Author Archives: Leanna

$126,836 in Community Impact Grants Awarded in 2019

LCCF presents members of the LaGrange County Trails, Inc. board with a $25,000 check at the site of the trail bed that is proposed for development in Topeka. From Left, LaGrange County Community Foundation Executive Director Octavia Yoder, LaGrange County Trails President Jeff Wingstrom, LaGrange County Trails Vice President Sherryl Rhinesmith and LaGrange County Trails Treasurer Beth Sherman.

The LaGrange County Community Foundation awarded Community Impact Grants totaling $126,836 in 2019 to 18 projects and programs benefiting LaGrange County.

Through Community Impact Grants, the foundation aims to support nonprofit needs and provide innovative programs and services in LaGrange County.

LaGrange County Trails, Inc., of Topeka was among the 18 organizations who received funding. The Community Foundation awarded LaGrange County Trails $25,000 for The Hawpatch Trail, a proposed 17-mile trail that will stretch from Millersburg to Wolcottville, connecting three counties. The grant will support the early stages of developing the Hawpatch Trail in Topeka through legal fees, title research, surveying and appraisals.

Founded in 2019, LaGrange County Trails, Inc. is committed to creating hiking and biking trails for LaGrange County and to encourage safe, active, outdoor experiences.

The Town of LaGrange received $20,000 to support an inclusive park and splash pad in the heart of downtown LaGrange. The grant will support phase one of the new park, a splash pad accessible for all ages and abilities. The next phase will consist of an inclusive play area and a pavilion. Phase one will break ground spring of 2020. The Town of LaGrange Park Committee will fundraise to complete all phases. Located near the existing bathrooms this inclusive park and splash pad will serve all families of LaGrange County.

“I am so excited that the new town park is coming to fruition. We really want a space that provides play opportunities for all kids and is unique enough to bring in visitors from surrounding towns,” said Brittany Cowley, Town of LaGrange Park Committee Member.  

Each year, the Community Foundation accepts proposals for charitable projects and programs that help local nonprofit organizations provide services to LaGrange County families and individuals. The Grants Advisory Committee reviewed the submitted grant applications and made recommendations to the Board of the Directors who approved the grant awards. The grants are made possible through the generosity of donors who have supported the unrestricted and field of interest charitable funds at the Foundation. 

The 2019 Community Impact Grant awards include:

 In 2020, applications for Community Impact Grants will be accepted on April 1 and Sept. 3. To learn more, visit

LaGrange County Park employees replace the boardwalk at Pine Knob County Park. LCCF grant will support the continuation of the boardwalk at Duff Lake Fen.

The LaGrange County Community Foundation’s mission is to inspire and sustain generosity, leadership and service. Founded in 1991, the Community Foundation connects people to charitable causes and provides resources to nonprofits to make a lasting and sustainable impact.

PAT – Parents as Teachers

Early Childhood Alliance is building better futures in LaGrange County by partnering with parents, grandparents and local early intervention resources. The program is Parents as Teachers, PAT, and focuses on the individual strengths of each family to provide early learning experiences for their children. PAT supports parents as their child’s first and most influential teacher. PAT meets with families whose children are most at risk for school success.

This year Early Childhood Alliance was able to serve 10 families through the PAT program, servicing roughly 22 children. Families participating in PAT have children ranging in age from prenatal to age six. Families involved may have one or more barrier that may hinder the child’s readiness for school and ultimately school success. Some barriers may include, low income levels, low family education and English language learners.

The PAT program provides the opportunity to fill a gap in the community, providing support to parents through age 6, whereas other programs serve families up to age three.

Early Childhood Alliance is pleased to report that 80% of families indicated an increase in three or more of the nine critical areas of parenting skill and knowledge. Four children graduating the program will enter kindergarten, 100% have demonstrated they have the skills to be ready!

The PAT program was funded in part by a Community Impact Grant from the LaGrange County Community Foundation.

Inspire Tomorrow

Howe resident Marge Malone picked up her local newspaper and read a front-page story of what has become too common in northeast Indiana: children suffering in the aftermath of their parents’ methamphetamine addictions.

The children might not have food or a bed. They could be sharing a couch with their siblings. For some it’s just a sleeping bag, with dirty plates and animal feces around them. In the end, the children move into foster care, taking with their weight of trauma.   

