Board of Directors
We are grateful for the good work, financial support and advocacy of our dedicated Board of Directors.
Founder & Board Member
Established on October 15, 2015, Starved Rock Country Community Foundation was founded by Pamela Beckett - and her husband Chuck Beckett - as one of 850 community foundations in the United States. Pamela’s career in Philanthropy spans the past 26 years, following an 18-year career with Metropolitan Life as the Supervisor of Consumer Affairs in the Naperville-Aurora office. In 1994, she joined the Easter Seals organization in Peoria and accepted the position of President/CEO of Easter Seals of LaSalle and Bureau Counties in Ottawa in 2003. Under her guidance, the organization returned to a profitable position, expanded services to Seneca, Peru, and Princeton, and created the first regional Autism Resource Center and mobile Autism Resource Center. In 2009, Pamela accepted the position of Regional Foundation Director with Lutheran Life Communities, the parent organization to Pleasant View Retirement Community in Ottawa and Luther Oaks in Bloomington, to create a Foundation presence at each campus. She retired in June 2015, and in October of the same year, opened the doors of the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation.
Robert “Bob” M. Eschbach is the former long standing Mayor of Ottawa, Illinois. Mayor Eschbach has been elected Mayor of Ottawa for 5 consecutive terms, beginning in 1999, but that isn’t the beginning of Bob’s story in Starved Rock Country. Bob was born and raised in Ottawa and graduated from Illinois Valley Community College, Illinois State University and the University of Illinois College of Law. Mayor Eschbach began practicing law in Ottawa in 1978. Prior to being Mayor, Bob Eschbach served for many years on the Ottawa Plan Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and various other City committees. Always a purveyor of green initiatives in the town, Bob has been adamant about the beautification of Ottawa, but has also been extremely effective in his attempts to bring jobs and industry to the area. Eschbach was a founding member of Residents Against a Polluted Environment in the early 1980’s and fought the establishment of a hazardous waste landfill near Ottawa. He also served as Special Assistant LaSalle County State’s Attorney for land use and environmental matters for many years. He has served as a Commissioner of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission, and in 2013 received the prestigious Boat Captain’s Award of the Canal Corridor Association. He has been instrumental in shaping a shared vision for the future of Ottawa – placing special emphasis on economic development and the creation of new jobs.
Reed and his wife, Dr. Sydney Sue Wilson, reside in McNabb, Illinois in Putnam County. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics from the University of Illinois. He is a Veteran of the US Military, and has served in many capacities in the offices of U.S. Congressmen, most recently with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Reed was the Economic Development Director for the City of Ottawa from 2009 until 2019. He is a member of the Putnam County Rotary Club, having served as Club President several times since 1977; he is the Co-Founder of the Putnam County Educational Foundation; serves on the Board of Directors of the McNabb United Methodist Church, and served as the Putnam County Community Unit District #535 Board of Education from 1979-1996, which included six years as Board President. Reed and Sydney have two daughters, Laura and Loralee, both of whom hold Masters Degrees from the University of Illinois. We are honored to have Reed among our distinguished members of the SRCCF Board of Directors.
John McCormick is a lifelong resident of Starved Rock Country having grown up in Spring Valley and now living in Peru with his wife and 5 children. He has spent more than 20 years as a banker providing support to businesses and individuals in Starved Rock Country. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of Eureka Savings Bank with offices in LaSalle, Peru, Mendota, and Oglesby. He has held numerous community positions throughout Starved Rock Country including time with Horizon House (Past Campaign Chair), IVAC (Past President), Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, and United Way. He currently serves on the finance committee and board of directors for St. Margaret’s Hospital, President of the Upper Illinois River Valley CDC, finance chair of Grace Untied Methodist Church in LaSalle, and as treasurer for the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. “The SRCCF is a great organization that focuses on making our entire region stronger through it’s mission and I am honored to be a small part of this great group as we grow into an amazing resource for Starved Rock Country.”
