Category Archives: News & Events

LIFE Youth Philanthropy Group volunteers at Council on Aging

LIFE, a youth philanthropy program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation, provides an opportunity for youth to gain experience in grantmaking, charitable giving and community service. The members participate in service projects and biannually host LEAP (Leaders Excited About Philanthropy) – a one day event focused on philanthropy and leadership for LaGrange County high school students.

LIFE members also provide oversight for the LIFE Grantmaking Fund at the Community Foundation. They review grant applications and recommend funding for youth projects.

The program is open to students from Lakeland, Westview, and Prairie Heights Schools. One student from each grade (9-12) is selected to represent their school, with up to 12 members.

In April, LIFE volunteered at the LaGrange County Council on Aging’s monthly luncheon; members helped serve the meal and enjoyed conversation with the luncheon guests.

2023-24 LIFE Group at the LaGrange County Council on Aging

President of the 2023-24 LIFE group Braden Rogers shared, “We volunteered at the Lagrange Council on Aging and served food to older individuals, had conversations with them, and made them feel special. As a youth lead philanthropic organization, it is important to spread the love of our young souls. We enjoyed seeing the smiles on all of the people faces and hope to partake in this event next year. Seeing the smiles of the older generations, hearing their incredible stories, and most of all, meeting new friends were all takeaways from this experience.”

LIFE President Braden Rogers shares at the COA luncheon.

In February, LIFE also had the opportunity to serve at The Waters in LaGrange, an assisted living facility. LIFE members visited during the recreational hour and enjoyed interacting with residents and playing bingo.

LIFE will meet one more time during the 2023-2024 school year for their annual retreat this May. Before the retreat, members look forward to joining the nonprofit organization Meals of Hope in LaGrange to pack meals for children in need.

LIFE will then travel to Camp Lutherwald in Howe for fun and team building, concluding their activities for the school year. The program will resume this fall after the start of the new school year.

LaGrange County Community Foundation receives $750,000 Lilly Endowment Matching Grant

LaGrange County Community Foundation has received a matching fund grant totaling $750,000 as part of the eighth phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s initiative, Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VIII).

LaGrange County Community Foundation will use the funding to further develop its unrestricted fund – the Caring Community Fund – and to support the development of the Hawpatch Trail in Topeka.

Lilly Endowment will provide $2 for every $1 contributed to LaGrange County Community Foundation’s Caring Community Fund and unrestricted funds through December 31, 2025. The Caring Community Fund and unrestricted funds help address current opportunities and challenges in LaGrange County.

Lilly Endowment will also provide $1 for every $1 contributed to the Hawpatch Trail Fund at the LaGrange County Community Foundation through December 31, 2025. The Foundation is supporting LaGrange County Trails’ effort to develop a biking and walking trail in Topeka on the former Wabash Railroad. Gifts to the Hawpatch Trail Fund will support trail development as the group acquires the property, completes survey work, and begins engineering for construction of the trail. Gifts to the Hawpatch Trail Fund will be matched up to $225,000.

LaGrange County Trails seeks to build the Hawpatch Trail in Topeka on the former Wabash Railroad line.

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for the continued generous support of community foundations in Indiana, including LaGrange County. With local contributions and the Lilly Endowment match we will add $787,500 to LCCF’s unrestricted funds and $450,000 for the development of the Hawpatch Trail,” said Executive Director Octavia Yoder. “One of the key opportunities in LaGrange County’s comprehensive plan is the further development of multi-use trails in LaGrange County. This is pivotal opportunity to support the development of a trail that will greatly enhance the quality of life in southern LaGrange County.”

“We are thankful for the opportunity to grow long term assets for LaGrange County and to continue to meet nonprofit and community needs. GIFT VIII represents a unique opportunity to triple the value of a donation,” Yoder added.

Donors can also establish a named unrestricted endowment fund with a qualifying gift of $3,500. Donors interested in receiving a $2 for $1 match on a donation should contact Executive Director Octavia Yoder.

Through GIFT VIII Lilly Endowment has awarded matching fund grants totaling $133.8 million to community foundations serving all 92 of Indiana’s counties. Eligible community foundations submitted proposals requesting grants ranging from $100,000 to $15,000,000 based on the population of the counties they serve.

In 2023, Lilly Endowment launched GIFT VIII to help community foundations strengthen the towns, cities and counties they serve. Matching fund grants are one several funding opportunities designed to help community foundations promote long-term viability; further strengthen their abilities to lead; encourage board engagement; and support and develop strategic efforts to enhance quality of life in their communities.

