Naperville resident Marion Ruthig had been a certified public accountant for 12 years when she saw a video of Hesed House in Aurora, a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter, clothing and hope for the homeless.
Unfamiliar with Hesed House, the video moved her to tears -- and motivated her to switch gears in her own life. Wouldn't it be great if every nonprofit could tell its story in such a compelling way, she thought.
A month later Ruthig quit her accounting job to start I Support Community, a website she envisions as a Netflix of nonprofit videos. Potential donors, volunteers, sponsors and people in need could click on videos to find a nonprofit with which to connect.
"Some of these videos and some of these stories are so amazing," Ruthig said. "The more people I talked to, the more positive feedback I got. … A lot of people said they would definitely use a resource like that."
Teaming up with Hildebrand Creative to shoot the videos, Ruthig produced the first last fall at Russell House, an organization in Rolla, Mo., that serves victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Locally, KidsMatter in Naperville has signed on with I Support Community for a video of its mission to empower kids and parents by connecting them with community resources.
IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of KidsMatter, said that up to now the organization had produced videos to give hope to families who might be facing problems like substance abuse or bullying.
"I Support Community is unique. Telling your stories is probably the most compelling way to communicate a nonprofit's mission," she said. "I believe that will touch the hearts of people who want to donate."
Ruthig said she hopes KidsMatter is the first of many local organizations to use I Support Community's services.
"Our goal in the first year is to have 25 organizations on our site," she said.
Each nonprofit actually receives three videos: one profiling the organization, one focusing on the programs the group offers and one thank you video for donors. All the videos are produced free to the nonprofits, Ruthig said.
"We are going to be doing a lot of fundraising," she said, adding that as the organization grows she hopes it will gain corporate sponsors.
I Support Community's first fundraiser, "Giving Hope through Stories," will be from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., Suite 131, Naperville. Tickets are $45 and include appetizers and a glass of beer or wine.
CLTV news anchor Dolly McCarthy, a Naperville resident, will serve as master of ceremonies. The guest speaker will be Jonny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels, an organization that matches cancer patients with mentors who have survived the same type of cancer the patient has. Many people are not aware of Imerman Angels, Ruthig said.
"I think this is going to be a great way to demonstrate what I Support Community is trying to do," she said.
Sharon Meusch, executive director of Russell House in Missouri and a friend of Ruthig's family, said she will be at the fundraiser. Russell House had never had a video of its work produced before, and other nonprofits in her area are asking how they did it, Meusch said.
"I do know donations have been made to our organization through I Support Community," she said.
Russell House has put the video on its own website and is using it to train volunteers, Meusch said. She admitted that at first she felt intimidated by the idea of having a video crew come but felt better when the team was only two people.
"They were here two days," she said. "We were just so pleased when we saw the end product."
Ruthig said that in the beginning, I Support Community will produce all its own videos for the sake of consistency. Any nonprofit may apply. Ruthig uses her background as a CPA to check their financial statements. She hopes for a variety of groups, but said she will avoid those that are political or that pick and choose who they serve.
"We're interested in nonprofit organizations that don't discriminate in who they provide services to," she said.
Ruthig, the mother of three young children, said she hopes I Support Community provides a resource for busy people like herself who want to give and to teach their children to give but lack the time to research charitable organizations.
Businesses who encourage their employees to be involved in volunteer activities also might use it, she said.
"I feel there are a lot of people out there who are time-constrained who still want to get involved and still want to help," she said. "I also think it's going to be a great resource for people in need who don't know where to turn."
For information about I Support Community, see isupportcommunity.org.