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.
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
This year, Kaleb Gannon, a senior at Fremont High School, will serve as president of FIST. Right now, they faced new challenges from COVID-19. However, they’ve adapted to a more virtual platform as they work to develop a love for philanthropy in others.
Kaleb hopes to “make the most of their given situation and keep a positive mindset.” One of the major projects for FIST this year will be transferring its FLIP program to an online format. FLIP stands for Future Leaders in Philanthropy. Last year, FIST members visited each 5th-grade class in Steuben County and taught students about philanthropy. FIST gave each class $250 and led them through the process of awarding this grant to the nonprofit of their choice. This year, FIST members will work to make videos in place of in-person instruction. Kaleb shared that transforming FLIP is the project he is most excited about this year.
Kaleb shared that being a part of FIST has made him “an all-around better person” and given him “an outlet to give back.” During his four years in FIST, Kaleb discovered that his favorite part of Steuben County was the people. He shared, “Hands down there is no better county in any state. I have never met so many people willing to do so much for one another for nothing in return.”