McBride joins Community Foundation team

Jennifer McBride serves as our Office and Scholarship Manager. Her role primarily focuses on the Foundation’s daily operations, greeting visitors, processing donor gifts, coordinating board and committee meetings, as well as managing the Foundation’s scholarship programs.  

McBride holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Trine University. She worked for LaGrange County government for 17 years, and previously worked at the Town of Shipshewana. One of her passions is reaching and serving youth – she has been a dedicated volunteer in church youth group programs for the past several decades.

McBride is a lifelong LaGrange County resident and lives in Howe with her husband, Rick. She has three children and three grandchildren.

McBride volunteered as a scholarship evaluator for the Foundation’s Community Scholarship Program in the past and was eager to dive into her new role this February. She is responsible for building and managing the online applications, promoting opportunities to local youth, coordinating volunteer evaluators, and presenting the final awards to students.

She is excited to be a part of the Community Foundation team.

“My heart is for the people of the community,” McBride said. “I enjoy being able to help others,” she added.

Q & A with Laurie Sherck

Leanna Martin and Laurie Sherck present the nominees for the Heart of Gold Award at the Community Foundation’s 2021 Annual Meeting.

Laurie Sherck joined the LaGrange County Community Foundation staff in 2019 as the Office and Scholarship Manager. She retires at the end of March. While we are sad to see our co-worker and friend retire, we are excited to see what she will accomplish next. We spoke with Sherck and asked her to share about her work, her retirement, and future plans.

Why are you retiring now, while you are still so young?  

I’ve had people tell me, “You’ll know when it’s time to retire.” They’re right.  I just know it’s time. I want to retire and still be able to do some of things I’ve always wanted to do.

What are the big plans for retirement? 

Enjoying my grandkids and hopefully get in some traveling with my husband.

Are you going to fill your time right away with volunteering with various nonprofits, etc.? 

Upon the good advice of a wise friend, I’m giving myself 90 days before committing to anything, but eventually, yes. 

What things do you love, and want to focus on in your retirement years? 

I love hiking and I hope to get some of that in. I enjoy quiet times with my Bible and study books and enjoy reading. I enjoy coffee and conversation with friends and family, so I definitely need to work that into my schedule. There are some non-profits that I’m interested in volunteering for from time-to-time. This is why I’m giving myself 90 days. There is so much I want to do, I could easily fill up all my time and quickly feel overcommitted and overwhelmed.

What is your favorite food/drink?  

Is chocolate considered food? Favorite drinks: Coffee and iced tea.

What is your favorite hobby?  

Reading is probably my favorite pastime.

What will you be doing on day ONE of your retirement? 

Actually — we’re leaving on a family vacation for a week and a half.

Anything new you’d like to learn or do for retirement? 

I bought my husband a Cricut for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I’d like to figure out how to use it.   

What are some of your favorite moments in working for LCCF?   

I love my co-workers. We’ve had some pretty fun adventures. Because of them, work has never felt like work. It is always rewarding and fun to award the students receiving scholarships. It’s also rewarding to me to know our Foundation is making a difference in our little community through grants that assist non-profits, and scholarships that help students toward achieving their dreams.

What do you hope for your predecessor?  

I wish all the best for my predecessor, and I hope she will enjoy the work the Foundation does as much as I have.

What will you miss most about working at LCCF everyday?   

That’s easy, the people.  The people I work with and have done life with the last several years, our fantastic Board of Directors and committee members,  and the wonderful donors, students and community members that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know over the past few years.  I’m sure gonna miss seeing my co-workers daily or “The Girls,” as I call them — but rest assured — they haven’t seen the last of me!🙂 

We wish Laurie a blessed retirement. We KNOW she will still be doing big things!

Sarah Hostetler and Laurie Sherck volunteer at the LaGrange County 4-H Fair in June 2023.
Sarah, Laurie, Octavia and Leanna enjoyed some early morning coffee… one of their favorite things to do together

Braden Rogers named 2024 LaGrange County Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Recipient

Presenting the award to Braden is Executive Director Octavia Yoder, along with Braden’s parents, Jeremiah and Elizabeth Rogers of LaGrange.

Braden Rogers of Westview Jr. Sr. High School was named the recipient of the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for LaGrange County.

Lilly Endowment Community Scholars are known for their community involvement, academic achievement, charitable, and leadership.

Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and required equipment for four years.