“I knew at that moment what I had to do,” says Marge. “I heard a voice say, ‘You know how to fix this.’ It was clear I needed to do something,” she adds.  

A successful business owner, a nonprofit founder and a community leader, Marge leapt into her next venture. Her idea was to create a neutral place for foster children to find solace and counsel through the companionship of animals. In 2015, she called a committee together to help children in foster care.

Out of the committee, came the Farm Project, a faith-based initiative whose mission is “to provide a safe, nurturing and restorative place for children in need through animal companionship and other therapeutic methods.”

As the founder of Ark Animal Rescue, Marge knew the special connection between children and animals. The Farm Project’s mission will be to work with local agencies, such as the Department of Child Services, and local foster families, to provide a calming environment where children can meet with their parents on approved visits and can receive therapeutic care through companionship.

The nonprofit rallied its supporters and purchased land on SR 9, just north of LaGrange. In 2018, the Community Foundation awarded the Farm Project a $25,000 grant to support the construction of a foster home. A licensed foster family will live in the home, and provide a place for children who need immediate placement. The next phase is to build the barn at the site, with several meeting rooms.

At age 86, Marge says her work with the Farm Project is almost done and she will be glad to charge the next generation of leaders to continue the fight and create a better tomorrow.  

“There’s evil in this world. You can’t ignore it,” says Marge. “We want to give them back their childhood and normalcy.”

To help Marge with her passion, make a gift to the Caring Community Fund.

2019 LEAP

On Friday October 11, 2019 fifty kids from Lakeland, Westview and Prairie Heights attended the LEAP event held at Lakeland High School. LEAP which stands for Leaders Excited About Philanthropy is an event that takes place every other year. This year did not disappoint. The day was filled with guest speakers, community service, breakout sessions and hands on projects.

Matt Dice from Purdue Extention discussed leadership and how people can be influenced. He had some helpful interactive excersices that really solidified his message.

Octavia Yoder from the LaGrange County Community Foundation provided the group with insight on how foundations work as well as career options in philanthropy.

The group was also able to visit a local nursing home where they interacted with residents. They also created postive posters to take back to their schools to hang in the hallways to promote positivity as well as small gifts for custodial staff.

Jason Schackow from Lakeland High School contributed with tips on positive leadership skills.

Lydia Tremaine, Miss Indiana 2019 was also in attendance with words of wisdom on confidence.

LEAP encourages students to become leaders in their schools and communities. Ana Wahll, member of LIFE, stated the “…favorite part of the day for students was the community service.”

LIFE group would like to thank all of the students who attended the event, guest speakers, community organizations that attended and the LaGrange County Community Foundation for their continued support.

Help support LIFE by giving to LIFE Endowement Fund.

2020 Lilly Finalists

The LaGrange County Community Foundation is pleased to announce the five finalists for the 2020 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship award.

Finalists for the 2020 award are Ana Wahll, Lakeland High School; Kurtis Davis, Westview Jr. – Sr. High School; Chelsea Weaver, Westview Jr. – Sr. High School; Ryker Bond, Lakeland High School and Skyler Hawk, Westview Jr. – Sr. High School.

The scholarship is awarded to a well-rounded LaGrange County graduating senior who exemplifies service and leadership in their community, while maintaining a commitment to academics. The recipient will receive a full tuition scholarship for eight semesters to the accredited Indiana college or university of his or her choice as well as a $900 yearly stipend for books and academic fees.

The scholarship program is offered each year by the LaGrange County Community Foundation, and other  Indiana community foundations across the state to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

After a competitive application process that evaluated academics, community and school activities, leadership, and written essays, the Community Foundation’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Committee interviewed five outstanding finalists on October 9, 2019. The results of the interview round will be combined with the application round to determine the 2020 nominee which will be submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana for selection of the LaGrange County recipient who will be announced in mid-December. The four remaining finalists will each receive a $1,000 renewable four-year scholarship from the Lambright Leadership Scholarship Fund, established by Kevin and Carrie Lambright in 2013.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

To help students with the cost of tuition, donate to a local school’s scholarship fund.

