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Larry Strayer named 2018 Heart of Gold recipient

2018 Heart of Gold Nominees

The LaGrange County Community Foundation named Larry Strayer, middle, the recipient of the 2018 Heart of Gold Award Saturday at the Shipshewana Event Center. From left, are the 2018 nominees: Jamelle Godlewski, Gerald Yoder, Cheri Perkins, Jay Smith, Rustin Krapfl, Margaret Malone, Trudy Manderfeld and Shanan Staton.

The LaGrange County Community Foundation named Larry Strayer of LaGrange the recipient of the 2018 Heart of Gold award Saturday, Nov. 3.

Since 2010, the Community Foundation has honored an individual in the county who goes above and beyond the call and embraces a commitment to service.

Community Foundation Board of Directors Jordi Disler and Tony Bontrager made the surprise announcement at the breakfast celebration honoring all 2018 nominees at the Shipshewana Event Center.

Strayer, 84, continues to serve the LaGrange County community and has devoted much of his life to helping others behind the scenes.

A farmer for more than 30 years, Strayer served two years in the US Army during the Korean Conflict. He volunteers much of his time at his church, Plato United Methodist Church, and provides transportation for people who are homebound. A former Bloomfield Township Trustee, Strayer also served on the original building committee for Parkside Elementary School in LaGrange.

The LaGrange County Community Foundation named Larry Strayer, middle, the recipient of the 2018 Heart of Gold Award Saturday at the Shipshewana Event Center. From left, are the 2018 nominees: Jamelle Godlewski, Gerald Yoder, Cheri Perkins, Jay Smith, Rustin Krapfl, Margaret Malone, Trudy Manderfeld and Shanan Staton.

Strayer has helped build churches, parsonages and houses in LaGrange County and in other states. For many of those building projects, Strayer used his vacation time to complete the work.

In addition, Strayer has helped build handicap ramps, repair roofs and plumbing for people in need, and continues to grow produce for the Clothes and Food Basket of LaGrange County. Rochelle Olds of LaGrange nominated Strayer and said, “He’s always looking for ways to help others.”

The Community Foundation received nine nominations for the ninth annual award. Among the 2018 nominees are individuals who helped launch Relay for Life in LaGrange County, created an animal shelter, served as youth mentors, provided transportation to Shriner’s Hospital, counseled seniors on Medicare and insurance benefits, helped provide shelter for homeless families and brought new services to the senior community.

“Each one of you are making a difference in LaGrange County and for that we thank you,” Disler said. “We live in a special, caring and hardworking community and because of people like you, LaGrange County is a great place to call home,” she added.

The 2018 Heart of Gold nominees include: Cheri Perkins, LaGrange; Gerald Yoder, LaGrange; Jamelle Godlewski, LaGrange; Jay Smith, LaGrange; Margaret Malone, Howe; Rustin Krapfl, Orland; Shanan Staton, Mongo; and Trudy Manderfeld, Shipshewana.

Meet the nominees

Cheri Perkins: As the Executive Director of the Council on Aging, she is always going above and beyond for the senior community. She has brought new services to the community including the LaGrange County Area Transit program; she plans the senior activities at the Council on Aging and helped the organization move to a new building. She is the captain of the ship that keeps the Council on Aging afloat.

Gerald Yoder: Gerald Yoder joined Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana in 2004. Currently, he leads the Middle School Campus Life program at Westview Jr.- Sr. High School. He has a heart and passion for the next generation and has helped many teens navigate their youth as seek to find their purpose.

Jamelle Godlewski: A former teacher, Jamelle has dedicated her life to trying to reach out to youth in the community. Through her organization, Reason 4 Hope, she provides programs in local schools that address bullying, depression and suicide prevention.

Jay Smith: A retired educator, Jay Smith transports patients to Shriner’s Hospital, volunteers at the Clothes and Food Basket of LaGrange County, serves with Habitat for Humanity and assists with the Lighthouse Ministry. He will continue his role as scorekeeper for the Lakeland basketball program, a position where he’s served for more than 55 years.

Margaret Malone: Margaret pioneered Ark Animal Rescue and Adoption Center and assisted with the creation of the Howe Community Association. She is currently working on her most recent project – The Farm – which will provide support to area foster children through therapeutic animals.

Rustin Krapfl: Active in Feed My Starving Children, Rustin also serves at the Chaplain of the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department, President of the LaGrange Area Ministerial Association, President of LaGrange Communities Youth Centers and President of Agape Missions of LaGrange County.