The scholarship is for full-time undergraduate students leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university. Rogers will graduate high school with academic honors and intends to pursue a five-year degree in landscape architecture at Purdue University or Ball State University. He is the son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Rogers of LaGrange.

In his application essay, Rogers wrote: “Traveling to beautiful places around our country, I have always been drawn to landscape.  I’ve always been the guy who notices a nicely manicured golf course or the detail of an intricately designed walkway. It wasn’t until I began looking into possible career paths that I realized I could one day bring happiness and peace to others through landscape architecture. My long-term goals are to run my own architectural firm and raise a strong and active family within a great community.”

Laurie Sherck, the Foundation’s Scholarship Coordinator, Octavia Yoder, Executive Director and Leanna Martin, LIFE coordinator and LCCF Program Director, talk with Braden and his parents about what this scholarship means to him.

Rogers’ school involvement includes being part of student government as class vice president his junior year, being a Student Council member and serving on the Prom Committee.  Rogers is the goalkeeper for the Westview Boys Soccer Team and participates in school musicals. He most recently held the lead role in the musical, “Grease” and participates in show choir, jazz band, weightlifting and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Rogers also has a love of skiing. He founded the Westview Ski Club and is involved in SOLO (Special Outdoor Leisure Opportunities).  SOLO provides opportunities for people with physical and mental limitations to experience downhill skiing with a friend or instructor. The group meets every Monday during the winter months and skis for two hours.

Roger participates in LIFE, a youth philanthropic program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation. He is a guitarist for the St. Joseph Church and participates in New Life Fellowship youth worship group. 

“I strongly believe that if a talent is given, you should seek ways to use that gift in positive ways,” Rogers shared.  Additionally, Braden manages to have time to work part-time jobs in the winter months and a full-time job during the summer.

In determining LaGrange County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar nominees, consideration was given to academic achievement, demonstrated service to others, leadership ability, commitment and motivation to succeed, employment history, extracurricular involvement, essay responses, as well as two recommendations.

“Braden demonstrates many of the qualities we seek in a leader: motivated, hardworking, and engaged in his school and community. The selection committee was impressed by his service to his community and passion for his career goals,” said Octavia Yoder, Executive Director of the LaGrange County Community Foundation.

The top five students who scored highest on their application were then invited to participate in a personal interview conducted by the Lilly Scholarship Advisory Committee.  After the field of applicants was narrowed, nominees were submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), the statewide administrator of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program, which approves the final selection of scholarship recipients.

Finalists for the 2024 include: Taylor Jerdon and Xia Leu of Lakeland Jr/Sr School; Christien Noward and Jace Lang of Westview JR-SR High School. Each of the finalists will receive the Lambright Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 renewable scholarship established by Kevin and Carrie Lambright in 2013.  The scholarship may be renewed up to three more years after the initial award, for a total scholarship of $4,000.

The Foundation is honored to nominate a LaGrange County student for this prestigious award,” Yoder added. “We are grateful Lilly Endowment continues to support future leaders and makes dreams possible for our young students.  Selecting a nominee is a difficult process based on many factors. The committee was impressed by the exceptional scholars in our community.”

Lilly Endowment created the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program for the 1998-99 school year and has supported the program every year since with grants totaling more than $505 million. The LaGrange County Community Foundation has awarded the scholarship to 42 LaGrange County students since the program’s inception.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are: 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) 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.

Community Scholarship Program opens applications, offers new awards

LaGrange County Community Foundation is accepting applications to the Community Scholarship Program through February 15, 2024.

The Community Scholarship Program provides 47 unique scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors who are planning to pursue full-time education at a college, university, technical or trade school.

Scholarship opportunities vary according to residency, career fields, current high school attendance, anticipated college enrollment, extracurricular involvement, and academic performance. Students complete a common application and are matched to scholarship opportunities. Scholarship awards range from $500 to $10,000 and may be used for educational expenses.

The Community Foundation partners with families, businesses, and organizations who want to help LaGrange County students succeed in obtaining higher education. New this year are two scholarship opportunities for students pursuing degrees in the field of education.

The Rex Fisher History Scholarship supports a student planning to teach history. A lifelong historian, researcher and student, Rex Fisher was born in LaGrange, and lived in Wisconsin, and Alaska throughout his life. He left LaGrange to attend Ball State and earn a degree in education in 1954. It was there he discovered his love of history and historical research.

Fisher next traveled to the University of Wisconsin and completed his graduate degree. After that, he moved to Alaska to teach U.S. history to high school students and do academic research.

