Eric Swanson


Eric was born and raised in northern Illinois. Eric served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany for 21/2 years. Eric then attended ISU where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and certificates in Peace Studies and Women’s Studies. While at ISU, he was a columnist and writer for the (then) Daily Vidette and representative to the national Progressive Student Network.

In 1994, he moved to Washington, D.C. and joined the national staff of Peace Action, the nation’s largest secular peace and disarmament advocacy organization. He served in multiple positions in the organization, most recently as Assistant Membership Director. Eric volunteered or worked with multiple organizations including the Washington Peace Center, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Human Rights Campaign and Code Pink, and has been arrested 7 times for civil disobedience. In 2018, he left D.C. to return to Illinois.

Eric has traveled throughout most of western and northern Europe, the Dominican Republic, Kyrgyz Republic, Quebec and Newfoundland. He is an avid board game, card and role-playing gamer with 30 years’ experience as a game master and has published in the RPG field. He lives with his partner Kathy and dog Nidra.


Kathy Sawyer

Raised in Normal (and elsewhere before that), after 24 years in Washington, D.C. and traveling extensively, Kathy is now a Bloomington resident. She is currently participating in the Multicultural Leadership Program and has worked with the Greenways Program through the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. Kathy is enjoying getting reacquainted with the array of nonprofit and local government entities in Bloomington-Normal.

With her bachelor’s degree in French and minors in English and Political Science from Illinois State University, Kathy went east to American University in Washington, D.C. where she earned her master’s degree in International Development. After graduate school, Kathy worked in community-level, national and international nonprofits in the D.C. metropolitan area, raising funds for peace, conservation, green building, and social, economic and environmental justice. Kathy also has extensive editing experience, including as chief copy editor at the (then) Daily Vidette and is a published author.

Kathy has lived and traveled in Japan, Europe, and Africa as well as the Kyrgyz Republic. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering for local organizations, reading, writing, traveling, cooking, knitting, attending film festivals, and live performances and watching basketball. She also enjoys puns and looking at the world from her dog’s perspective.


Amanda Cole

Amanda Cole has been named Mentor for Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP) for the 2018-2019 school year. Amanda is very enthusiastic about working with the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation and the Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP) program. She hopes to encourage, support and promote the program for years to come.

Amanda and her husband have 3 children together, two of whom are currently school age. In 2016, they suffered the terrible loss of their third child due to SUIDS (Sudden Unexplained Infant Death). In turn, the Coles established a fund in her name (Louise Bernadette Cole Foundation), which greater paved Amanda’s journey down the philanthropy road.

She currently is the part-time librarian at their children’s school, where she also holds the title of Home and School President, bridging the gap between families and staff of the school.

Amanda is originally from Wisconsin. She began her college career at Loyola University of Chicago, where she participated in philanthropic programs that reached out to the local community. She moved back north, where she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay in Art Education. During her time at UW-Green Bay, she worked for the Boys and Girls Club.

Sandy McGhee (Founding YEP Mentor)

Prior to retirement in 2011, Sandy was employed as a University of Illinois Educator in McLean County Extension.  She worked with the traditional 4-H youth program, which included a countywide 4-H teen leadership program, and the urban 4-H youth program which included two out-of-school-time multicultural enrichment programs: UNITY Community Center, and Tech Wizards.

Sandy began her career as McLean County program coordinator of the Family Nutrition Program in McLean County.   Other early work in Extension included facilitation of workshops focusing on workforce development and consumer economic skills, and building awareness of the challenges of living with limited means and resources.

She is a recipient of the Leadership McLean County Outstanding Alumni Award, the Points of Light Award, the University of Illinois Paraprofessional Outstanding/Innovative Program Award, and the McLean County Board of Health’s Public Health Award/Certificate of Achievement.

After receiving her bachelor of science in elementary education from Illinois State University, she spent several years teaching fifth/sixth grade. Years later she obtained her master’s degree in education through the University of Illinois.  She holds a private pilot’s license and scuba diving certification.