Shanan Staton: A resident of Mongo, Shanan goes above and beyond for her small community. She serves with the Mongo Community Development Association and is an active supporter of events at Prairie Heights Community Schools. She helped launch Relay for Life in LaGrange County more than 11 years, and has been a part of raising more than $1 million to help support cancer research. Additionally, Shanan volunteers at Mongo United Methodist Church, helping organization activities for children and youth.

Trudy Manderfeld: As a SHIP Counselor, Trudy helps seniors navigate Medicare and understand their insurance benefits. She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Color Guard and a board member of the LaGrange County Health Department and LaGrange County Council on Aging.

Heart of Gold nominations now being accepted

Honor a volunteer with a Heart of Gold

It’s our favorite time of year! Heart of Gold nominations opened this week and we can’t wait to hear about the good things people are doing in LaGrange County. Since 2009, we’ve awarded the Heart of Gold award to honor individuals in LaGrange County who are making a difference through volunteerism.

Not only do we hear amazing stories of people spreading kindness and generosity, but the Heart of Gold recipient will have the opportunity to direct $1,000 to a charity of his/her choice in LaGrange County.

Nominations are being accepted through September 5, 2018. You can pick up a nomination form at the foundation office or make an online nomination here.

We’ll announce the Heart of Gold recipient at the award ceremony November 3 in Shipshewana. All of the nominees, along with a family member and the individual who made the nomination, will be invited to attend the breakfast.

A Year of Growing Good

Annual Meeting Held at Lakeside Occasions June 26

The LaGrange County Community Foundation celebrated a year of “Growing Good” in an intimate gathering with past and current board members and new funders at the 2018 annual meeting June 26 at Lakeside Occasions in Topeka.

Renea Boots, front, will join the LaGrange County Community Foundation Board of Directors in August.

The foundation was pleased to welcome new board member Renea Boots of LaGrange.

Boots has been with Farmers State Bank for 17 years and serves as the Chief Administration Officer. A graduate of Prairie Heights High School, she and her husband, Todd, live on the east side of LaGrange County.

In 2017, the foundation awarded $488,625 in grants of which $97,050 was awarded in scholarships and $78,610 was awarded in local funding requests.

“An important part of our mission is to inspire generosity in our community and that presents in many forms, not just financial.  We have so many amazing individuals in our community who serve as leaders, advisors and supporters and we would not be here without all of them,” said executive director Jennifer Tuttle.

Key developments in the past year included the launch of the Franky Sherman Memorial Building Fund to support a memorial pavilion at the LaGrange County 4-H Fairgrounds; the creation of the Natalie Kauffman Memorial Scholarship Fund and E. Marie Dwight Memorial Fund; and the continued growth as a Scholarship Granting Organization which currently holds funds for Howe Military Academy.

Col. James Benson, former superintendent of Howe Military, addressed the topic of leadership at the LaGrange County Community Foundation annual meeting June 26.

Keynote speaker James Benson, a retired Marine Corps officer and former superintendent of Howe Military Academy, addressed the topic of executive leadership to encourage all who have supported the LaGrange County Community Foundation to continue to be strong leaders.

In his address, Benson discussed the type of courage executives need to lead.

“Executive courage is the glue that connects decision making with success in the workplace and home. It is an element of leadership that permits a leader to accept measured risk, to make unpopular decisions, to challenge the odds, to create unhappy factions, and ignore and dismiss the foot draggers…” Benson said.

LCCF Youth Philanthropy Coordinator Laney Kratz also shared about the foundation’s commitment to developing youth leaders and how the foundation’s youth philanthropy program, LIFE, prepares youths for making critical decisions and encourages them to get involved in service.

Members of the LIFE program represent each of the three county public schools in grades 8-12, as well as Howe Military Academy.



LCCF Offers Ministerial Association Match

To celebrate and support the charitable efforts of the LaGrange and Shipshewana Ministerial associations, the LaGrange County Community Foundation is offering a matching program through April 30.

Gifts made to the Community Foundation’s Good Samaritan Fund through April 30 will be set aside for a matching grant to the LaGrange Ministerial Association and Shipshewana Ministerial Association. The Community Foundation pledges to match gifts to each association up to a total of $2000.

For example, if local donors give $2,500 for the benefit of an association, the Community Foundation will match $2,000 and grant that ministerial association a total of $4,500.