The Rex Fisher History Scholarship supports a LaGrange County high school senior pursuing a degree in education with an emphasis on teaching history. The scholarship is $10,000 per year, renewable up to 3 years with a maximum award of $40,000.

The Jean Seagly Crouse Memorial Scholarship supports a LaGrange County student planning to pursue a degree in education. The scholarship is a one-time award in the amount of $1,000, awarded annually.

Crouse grew up in Topeka, graduating from Topeka High School as valedictorian of the class of 1944. She attended the University of Michigan for two years before getting married in 1946. After raising four children, Crouse completed her education degree at Goshen College in 1963. She was hired by Westview School Corp. and taught fifth grade at Topeka Elementary for 25 years, retiring in 1988. The Jean Seagly Crouse Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship one-time award in the amount of $1,000.  

“We are thrilled to offer these new scholarship opportunities in the field of education,” said LaGrange County Community Foundation Executive Director Octavia Yoder. “They provide options for students in our county to make college more affordable and encourages more students to pursue a path in education.”

Students can apply for the Community Scholarships at The deadline to apply is February 15, 2024, at 4 p.m.

Seeking applicants for new positions

The LaGrange County Community Foundation is a growing nonprofit charitable organization focused on inspiring and sustaining generosity, leadership and service in LaGrange County. The Foundation is seeking to hire an Office and Scholarship Manager and Program Intern. Ideal candidates for these positions would be passionate members of a dynamic team with the goal of growing community assets.

Office and Scholarship Manager Job Summary:

The Office and Scholarship Manager reports directly to the Executive Director. The candidate is responsible for managing office operations, providing administrative support to the LCCF office, and managing the Foundation’s scholarship activities and programs.

Program Intern Job Summary:

The Program Intern will be engaged with a supporting role in the implementation of the Foundation’s grantmaking and scholarship programs. The position will work directly with the Foundation’s Program Director to support grantmaking and scholarship initiatives and community outreach. Open to current college sophomores, junior, seniors and graduate students attending an Indiana college or university.

Application Process

  • No phone calls, please.
  • Email resume to Octavia Yoder, Executive Director, here.
  • Apply by Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

LaGrange County Community Foundation awards $92,000 to area nonprofits

The LaGrange County Community Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the fall Community Impact Grants cycle.

LaGrange County Soil & Water District Water Quality Monitoring

The Foundation recently awarded $92,000 in grants to eleven nonprofit organizations. The Community Impact Grants support nonprofits in six areas: arts and culture, health and human services, recreation, environment, community development and education.  

The Community Impact Grants are made possible by the generosity of donors who give to the unrestricted and field of interest funds at the Foundation.  

For over 30 years, the Community Foundation has remained committed to its mission of “inspiring and sustaining generosity, leadership and service in LaGrange County.”

“Through our grantmaking program we are able to ensure a lasting legacy for our funders who have made a long-term commitment to support positive growth of our nonprofit community in LaGrange County,” said Octavia Yoder, Executive Director. 

“We are honored to support many deserving nonprofit organizations who are improving the quality of life in LaGrange County and helping meet important and unmet community needs,” Yoder added. 

The 2023 fall Community Impact Grant recipients include: 

  • LaGrange County Department of Parks & Recreation, Tetrick property, $20,000; 
  • LaGrange County Soil & Water Conservation District, Long-term strategic water quality monitoring program in LaGrange County, $11,500; 
  • LaGrange Baseball League, Score board installation at Spreuer Park, $8,000; 
  • Coffee & Cream of South Milford, Coffee & Cream equipment, $12,500; 
  • Agape Child Care Ministry, Program materials, $2,500; 
  • Cancer Services of Northeastern Indiana, Client advocate program for LaGrange County, $2,500; 
  • Clothes & Food Basket of LaGrange County, Operating support, $15,000; 
  • Junior Achievement of LaGrange County, Junior Achievement Biztown Fieldtrips 2023-2024, $5,000; 
  • Boomerang Backpacks, 2023-2024 school year weekend feeding program at Westview and Prairie Heights schools, $10,000; 
  • Youth for Christ Northern Indiana, Westview Campus Life, $2,500; and
  • Kate’s Kart, Book Distribution at Parkview LaGrange, $2,500.