Tara Bedei is the Mayor of Streator, Illinois since January 2022. Prior to her appointment, she served at Councilwoman on the Streator City Council beginning in 2013. Tara holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago with two minors, Math and Physics. Tara is the Operations Manager at Streator Dependable Manufacturing. She has been heavily involved in a multitude of community service programs and activities in Streator. She is a member of START (Streator Action and Revitalization Team), Streator Leading Ladies, Streator Tourism, the 4th of July Celebration Committee, and the Streator Garden Club. Tara is the Chairman of the Streator Walldogs Committee (Streatscapes Public Art) that brought the Murals and Milestones event. She also serves on the board for Streator Unlimited. Tara is a recipient of the 40 under 40 Award, Class of 2014 and the Maxine Wargo Volunteer of the Year award in 2019. She enjoys spending time with her husband Curt, and son, Jackson. In their spare time, the Bedei's also run a cut flower and vegetable farm, Grey Barn Gardens.
As Norma Cotner would say, "The bedrock of philanthropy is in the origin of the word: love of mankind." Aside from her longstanding career of social activism in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and West Africa, Norma Cotner is a Seneca resident who has held many titles over the years specializing in community development, advocacy and philanthropy throughout North Central Illinois. Not only has she served as a Capital Campaign Specialist for The Salvation Army in Chicago, but also she served as an assistant to the City Manager in Rockville, Maryland and was the first woman to run for office as the Mayor of Aurora, Illinois. In honor of her all her philanthropic efforts, Norma was named "Volunteer of the Year" by National Association on Mental Illness, "Woman of Distinction" by Aurora YMCA and "Kiwanian of the Year" by Aurora Kiwanis Club. Currently, Norma is a Realtor/Broker at Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group in Morris and still spends her time volunteering with a variety of non-profit organizations both locally and nationally.
Susan Thornton, a life long Starved Rock Country resident, moved to Ottawa 32 years ago from the LaSalle area. Passionate about giving back to her community, she serves on many volunteer and non-profit boards. She has spent 32 years on the LaSalle County 708 Mental Health Board, advocating for those with special needs and is currently serving as President. Susan’s interest in the past afforded her a seat on the board for the Center for American Archeology. She is active in Rotary and is a member of the LaSalle Noon Club, and sits on the Executive Board, and is currently the Foundation Chairman. Her love of baseball, brought her and her husband to help fund the LaSalle Rotary Park which has an ADA certified playground, a soccer field, and soon a Senior League baseball field. She also serves a President of the Parks non-profit Foundation. In her free time Susan enjoys, gardening, spending time with her family which includes her husband, Edmund, four children, 5 grandchildren, and her beloved Pug, Rolex, her “watch” dog. She also loves old movies, theater, music, and tries to keep humor in her daily life.
"I am honored to have been asked to serve on Starved Rock Country Community Foundation's board. Community is very important to me. It allows us to support one another, share experiences, network and help make life better for those experiencing modern life struggles. I am proud to be an ambassador of such a fine organization who helps to make a positive financial impact to those residing in Starved Rock Country."
Inga has worked in the environmental chemistry industry for more than 30 years; she received her BA in Chemistry, and MBA in Finance and Marketing, both from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining Carus Corporation in 1992, Inga worked for Air Products and Chemicals (APCI) from 1987 until 1992, primarily serving in ex-patriot positions in Europe, where she had commercial responsibility for APCI’s specialty chemicals for the German speaking regions. Inga joined Carus in 1992 as European Sales Manager, and returned to the US in 1993 to become Director of Marketing. She was Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing from 2001 until August of 2005, when she became President and CEO. In 2013, she was made Chairman of Carus Group, and in 2015, the year Carus celebrated its centennial, she handed the CEO title to Dave Kuzy and continues in her role as Chairman. Inga is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Chemistry Council, the Society of the Chemical Industry, is Chair of the OmniArts Trust, and also serves on the boards of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, Canal Corridor Association, and Landmarks Illinois.
"Participating, contributing and helping to improve our communities through Starved Rock Country Community Foundation's Board of Directors is an opportunity that I have welcomed openly. In this world of constant change, I am glad to help continue to build this foundation's stability now and also for the future."
Born and raised in Streator, Illinois, Susan Schmitt has been a Companion Animal Veterinarian for 39 years. In 1985 Susan opened Countryside Animal Clinic, and today it is a 5-doctor practice. Through the years, Susan has attempted to be involved in the community and gives back when possible.
"Being involved with the SRCCF is a great way to promote giving back and community support throughout Starved Rock Country. I'm honored and proud to be part of this organization as we strive to provide opportunities to improve lives in this region."
Retired Board Members
Thank you so much for your service to the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation! We could not have grown so much without you!