A native of Woodford County, she and her husband Carl (later deceased) moved to McLean County and there raised four children. Now married to Ken Yanzy, she resides in rural Bloomington and has said of YEP: “I enjoyed helping to launch IPCF's program, ‘Youth Engaged in Philanthropy’.  It offers a unique adventure to youth in which they can explore their own leadership styles, develop their desire for community service and civic engagement, investigate the mechanics of philanthropic foundations, and experience the subsequent rewards of investing in others.  It is always so exciting to work alongside young people; they bring a creative energy that offers up an exhilarating array of possibilities!”.

Blair Wright (Founding YEP Mentor: 2013-2015)

Blair graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2015 where she studied Psychology with a Pre-Medicine concentration.  She is currently studying at University of Illinois College of Medicine, as part of the Rural Medical Education Program.  

Originally from Sandwich, IL, Blair participated in and helped to develop a similar Youth Engaged in Philanthropy program for her county.  Locally, she served as the Civic Engagement Commissioner for the IWU Student Senate, where she shared her passion for creating meaningful change in the community.  She has been recognized by the Central Illinois Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as an Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy for her work helping the local YEP establish an endowment. 

Megan Boynton (2015-2017)

Megan Boynton is a 14 year veteran of the insurance industry, handling and supervising property, liability and catastrophe claims over the course of her career.

Megan is also the former Manager of Non-Profit Outreach at Kern Community Foundation. During her two year tenure, she was responsible for oversight of the Foundation's Nonprofit Search online, powered by GuideStar.  She further assisted the President and CEO with the Foundation’s efforts to support the overall capacity and sustainability of Kern County non-profits. 

A California native, Megan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Santa Clara University, where her second major was Spanish.  She further pursued and received her Associate in Claims certification from the Insurance Institutes of America and a Masters of Public Administration from Seton Hall University. 

Megan moved to the Midwest in 2013.  On arrival,  she volunteered locally within Unit 5 and advocated for dual-immersion language education.   She has been pleased to assist the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation with its Youth Engaged in Philanthropy initiative and, with another family move on the horizon,  wishes the group "Much continued success!"

Colleen Luckey (2015-2017)

Colleen Luckey is the Director of Grants at YWCA McLean County. A 2014 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, Colleen majored in Business Administration, Marketing Concentration with a double minor in Art and Women’s Studies. Her projects with the Action Resource Center (ARC) at IWU during her senior year led her to realize that she has a passion for nonprofit work.

Bobby Nash Castillo (2017-2018)


Bobby is currently the Corporate Support Director at WGLT, Bloomington-Normal's National Public Radio (NPR) station based on the campus of Illinois State University.

After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Bobby studied philosophy and English literature at Illinois Wesleyan University and graduated a semester earl in December of 2013 in order to begin work as an Admissions Counselor at IWU. IWU, and the Action Research Center there specifically, inspired him to strive to do well (but more importantly, good) in the world. He credits the amazing Bloomington- Normal community for developing within him a passion for connecting people with opportunities to do their best- and "most good"- work. Bobby is glad to have found a career at WGLT that allows him to collaborate directly with Bloomington-Normal stakeholders to make the community better. 

Bobby is an owner of Green Top Grocery Co-op and a member of the Downtown Bloomington Association's Board of Directors- both operate their nonprofit funds through the Illinois Praire Community Foundation.

Bobby was also a member of the Illinois Praire Foundation's inaugural class of Emerging Philanthropists, a group of young professionals who donates time, treasure and talent with various non-profits in the community. 

EllaKate LeFebre (2016-2018)


EllaKate is a Business Analyst for State Farm. As a Michigan native, EllaKate graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors of Communication. EllaKate identified her passion for youth leadership and philanthropy during her high school experience when she served on a local Youth Advisory Council, as well as a Member of  the National Youth Leadership Council's Youth Advisory Council. During her college career, EllaKate served as a Board Member of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board – a board of thirty youth from across the country charged with implementing a $5 million philanthropic grant budget.

Today, EllaKate follows her passion by being a Mentor for the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation's Youth Engaged in Philanthropy Program and Program Director for the Michigan Youth Leadership Training Camp - a camp designed for youth 9th through 12th grade to become impactful leaders in their schools and communities.