Each year, the Community Foundation seeks proposals for charitable projects and programs that help local nonprofit organizations provide services in LaGrange County. The Grants Advisory Committee reviews the submitted grant applications and makes recommendations to the Board of the Directors who approve the grant awards. To learn more, visit 

Leaders Excited About Philanthropy 2023

Wednesday, November 15, National Philanthropy Day, our LIFE youth philanthropy members hosted the bi-annual LEAP Event, Leaders Excited About Philanthropy. Students from our 3 county public schools are encouraged to get involved in their community during this one-day conference on leadership and philanthropy. 

Our 12 LIFE members along with their LIFE leader, Leanna Martin have been working since Spring 2023 to organize this event for high schoolers from Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview. This year’s event was held at Lakeland high school. The members chose the speakers, nonprofits in attendance, icebreakers, snacks and even found donations and sponsors for the event.

There were a lot of fun and education activities throughout our 4 hours together. Our time included lots of Icebreakers for the kids to get to know each other. They also organized a Community Nonprofit Fair in which volunteers/ employees from Agape Missions of LaGrange County, LaGrange County Community Foundation, Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center, LaGrange County Habitat for Humanity, and Reason 4 Hope attended. These nonprofits spoke to the kids and shared how they started, where they are located, what they do, and how a person could get involve or help the nonprofit. After the student listened to the nonprofit, they would get their Passports signed to enter for prizes. The prizes were donated from many of our awesome community members, nonprofits and business (see list below!).

We also had a great speaker, Coach Seth Maust from Five Star Life. He spoke to the kids on looking beyond themselves to see others, leaders volunteer first, as well as many other good philanthropic ideas. Octavia Yoder, Executive Director at LaGrange County Community Foundation also spoke to the students about philanthropy, working for a nonprofit and what jobs are available, notably in our area. There was also a small Community Service Project they were able to participate in.

Before they left, students were asked to take part in an end of event survey, in which 100% of the 45 students who participated, said that they would recommend LEAP to a friend.

Our LIFE members did an amazing job of working hard and running the event. But none of that would have been possible without the donations and sponsorships from our community. We want to thank the following individuals/ businesses/ nonprofits for helping the LEAP event be a success:

Donations: Crossroads United Way, E&S Sale, Elijah Haven, Farmers State Bank, Habitat for Humanity, LaGrange County CVB, LaGrange County REMC, Lassus Bros. Handy Dandy in Wolcottville and Yoder Popcorn. Financial Support: Cierra Young & Jessyca Castle, LaGrange Veterinarian Clinic, Shipshewana Trading Place, Tammi Haviland, The Riegseckers, Inc., Topeka Pharmacy and Wear Haus Designs.

Rainbow Years shines in new space

Rainbow Years Learning Ministry is a childcare and preschool program of Shore Church in Shipshewana.

We recently visited Portia Amstutz, director of Rainbow Years Learning Ministry in Shipshewana to see the progress on their $1 million renovation project. Rainbow Years is a ministry of Shore Church, providing year-round daycare and education to children from birth to age 11.

Rainbow Years renovated their space to add more childcare seats. At one point, their wait-list exceeded their capacity.

In June, Rainbow Years received a Community Impact Grant of $21,736 to purchase materials and equipment for its updated facility.

We were excited to see their new space!

Rainbow Years can currently take around 90 kids, ages birth to 11 years old. With the help of the grant, they were able furnish two new classrooms, giving each age level a class of their own. They not only were able to furnish the two new rooms, but they also replaced some old items throughout the facility.

One of the newly furnished classrooms available now for Rainbow Years.
New classroom furnished with the grant funds received.

The grant helped purchase new sleeping cots, glider rockers, furniture for the teacher’s work room and main office, refrigerator and microwave for the teachers, a washer and dryer unit, cribs, changing tables and toys. It also helped create an indoor “recess” area.

They also created a fun, comfortable space for school-age kids to meet before and after school, as well as in the summer.

When we asked Portia what is meaningful about her work; she said the impact they have on the children. She said it’s because the most critical time for learning is before age 5 – it’s an important job!

Cribs and a glider rocker are a few of the many items added to the infant room.

The Foundation is excited to partner with nonprofits like Rainbow Years to help improve the early education of the youngest children in our county.

Community Impact Grants help nonprofits to be more effective, efficient and self-sustaining. The Community Foundation looks to fund innovative or creative projects addressing community needs like Rainbow Years.

Currently, Rainbow Years currently has about 18-20 spots open for childcare! In the next few weeks, they will be able to accept Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers for low-income families. This program will make their childcare even more affordable for more families.

You can learn more about their programs and availability at

Portia Amstutz reading to some of the children at Rainbow Years Childcare Ministry.