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June 6, 2019

McDaniel Family Fund Established to Support Jasper County Programs

Jerry McDaniel (left) and Jim McDaniel (right)

Brothers Jerry and Jim McDaniel recently established the McDaniel Family Fund by donating 34 acres of farmland to Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation to support projects and programs in Jasper County, forever.

The first $20,000 of farm income will be donated to the Friends of the Trails Fund to support the Newton Eagle Trail System. Friends of the Trails is a fund of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation and was organized to help implement the Newton Eagle Trail System, a system of multi-use trails connecting downtown Newton to popular recreational opportunities like Sam Parr State Park, Peterson Park, the Aquatic Center and the Embarras River. The gift will specifically support the construction of the River Walk Trail along the Embarrass River. The Riverwalk Trail is the fourth phase of the Newton Eagle Trail System and will include a safe, ADA compliant route for non-motorized travel (pedestrian, bicycle, wheelchair, in-line skating, etc.) between the Historic Embarras River Bridge/current Eagle Trail and Peterson Park.

Once the Friends of the Trails pledge is complete, the McDaniel Family Fund will donate $1,000 annually to the Jasper County CEO Fund in perpetuity. Any remaining funds for that year will be donated to the Jasper County Community Endowment to be used for current and future grantmaking.

The farmland was donated through the Community Foundation’s “Fields of Opportunity” farmland giving program. Farmland giving represents an incredible opportunity for rural philanthropy and is a great tool for landowners. Rather than liquidating assets like other charities usually do with gifts of real estate, “Fields of Opportunity” allows the Community Foundation to receive gifts of farmland and maintain ownership of the land indefinitely. Retaining local ownership of farmland means wealth generated stays with local tenants, circulating throughout the community. The “Fields of Opportunity” provides donors with the ability to name the tenant farmers. This allows the donor to keep an existing tenant farmer they have built a relationship with. “These donors form relationships and build trust with their tenant farms. For the tenant farmer, it’s a source of income. For the donor, it’s reassurance that the farmer is going to care for the land in the way his or her family has cared for it for generations,” explains Amanda Lessley, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. She adds, “we understand the importance of these relationships and want to honor our donor’s intentions to the fullest extent.”

(Pictured above: Jerry McDaniel and Fred Huddleston)

The McDaniel brothers have chosen Fred Huddleston to farm their family’s ground to honor an agreement made between the McDaniel and Huddleston families decades ago, as Jerry explains, “The Huddleston family has farmed our ground for as long as I can remember. Fred’s dad farmed it for my grandpa and my dad, then Fred took over from his dad. Our families have had this relationship of trust for at least 60 years. There has never been a contract, it has always been a ‘hand shake deal’ with our families and that was why it was important to me that the Community Foundation honor the tradition that we have established with the Huddlestons as long as they want to farm the land.”

Jerry McDaniel currently serves on the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation governing board. The gift of farmland to the “Fields of Opportunity” program is the kind of leadership that Jerry often displayed during his time as board chair. In 2018, the Community Foundation honored Jerry with the Richard C. Siemer Outstanding Philanthropist Award to recognize his philanthropic work and leadership in Effingham and Jasper counties.

For more information regarding “Fields of Opportunity,” contact Amanda Lessley, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, at 217.342.5409 or

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