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By JoAnna Ness, Aug 20 2019 05:50PM

Friends of Pokagon is a new nonprofit working to help Pokagon State Park remain the great place it is. They serve as the fundraising and friend-raising arm of the park, creating buzz and excitement about park activities while fundraising for expansions to programming. Although general operations at Pokagon are supported by entrance fees, the state may not have the funds or may not prioritize certain projects at Pokagon like updating historic structures. Friends of Pokagon hopes to provide a new opportunity for the 680,000 people per year who visit the park to contribute to its long-term viability as well.

Kelly Trusty helped kickstart the group, and she’s excited to see it grow. “My favorite part is sharing the park with people and talking with them about all the features here.” Friends of Pokagon benefits from a diverse founding board, with a variety of skills and plenty of passion for Pokagon. “Everyone on the board has memories they cherish of visiting the park, and they want to make sure others have the same opportunity to make their own memories,” said Kelly.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 8 2019 02:49PM

Dale and Lisa Caudill have been active community members since moving to Steuben County 30 years ago. From 101 Lakes Angola Kiwanis to the Community Humane Shelter, they have both served in leadership roles that help local nonprofits make a difference. For Lisa, serving on the Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF) grants committee provided another opportunity to make a difference. As the grants committee was reviewing applications and learning about upcoming nonprofit projects, she had a “lightbulb moment,” realizing that the community foundation is a way to learn what the nonprofits are needing—from the perspective of an individual who wants to get involved. “Any person who wants to help can start a Donor Advised Fund at SCCF, and it opens up a huge door to the needs in our county. If they think, ‘I don’t know how to help, I don’t know what’s needed,’ then this gives them an answer.” In July of 2019, they established the Dale and Lisa Caudill Community Fund to do just that.

Dale and Lisa both grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended rival high schools. Dale studied marketing management at Central Michigan University and had a long career with Kmart that led the couple to live in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio in both large and small communities. They came to Steuben County when Dale was assigned to open the Angola store in 1988, and he worked there as a manager for 12 years, then was a district manager. Lisa worked in banking for 25 years, then spent her last 5 years at the Steuben County Community Foundation before retiring in 2013.

When they first moved to Steuben County, they visited on a Sunday afternoon in January and saw the roads were deserted. Having grown up in a large metropolitan area, Lisa was afraid Angola was “too small.” As was typical in the retail world, Dale thought they’d be in the community for only three years. But when that first summer rolled around, they saw Steuben County change and began to meet people and get involved. As time went on, Dale began to turn down transfers to other Kmart locations, which was unheard of in those days. They fell in love with the area, and have never regretted their decision to make Steuben County their permanent home.

Dale and Lisa hope to use their Donor Advised Fund to support nonprofits that are providing crucial services and innovative programs for local community members. These funds are often permanently invested, and donor advised fund holders make recommendations for how to utilize the earnings to support community projects. Lisa shared, “We can’t do much about a lot of the world’s big problems. It can feel paralyzing to watch the news and feel helpless, but we’re certainly not helpless when it comes to concerns in Steuben County.”

Individuals can establish donor advised funds through Steuben County Community Foundation to learn about upcoming local initiatives and support projects that benefit the community.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 7 2019 03:00PM

Isabell Deem will be a senior this year at Angola High School and is serving as the new president of Forever Improving Steuben County Together. FIST, a youth-led philanthropy organization, is supported by Steuben County Community Foundation. Isabell will lead members in 8th-12th grade from local schools to plan service projects, work with local nonprofit organizations, and review grant proposals.

Many of the programs FIST students arrange require planning months in advance. Isabell hopes to make improvements to planning so programs are more effective. She also looks forward to working with the school systems and the community organizations that young people are familiar with to make Steuben County better for the youth. Recently, a student from Pleasant Lake Elementary School recognized Isabell and other FIST members at a local event because of a philanthropy program they led earlier in the year. She recalled with excitement that students they worked with remembered who they were.

When asked about her hopes for the coming year, she stated, “I want to help inspire other members to lead, and to make the biggest impact that we can.” Isabell’s favorite part of FIST is the people who put their time and energy into working towards a common goal of bettering the community. She shared that the way our community can quickly and easily come together continues to blow her mind. From programs like Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods or Liv It Up, it is easy to see Steuben County wants to help.

Isabell shared that FIST has helped her to feel like a “go-getter” and has bolstered her confidence. She has gained valuable skills from working with a variety of people and organizations in Steuben County. Isabell is an active member of her community outside of FIST as well, working with Leaders Save Lives to organize a blood drive, serving as president of Key Club, serving on the Mayor’s Youth Council, National Honor Society, and Student Council, mentoring younger students through the SWARM mentorship program, and competing in Academic Bowl and on the golf team. She will also be learning more about Health Sciences through the Health Occupations Education course this year. Isabell plans to pursue a medical career after high school with hopes to study Chemistry or Bio-Chemistry at college.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 1 2019 03:01PM

Applications for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship are available as of August 1 on the Steuben County Community Foundation website, A paper copy of the completed application form and all accompanying materials, including references and additional forms, will be due to SCCF during office hours (8:30am-4:30pm) no later than September 13, 2019. The announcement of the scholarship recipient will be made in mid-December.

Any graduating high school senior who has resided in Steuben County the past three years and is graduating by the end of June 2020 is eligible to apply.

The scholarship recipient receives a four-year, full tuition scholarship to the Indiana college or university of the student’s choice, along with an annual stipend for books and required equipment.

Since 1998, this scholarship has been made possible by the Lilly Endowment and Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI). ICI delegates the nomination process to SCCF, which utilizes a committee of community volunteers for the process.

“Each year, SCCF is impressed by the hard work and community-involvement of students who apply. We are pleased to facilitate this scholarship, and I would encourage students to plan ahead to allow enough time to gather references and answer application questions fully,” said Jacqui Gentile, SCCF Program Officer.

All other donor established scholarships administered through SCCF will be available later in the fall.

By JoAnna Ness, Jul 29 2019 02:00PM

Recent grants from the Rich and Laura Clifton Fund at Steuben County Community Foundation supported multiple public art projects in the community of Angola. Support for the Mayor’s Arts Council will supplement the costs of leasing 2 sculptures in 2020, ensuring the future of Sculptures Angola. These sculptures were chosen specifically for their welded components, demonstrating that important technical skills may also be used for artistic expression. Additionally, the grant to the Mayor’s Arts Council will support the alley activation and mural projects organized by two high school students, Brooklynn Shively and Teryn Stanley.

The Rich and Laura Clifton Fund also made a grant to the Downtown Angola Coalition for a number of projects in 2019-2020. The grant will support the legacy events hosted by DAC, such as Music on the Square, Angola Art Fest, wagon rides and welcoming Santa to the community.

Rich and Laura Clifton have supported numerous community projects through their donor advised fund at SCCF since it was established in 2013. They shared their reasoning for this grant, saying, “The difference between a good place and a great place is culture. The arts help us understand history, embrace diversity of view, and broaden our insight. As Angola grows we choose to pursue a great place to visit and live.”

Maria Davis, Downtown Services Coordinator for the City of Angola, shared, “We are grateful to the Steuben County Community Foundation and philanthropists Rich and Laura Clifton. Through their generosity, we’ll be able to do some incredibly positive educational and creative projects.”

Individuals can establish donor advised funds through Steuben County Community Foundation to learn about upcoming local initiatives and support projects that benefit the community.