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Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of Pokagon

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.


They work with Nikki Ball and Ted Bowman to determine which projects and updates should be their focus, then the Friends group serves as ambassadors for those initiatives in the community. About half the members of the Friends of Pokagon board are Indiana Master Naturalists, which is a training program designed to build passion and educate people about nature. This means that when the Friends group hosts bird walks or promotes nature hikes led by Pokagon naturalists, most people can expect to learn something new!


Although the group is just getting started, they have already made an impact on Pokagon with a recent donation of $300 to purchase red light flashlights. These special flashlights allows Pokagon to offer night hikes and owl hikes without disturbing the animals as much, and the red light doesn’t impede upon your own night vision. The woods are a different place at night, so this helped Pokagon expand its offerings and provides visitors with a new way to experience the park. Next up, they’re working on a “blue sky campaign” to give the box turtles at the nature center a new outdoor home. They also want to upgrade the woodland window so it has outside features, like a webcam that allows people to enjoy nature – in all of Indiana’s seasons.


Friends of Pokagon is the 20th friends group in the state. In addition to their partnership with Pokagon, they’re collaborating with the Lake James Association to provide some programs and features, as both groups share a shoreline. “We welcome anyone and everyone to become a Friend,” said Kelly. “The more Friends we have, the more good we can do.”


Pictured: Friends of Pokagon Board Members Niles Adams (left) and Jan McGowan (right), and Friends volunteer Jeff McGowan (back) introducing Pokagon’s box turtle to park visitors at the Patriotic Pops concert on June 27, 2019


Learn more about the Friends of Pokagon in this short video interview with Kelly Trusty.