Sol Anderson is an Evanston dad and president and CEO of Evanston Community Foundation. Sol directs all ECF operations, acting as the Foundation’s steward, demonstrating strategic leadership, and, overseeing the organization’s management, operations, and communications. We could go into the many community roles that Sol holds / has held here in this intro but you’ll have to scroll down to find out! “I’ve always tried to be connected to organizations and causes that are meaningful to me, so I’m listing… [those] organizations in the hopes that someone might see something that piques their interests and gets involved!” Suffice it say, Evanston (and the North Shore) is lucky to have such a positively vibrant and brilliant community leader. Welcome, Sol!
Hi Sol! Where do you live and where did you grow up? How did you end up where you live now?
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. I attended Michigan State University for both undergrad and graduate school. I loved my time in my home state, but I decided to move to Chicagoland shortly after graduate school. I have family in Chicago, and visited for family reunions throughout my life. It just felt like the place that I wanted to be.
I planned to live in the city of Chicago for the rest of my life, but shortly after I moved here a family friend told me about a job opportunity with the City of Evanston. I applied for the role of Youth Coordinator, the precursor to what is now the City of Evanston’s Youth and Young Adult Division, and was fortunate enough to be offered the role. That job changed my life in a number of ways. First, and most importantly, I met my wife Anna Kate – who was featured in Chicago North shore Moms just a few weeks ago. The secondary benefit was that I got connected to the community that is now my home, Evanston. Shortly after we got married, and just after I left the City of Evanston, we bought our first home in Evanston. I’ll admit that Anna Kate was the one who really wanted us to move here, but I’m glad she did! This community has really welcomed me with open arms. After 15+ years of living and/or working in Evanston, it has become my home.
Tell us about your family.
I am a proud parent to a 2nd grade son. My family is my heart. I’ve already mentioned my wife Anna Kate. She is a small business owner and an absolute BOSS. Moms never get enough credit for doing this, but she is the engine that makes our family go. I don’t know if I can even express what she means to me. Our son is amazing. I’m obviously biased, but he’s brilliant. He’s equal parts funny and serious, he’s a HUGE Marvel fan, and I enjoy just sitting with him and seeing how is mind works. Someone once said this to me, and I fully agree… I don’t judge anyone for their choices, but for ME there is nothing better than being a dad.
I am also thankful for my parents, who still live in Michigan. I also have two younger brothers, with whom I’m very close. One lives in Chicago and has two sons. One lives in Phoenix and has two daughters. It’s rare that the three of us get together all at once anymore, but our group chat is a great source of humor, support, and (occasionally) annoyance for me.
You are the President and CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation. Tell us more about ECF’s mission and reach, and your role!
Yes, I am the president & CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation. ECF’s mission is to build a more just, vibrant, and inclusive Evanston. We are guided by the spirit of Ubuntu, a southern African principle that means “I am because we are.” That means that ECF operates under the idea that our whole community is in this together – if anyone in our community is struggling, our whole community needs to come together in support. We do that by making grants to Evanston nonprofits and small business with a social good component. We also have a program called Leadership Evanston, which is now in its 31st year, that develops leaders from all across the Evanston Community. We work with community members, nonprofits, the City of Evanston, Northwestern University, and anyone else who cares about Evanston, to bring our community’s resources together to meet our community’s needs. We’re a foundation, just like any foundation that makes grants, but we’re also a true part of and partner to our community.
I am also an adjunct lecturer in the Weinberg School of Arts & Sciences at Northwestern University. I teach a class on nonprofit management.
Your role as President and CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation shepherds community engagement and spirit in a big way. What other community and/or volunteer roles have you held?
My job has a pretty demanding schedule, and requires me to attend a number of community events and programs, so I can’t always find the time to volunteer. Because of my role at ECF, I am not on the board of any organization that might apply for funding from the foundation, but I am on the board of the Josselyn Center, and organization that provides mental health services to community members across the North shore.
I am also a member of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation. I’m still on the roster of coaches for the Pistons of Evanston’s FAAM Basketball league, but I haven’t been active with that for a while. In the past I have been on the board of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Childcare Network of Evanston, ONE Northside (a community organizing group on the Northside of Chicago) and PeaceAble Cities: Evanston. I have also previously served on the community advisory board of Northwestern Center for Civic Engagement and Kennedy King Community College in Chicago.
I’m not listing those things to show what board I’ve been on. It’s just community engagement has always been a big part of my life and my career. I’ve always tried to be connected to organizations and causes that are meaningful to me, so I’m listing those organizations in the hopes that someone might see something that piques their interests and gets involved!
Love that, thank you! What would you like the North Shore communities to know about Black History Month?
There are two things that I think are important to note about Black History Month. First, Black History is American History. You can’t tell the story of America without mentioning the contributions and sacrifices of Black American, but our history is too often marginalized. Everyone should view Black History Month as a period to truly acknowledge those contributions and sacrifices without feeling that it is somehow a slight to anyone else’s history.
The second thing I’ll note is that history is happening around us every day, and that means that Black History is happening every day. Just take a look at how often you hear that someone steps into a role as the first Black Woman or Black Man to hold certain role. That’s meaningful. When you see that news, and you see Black Children in and around your community, remember that those moments are often the first moments that a Black Child can see themselves in that role. I honestly never thought I could be the President of the United States as a child. Black Youth growing up today can see themselves in that role.
Bio: Sol joined ECF in June 2021. Most recently, he served as Executive Director for I Grow Chicago, a nonprofit in the Englewood community that works to eradicate the roots of violence. Previously, Sol served as the Chicago Executive Director of LIFT Incorporated, an organization that partners with parents to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and to build prosperity. Earlier in his extensive career, Sol served in a variety of leadership roles for the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing, Cristo Rey Community Center and SCORE! Educational Centers. One of his earliest positions included serving as Youth Coordinator for the City of Evanston. Sol has lived and/or worked in Evanston for the past 15 years, and he is thrilled to be able to invest in the Evanston community, where he and his wife are raising their family. He holds a BA and an MBA from Michigan State University.
You can reach Sol Anderson here: 847.492.0990 │ECF cell: 224.307.0047 (M-F, 9-5)│ [email protected] │www.evanstonforever.org │https://www.linkedin.com/in/solanderson/