Youth philanthropy

Forever Improving Steuben County Together

FIST is a youth philanthropy organization founded by the Dekko Foundation under the direction of the Steuben County Community Foundation. Students from Hamilton, Angola, and Fremont become members as 7th graders and remain through high school. Each school has an adult representative. The focus of the group is to promote philanthropy among young people.

FIST meets once a month to plan ways to empower the youth of Steuben County and assist in service projects. Collectively they donate more than 1000 hours a year of their time to improve their communities. In addition to volunteering their time and talents through service projects in the community, FIST offers grants to community nonprofits and school projects that promote youth involvement in philanthropy.

FIST Projects

Each year, FIST develops new ideas about how they make a difference in Steuben County. Their mission statement is “to inspire the youth of Steuben County to become the leaders of tomorrow by sharing their resources and empowering others to donate their time, talents, and treasures.” 

In the last few years, their projects have included:

  • Trick or Treat for Canned Goods, gathering around 10,000 canned good items each year to donate to local food pantries
  • Grants to classrooms and nonprofits who provide ways for young people to give back to their community
  • FLIP (Future Leaders in Philanthropy), where FIST members teach 5th-grade students across Steuben County about giving their time, talent, and treasure. They also teach them about grantmaking and help the classes award $250 grants to nonprofits. 
  • Volunteering with other nonprofits and community events, such as Cahoots Coffee Cafe, the WLKI Pie Auction and Cops for Kids

Meet the FIST President

Kayla McCullough, a senior at Fremont, serves as the FIST president. Reflecting on what she’s learned from FIST, Kayla shared, “My desire to give is directly correlated with my desire to enjoy life. A giving heart is happier than a locked one.” 

Through her work with FIST, Kayla has been able to engage in a wide array of philanthropic activities and events. Participating in so many projects has allowed her to give back to her community. Kayla believes that “Being a part of FIST has shaped me as a leader and a servant, allowing me to find the balance that lays between.” She thinks the generous spirit of the people of Steuben County has shaped her relationship with giving and volunteering.

When asked what she loves most about Steuben County, Kayla says, “Our community continuously exemplifies its compassion. Gathering to reach common goals is not stopped by rivalries. Enjoying the summer months isn’t blockaded by a virus. Bridges are built on common grounds and close relationships are made beside them.”

Reflecting on her experiences with FIST, Kayla says that her favorite experiences have been working with other student philanthropists across the county. “Whether it’s handing out hot cocoa for the Pie Auction or dancing in our seats with the members of a nursing home, the time has been well spent.” Looking to the future, Kayla is excited to work on a possible FIST day camp with younger children because “the thought of getting kids excited about being philanthropic is so inspiring!” After graduation, Kayla intends to go to college and become an English teacher before settling down with her family. We are excited to see what the future holds for her!

Contact Information

If you need additional information, please call the office and ask for our Youth Philanthropy Coordinator at 260-665-6656, or email

FIST Grants

FIST often accepts applications for grants for nonprofit and school projects that impact the youth of Steuben County. FIST’s goal is to fund projects that will teach young members of our community how to be a philanthropist. FIST is also looking forward to opportunities to volunteer at events. FIST hopes to inspire local nonprofit organizations to involve the youth who will be our community leaders in the future.

Any school employee or nonprofit organization in Steuben County or that serves Steuben County is eligible to apply for a FIST grant, including churches and service clubs. Grants of up to $1000 will be awarded to activities that correspond with the FIST mission statement. The application requires a description of the project, itemized budget or estimates, and must demonstrate how it connects with the mission of FIST. 

The grant cycle is currently closed.

FIST will not fund shipping/handling, food items and transportation costs.

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