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By JoAnna Ness, Apr 29 2019 05:21PM

High quality, affordable childcare is an important piece of a successful community, helping businesses attract and retain workers and preparing the next generation of citizens for a great future. Childcare centers like Little Lambs Daycare of Fremont are an important part of addressing this issue in Steuben County. Little Lambs is a Steuben County nonprofit organization providing care for children ages 0-5 years, as well as some after school programming. In the words of Amber Hukill, Little Lambs Executive Director, their mission is, “to provide the best quality care that we can, and make sure children are in a nurturing and fun environment.” Because of their location near downtown Fremont, Little Lambs is able to engage the wider community. Many families bring their children from throughout Steuben County and southern Michigan, and Little Lambs is able to walk to nearby public parks for different play options. When they faced a serious building issue in 2015, the community rallied together with donations to get Little Lambs back in shape. “[Community members are] invested in this, and they feel like they’re part of the daycare,” said Claudia Smith, Little Lambs administrator.

By JoAnna Ness, Apr 10 2019 05:00PM

In March 2019, Steuben County Community Foundation committed two more years of grant funding to improve the number and quality of daycare and early childhood learning options in Steuben County. SCCF has partnered with Early Childhood Alliance (ECA), a Fort Wayne based nonprofit who is recognized as a leader in the early childhood care and education field in northeast Indiana. This additional funding is part of almost $45,000 that SCCF has invested in early childhood education in Steuben County over the last 3 years. With this grant, ECA will continue to offer classes for Steuben County childcare staff to work towards their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, as well as networking events, professional development, and capacity building grants.

“SCCF is working with experts in the field, but all the grant funds are designated to directly benefit local childcare providers across the entire area of Steuben County. The board is excited by the progress made so far, and we look forward to continuing to help address this crucial need in the community,” said Jennifer Danic, SCCF President & CEO.

By JoAnna Ness, Apr 9 2019 03:09PM

Joyce Gutstein’s passion for nursing led her to establish scholarships to pay it forward to other students entering the profession. Joyce grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and she was able to study at Memorial Medical Center thanks to a scholarship she received for nursing training. Afterwards, she moved to Chicago and took classes towards a liberal arts degree at University of Illinois. Joyce worked at a hospital while taking classes, and she loved public health nursing. Joyce worked with the Infant Welfare Society in Chicago, making house calls and talking to parents about nutrition and accident prevention. Joyce visited many neighborhoods in the city, and she remarked, “As long as I was in uniform, people would pass by and say ‘hi, nurse!’ and I always felt safe.”

Joyce met her husband, Alfred, who was working at the same hospital while he studied for his bar exam. Alfred grew up in Kendallville, Indiana, and the couple moved to Steuben County after they married 56 years ago. Alfred served as a lawyer for decades, including 12 years as Steuben County’s prosecuting attorney. Joyce joined the organizing committee of the Well Child Clinic in Angola, then served as nurse coordinator there for 22 years. She did health teaching, worked with WIC and the health department to make sure kids had their immunizations, and helped spread good parenting skills. “Al called it my full-time part-time job,” she joked. Joyce increased her hours as her two daughters grew up, both of whom are teachers today. “It’s been a wonderful community to raise a family.” In addition to working with Well Child Clinic, she co-organized interagency meetings with Helen Smatt, a County Nurse at the time, and helped create the first nursery school in Steuben County as a collaboration between the Angola United Methodist and First Congregational United Church of Christ. During much of this time, Joyce was also heavily involved with Santa’s Helpers, helping to create the organization that shopped for over 1000 kids for 30 years.

By JoAnna Ness, Mar 19 2019 03:15PM

Steuben County Council on Aging helps fill a crucial gap for many local seniors. Without the Council on Aging, some seniors would spend more time home alone, and their mental and physical health would deteriorate. Seniors might struggle to find a ride to medical appointments without STAR Transportation, the Council on Aging’s community transportation service that is available for seniors and fee based for those under age 60. In addition to helping address the loneliness that some feel later in life, the Council on Aging helps seniors fulfill everyday tasks like getting a haircut or taking a trip to the grocery. “We all reach that stage when you can no longer drive or do things for yourself, and that’s where the Council on Aging comes in. It’s tough to give up independence, but we try to provide that in other ways,” said Donna Holcomb, Interim Executive Director of Steuben County Council on Aging.

By JoAnna Ness, Mar 18 2019 01:41PM

The SCCF youth philanthropy group known as FIST (Forever Improving Steuben County Together) held their March meeting at Pleasant Lake Elementary. They read personal narratives with a 2nd grade class, and helped with math problems in a 3rd grade class taught by a former FIST member (Miss Sarah Clary). They also held a presentation about FIST with the 5th grade class and helped the students through the process of deciding where to grant $250 to a nonprofit. Thank you to Pleasant Lake Elementary for helping FIST teach Steuben County youth about philanthropy!

FIST has been working to inspire other students to give back. If your nonprofit or classroom has a project that empowers youth to volunteer and become engaged in their community, consider applying for a FIST grant.