Richard Yoder named 2019 Heart of Gold Recipient

Octavia Yoder, LCCF Executive Director presents an engraved bench to Richard Yoder, the 2019 LaGrange County Community Foundation’s Heart of Gold Recipient.

The LaGrange County Community Foundation named Richard Yoder of Topeka the recipient of the 2019 Heart of Gold Award on Sep. 12.

Since 2010, the Community Foundation has honored an individual in LaGrange County who goes beyond the call and embraces a commitment to service. In honor of the award, Richard will be able to direct a $1,000 grant to his favorite LaGrange County nonprofit.

Community Foundation Executive Director Octavia Yoder made the surprise announcement at the evening celebration honoring all 2019 nominees at the Blue Gate Theatre.

A longtime farmer, Richard has volunteered with the Clothes and Food Basket of LaGrange County for the past 17 years. Since 2009, he has served as the President of the Board of Directors. Nominated by his fellow volunteers, it is common to see Richard at The Basket willing to help in any way that he can. In their nomination submission, the volunteers wrote, “Richard’s dedication and strong work ethic are shining examples of his leadership skill which guide the volunteers to graciously serve our clients. Richard has made a positive change in the hearts of many as he serves so generously.”

Richard spearheaded the capital campaign to secure funds for The Basket’s new facility on Railroad Street in LaGrange. In one year, The Basket had a new place to call home, completely debt free.

The Community Foundation received four nominations for the tenth annual award. The 2019 nominees included Robinn Mitchell, director of the LaGrange Bowen Center and LaGrange County Drug Court volunteer; Carol Helmer, Parkview LaGrange Gift Shop volunteer; and Carrie Lambright, American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery Program volunteer.  

 Richard Yoder, seated was named the 2019 LaGrange County Community Foundation’s Heart of Gold Recipient. In back from left are Heart of Gold Nominees Carrie Lambright, Robinn Mitchell, Carol Helmer as well as LCCF Executive Director Octavia Yoder.

Inspire Possibilities

When Arianna Smith applied for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, she wasn’t thinking about working for Microsoft. She just wanted the opportunity to attend a quality college and study computer science. Now, Arianna has completed her first year at Purdue University and will spend this summer interning at the Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, Wash. 

The 37th recipient of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, Arianna received a full-tuition scholarship to attend the Indiana college or university of her choice. The scholarship is awarded annually a well-rounded student who displays a commitment to academics, community and school involvement.

College affordability was a concern for Arianna. Without the scholarship, she would not have considered going to Purdue, despite its top ranking among universities for computer science.

A Lakeland High School graduate, Arianna taught herself how to code and led Spark – a coding club with her twin sister, Kiara, at Lima Brighton Elementary School. She also overcame obstacles that motivated her career choice. At the age of 11, Arianna was diagnosed with cancer. While her treatments affected her ability to be in class, she and her sister took courses online until they were able to return to school in high school.

Inspired by the quality care she received, Arianna wants to work in healthcare technology and make access to that same care equal for all. From her experience, she might not have been able to survive her cancer diagnosis without access to good healthcare. She knew others who were not so fortunate. “Information provided by technology makes opportunities possible,” says Arianna.

Inspire Generosity

What can you do with $55,000? For the Knights of Pythias LaGrange Lodge no. 144 they made a last goodwill gift. The fraternal organization made the difficult decision to disband after 135 years.

The Knights sponsored Little League baseball teams, supported police departments and gave to local nonprofits. At the Corn School street festival, the Knight’s caramel apples were a favorite treat and helped fund some of their charitable endeavors.

Mahlon Bontrager, a Knight and former Community Foundation Board Member, encouraged the group to consider creating a permanent fund for the community. The timing for the Knight’s gift was serendipitous. One month before, Lilly Endowment announced a matching grant for the Community Foundation. Any gift to an unrestricted fund would be eligible for a 2-for-1 match. Inspired by the opportunity, the Knights created an unrestricted endowed fund to support community needs. What had been a gift of $55,000 now became $165,000.

Because of their generosity, LaGrange County will continue to reap the reward. Income from the fund will made available for grantmaking as directed by the Board of Directors.

 “The members of our Lodge no. 144 feel very fortunate to have our donation grow and benefit several organizations thanks to the LaGrange County Community Foundation,” says Gordon Olds, a member of the Knights.