The matching grant will support the LaGrange Ministerial Association’s efforts to provide emergency support to residents who find themselves without shelter and need a place to stay.  The association assists adults whose lives have been disrupted through a change in employment, forced to find a new living situation or are seeking to rebuild their lives after imprisonment or addiction.

The matching grant also will support the efforts of the Shipshewana Ministerial Association. The churches of the association work together to provide emergency financial support to local families facing an immediate crisis. They also coordinate the Big Give program in November, providing area families with food and clothing.

Checks submitted to the LaGrange County Community Foundation during this time and for this purpose must specify on the memo line – Good Samaritan Fund – and indicate “LaGrange” or “Shipshewana.”


We Give Thanks grant awarded to area food pantries

Scott Emergency Food Pantry coordinator Eunice Gagnon, left, and Scott United Methodist Church pastor Christopher White, received a $2,000 grant from the LaGrange County Community Foundation in February to support local food distribution for families in need.

Clothes and Food Basket, Scott Emergency Food Pantry receive assistance

Thanks to the generosity of many local donors, the LaGrange County Community Foundation  awarded two organizations a total of $10,936 in February as part of the foundation’s We Give Thanks matching program to support local food distribution.

Over the holidays in 2017, the LCCF Board of Directors offered to match local donations to the We Give Thanks campaign “dollar-for-dollar” up to a maximum match of $5,000. As in past campaigns, local donors, still deeply concerned about the welfare of families stepped up to the challenge.

Organizations who received grants this year include the Clothes and Food Basket in LaGrange for $8,936 and the Scott Emergency Food Pantry at the Scott United Methodist Church in Shipshewana for $2,000.

Open two days a week, the Clothes and Food Basket provides food, clothes and hygiene products to needy individuals in LaGrange County. They also operate the Christmas Bureau which provides assistance during the holidays. During the Clothes and Food Basket’s 2017 Christmas Bureau they served 369 clients and their families, assisting a total of 1,497 individuals. During that time they provided fresh fruit, towels, sheets, hats, gloves, undergarment, children’s toys for Christmas, and a ham or turkey.

The Scott Emergency Food Pantry provides additional assistance for county residents. The congregation operates the emergency food pantry to help the needs of those who have lost a job, been laid off, on sick leave, death of a spouse, etc. They offer non-perishable items and a voucher for milk, bread, eggs and a pound of hamburger. The pantry is open on Wednesday afternoons.

Tuttle named Executive Director

Lemings retires after 15 years of dedicated service

The board of directors of the LaGrange County Community Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of Jennifer Tuttle as the next executive director of the organization.

After 15 years of service, Laura Lemings has retired from the community foundation.

A past board member, Lemings came to the foundation as the executive director in 2002 with three decades of experience in business management.

​Lemings said she had been looking for meaningful work that touched the lives of many after working as an interior designer.

During her tenure, the foundation reached assets of $14.5 million. She guided the organization in creating programs that recognize local volunteers and support local charitable organizations while serving local donors and their philanthropic interests.

By creating endowments that support community projects and programs the foundation has impact that can last forever.

Lemings led the foundation successfully through four Lilly Endowment grant opportunities: two that built organizational assets — Taking Stock and SRD (Sustaining Resource Development) as well as two that built community assets — CAPE (Community Alliances that Promote Education) and GIFT VI (Lilly’s signature program – Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) which just last year increased endowed assets at the foundation by more than a million dollars.

During her service, Lemings also created a strong partnership with the LaGrange County Parks Department. The foundation helped the parks department purchase properties that expand the county’s protected natural habitats and provide spaces for all residents to enjoy.

“Laura has focused on fulfilling the foundation’s mission to inspire and sustain generosity, leadership and service. Her impact on the community foundation, and in the community as a whole is immeasurable and she will be greatly missed,” said board president George Brown.

Tuttle has worked for the community foundation since 2006 as the financial director.

Born and raised in Wolcottville, she graduated from Lakeland High School in 1994. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from Indiana University South Bend.

Before joining the foundation, Tuttle worked as an accountant for a local CPA firm. With experience in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, she values the transparency of a community foundation and the commitment to prudent management of institutional funds.

“We look forward to working with Jennifer Tuttle and are confident that she will carry on, and build upon, the great work Laura has done for the foundation,” Brown said.

Tuttle said the community foundation has a solid financial foundation to continue its mission.

“I am eager to continue the work of serving local donors and their philanthropic interests,” Tuttle said. “Because of our community’s generous spirit, the foundation is able meet the needs in our community today, tomorrow and forever.”

Tuttle lives in Wolcottville with her husband and two children.