have been able to do a little bit more with the funds that the Samantha Otte Fund provides to them,” he said. “We’re so thankful to the community for that opportunity, to be able to help children for 22 years.”
Chuck said one thing the Community Foundation and the members of the Sammy Fund board try to do is to get out to see where the money that’s raised is being used.
“We try to go to the facilities that we’re helping,” he said. “It’s such a wonderful experience to see the places and, even more, the kids. To see how excited the kids are. We get to see the results of the Fund.”