At SouthCol, we are driven to help clients pursue their mission. Here is a client story that inspires us. Foundation of Northern Illinois Conference.
A Woman Named Mildred Inspires a New Generation
In 1974, a woman named Mildred Vannorsdall earned a PhD in Library Science and Information Science from The University of Michigan at age 56. Her timing was perfect. That May, the U.S. Congress introduced The Equality Act of 1974 which would prohibit “discrimination on account of sex, marital status or sexual orientation.”
Born in Ohio in 1918, Mildred Vannorsdall was raised to value the importance of her voice and she embraced the power of a good story. Mildred eventually moved to Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and, a devout Methodist, became a leadership voice within her local church and the United Methodist Foundation. Her intellectual curiosity, love of reading, and knowledge of current events were also put to good use in her successful career at The Chicago Public Library.
At her funeral, Mildred was described as “a philanthropist who loves humankind.” Mildred designated the United Methodist Foundation of Northern Illinois Conference (UMFNIC) as trustee of her charitable trust.
How Mildred’s Story Became Mildred’s Stories
“Mildred’s Stories” is a video series that captures stories across generations.
The UMFNIC was determined that Mildred’s assets be used in a way that would honor her legacy. Fast forward to 2022. Communities – including church communities – were struggling with the effects of the pandemic, racial and social discourse, mental health issues, declining membership, and an overall environment of divisiveness.
As trustee of Mildred’s assets, the UMFNIC was committed to find a way to honor Mildred’s storytelling legacy and strengthen the foundational relationships that define any sustainable church community. The idea for “Mildred’s Stories” was born.
“The idea behind ‘Mildred’s Stories’ is to remind people that the United Methodist Church is a place where you can come and explore who you are and feel welcome and safe,” explained Chris Walters, CEO of the UMFNIC.
The United Methodist Foundation – Building Community Through Video Storytelling
Simply put, “Mildred’s Stories” is a video series that captures storytelling across generations.
Each video includes two people from the broader church community. They have never met, and they are from different generations. They talk. They listen. They share stories about who they are and where they come from and why they are part of the Methodist community. The conversations are unscripted and at times emotional.
Today, as churches and ministries embrace more diverse communities, storytelling can help different generations find the universal themes that encourage understanding. The goal: greater understanding builds a stronger community.
“Mildred understood that a church community is built upon our ability to extend our voices and listen to each other,” said Chris Walters. “More than 100 years after she was born, Mildred is still inspiring stories and building relationships. That is quite a legacy.”
The United Methodist Foundation of Northern Illinois Conference (UMFNIC) started in 1949, when a handful of faithful and generous individuals set out with a vision to help build the church of tomorrow. Today, the foundation is entrusted with managing more than 700 individual accounts, all with a common goal to enrich the ministry of the church.