In March, 2003, Sanford McDonnell was invited to speak at the 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Jerseyville Rotary Club. His 20 minute talk on the importance and need for character education inspired business leaders and educational personnel to meet together to research and discuss possibilities for a character education initiative in Jersey County. After several months of research and study, the group decided to affiliate with CHARACTERplus, an arm of Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis. The fee for that membership was paid for 2003-2004 by a community wellness grant through the Jersey County Health Department.

The next three years, the membership fee was paid by donations from various community organizations including District 100 Foundation, school PTO’s, and others. The support and resources made available by the CHARACTERplus membership was invaluable in helping the school system to develop a comprehensive program to stress the character traits respect, responsibility, self-control, kindness, patience, honesty, trustworthiness, politeness, reliability, generosity, fairness, and cooperativeness. Teachers and administrators regularly attended seminars and conferences to assist them in developing a successful program.

After 4 years, the membership was discontinued and the schools continued to build on the foundation that had been put in place. In May of 2013, a group of citizens in the community decided to pool their energy and resources to support the education of exemplary character. This group named their initiative Character Counts and anyone who helps in any way with this initiative is a Character Counts Community Partner.

Jerseyville Rotary Club has been an active Partner of Character Counts from its inception through the present. The Club has sponsored the Character for Life Essay Contest each year and has made mini grants available to educators who want to do projects directly related to the development of the Six Pillars of Good Character which are respect, responsibility, caring, fairness, trustworthiness and citizenship.