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By JoAnna Ness, Oct 9 2018 06:37PM

When women experience domestic violence, their situation is often complicated by a variety of other factors. In addition to feeling unsafe in their homes or relationships, they may have concerns for the safety of their children. Childcare can be expensive, and women with uncertainty about their financial independence may not be certain they can afford to live on their own. In many cases, women are also dealing with external problems like addiction. When women in Steuben County make the decision to escape this type of situation, they may struggle to find a safe place that will allow them to remain with their children.

TLC House Indiana (TLC) was established by caring community members to lend a helping hand. TLC is an emergency shelter that offers support for women and children escaping domestic violence. The staff, board, volunteers, and donors have committed to offering a safe place for women fleeing domestic abuse to experience how life will be when they are on their own, but within a structured environment that offers support when they face challenges. TLC collaborates with other nonprofits and businesses to meet the variety of needs these women and children often have. Mada Waldrop, Executive Director of TLC, shared, “Working relationships with other nonprofits are necessary to survive. To get people access to the most important services, we have to work as a community.” Along with other nonprofits, TLC partners with the Bowen Center, and many TLC clients utilize its community outreach program to secure assistance.

By JoAnna Ness, Sep 20 2018 06:51PM

Mr. Loyal Wilson of Hudson, IN, recently established a scholarship at the Steuben County Community Foundation to permanently honor his late wife, Trois. In 1945, at 17 years of age, Trois Wagner Wilson was the valedictorian of Angola High School with a nursing scholarship from Michigan State University lined up for after her graduation. However, Trois chose a different path in life. She decided to marry Loyal Wilson and support his career, as well as dedicating her life to raising their four boys. Just as she worked hard in school, Trois worked hard to support their family.

“All four of her boys were Eagle Scouts and graduated from college because of her. Us men never questioned her direction or discipline—she knew what was best for us,” said Loyal.

When Trois died in February of 2018, just after her 90th birthday, her husband decided to establish a scholarship in her honor and memory. Loyal wishes to provide an opportunity to train quality people for the medical field, and to give people a chance for the future that Trois had wanted at one point in life. The permanently endowed scholarship fund will provide 2 scholarships each year, open to Angola and Prairie Heights graduates pursuing a full-time nursing degree from any college or university beginning in spring 2019. Financial need and practical experience in the medical field will be considered in the evaluation.

Pictured are Loyal Wilson (center) with sons Tom Wilson (left) and Bob Wilson (right).

By JoAnna Ness, Sep 19 2018 02:59PM

Caitlin Lanning has always favored her English classes. “I enjoyed reading and proofreading essays and seeing the different writing styles of my peers. I love that unlike a lot of math classes, there is more than one right answer in English and the process of getting there is the important part.” Caitlin likes reading and spending time with friends talking about books and creative work, and she has always tried to encourage others to get excited about reading.

Caitlin’s 6th grade English teacher inspired her love for creative writing and short stories. As she approached her senior year at MSD of Steuben County, she wanted to find a way to match her passion for English with her career path. An AP Literature assignment sparked an idea for Caitlin’s future, when they were tasked with comparing a first draft of a famous story with the final version that was published. “I liked to see how much a first draft can change to its final product. One day I want to be able to go to a bookstore and say, ‘Yeah, I helped edit that book!’” said Caitlin.

This spring, Caitlin received the Mary Jane Kruse Memorial Scholarship award, allowing her to begin the journey towards that dream of working for a publishing or editing company. “I was honored and excited to receive the scholarship! It was the one I was most hopeful about receiving.” The scholarship will help cover the remaining costs of her tuition as she begins classes at Indiana State University as an English major this fall. Though she doesn’t know where her career will take her, Caitlin plans to stay connected to Steuben County. “I think of it like the ‘home is where the heart is’ saying,” she said.

Mary Jane Kruse taught English in Defiance, Ohio, and then at Fremont Community Schools and Angola High School. After working at MSD for over 26 years, Mary Jane decided to establish this scholarship through her estate in 2007 to provide a scholarship for graduating seniors and non-traditional students in Steuben County. Caitlin is the first person to receive the Kruse scholarship in three years.

By JoAnna Ness, Sep 5 2018 01:09PM

“I like that every day is not the same. I meet so many different people, in age, income, and ability level, and I have conversations with them about why they’re here.” This is what keeps Krista Miller motivated as Executive Director of the YMCA of Steuben County.

Part of the reason the YMCA stands out as a nonprofit organization is its willingness to evolve. Although it started as an organization known for youth sports programs and recreation, the YMCA today has taken a wider approach to support community health and wellness. Its mission is to strengthen the community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. The YMCA plays a big part in improving health and wellness, but they know their impact is greatest when they are working with other health organizations so that community members are getting the right help for their needs.

The YMCA measures success by seeing improved quality of life, whatever that means to an individual. This success is enabled by a strong board who believes in and advocates for the mission, and staff who take that to heart. Their Chief Volunteer Officer, Joe Hysong, shared his thoughts on the YMCA. “I'm not sure there is another nonprofit in Steuben County that is touching as many lives in as many ways.” Joe is proud of their wide variety of programs, including Parkinson programs, LiveStrong Cancer, Diabetes Prevention, regular exercise for a healthy lifestyle, summer camps for children, Wavemakers swim team, youth sports, and more. “Finally Social Responsibility—we believe that we give all of our employees the opportunity not just to have a job but an opportunity to be part of something much bigger than themselves so they not only have a feeling of accomplishment but a feeling of service for a cause. We are proud of the impact and mark that we are making on our community and can't wait to see what happens in the next few years.”

One constant challenge for the YMCA is that each new idea for a program and resource to help community members is accompanied by a need to raise the funds that make the work possible. Krista and her board are talking strategically about how to sustain themselves into the future, with plans to keep reserves for maintenance and grow their endowment.

“I see people who tell me the Y gives them a reason to leave their house, and I wonder how many more people we can reach,” said Krista. As people continue to live longer, Krista and her team at the YMCA are excited to continue finding ways to help them have fuller lives.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 20 2018 02:00PM

On a recent sunny day, crews from Gene Stratton-Porter (GSP) and Blue Heron Ministries trekked out to the Hemingway Wetlands where GSP is in the process of returning reclaimed farmlands to their natural grasses. Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF) was able to gather these groups together thanks to a generous gift from Cheryl Taylor and through the fund she established at SCCF in honor of her husband’s 30 years of service to the DNR and his passion for conservation. The Ralph and Cheryl Taylor Conservation Fund was established as a surprise for him in 2003, and after his passing in 2009, Cheryl has ensured that his legacy lives on through projects like this one.

For this project, Blue Heron Ministries planted two grass-like plants around the islands in the wetland area to keep geese from climbing onto the land, reducing the likelihood they will nest there and spread disease. The two plants are sedges and bulrush, which are native to the area and grow in wetlands. Currently, there is a fence around many of the islands in the wetland area. Once the new plants have grown up, they will form a natural fence that replaces the current structure.

Cheryl’s gift to SCCF was at the center of this collaborative effort, with the Nature Conservancy donating the plants, Blue Heron Ministries installing the plants, and the community around Gene Stratton-Porter benefitting from the conservation of their wetlands. The grant request was part of a State Museum initiative to restore lands in Indiana to the way they were in the 1800s.

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