Category Archives: News & Events

Braden Rogers named 2024 LaGrange County Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Recipient

Presenting the award to Braden is Executive Director Octavia Yoder, along with Braden’s parents, Jeremiah and Elizabeth Rogers of LaGrange.

Braden Rogers of Westview Jr. Sr. High School was named the recipient of the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for LaGrange County.

Lilly Endowment Community Scholars are known for their community involvement, academic achievement, charitable, and leadership.

Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and required equipment for four years.

The scholarship is for full-time undergraduate students leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university. Rogers will graduate high school with academic honors and intends to pursue a five-year degree in landscape architecture at Purdue University or Ball State University. He is the son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Rogers of LaGrange.

In his application essay, Rogers wrote: “Traveling to beautiful places around our country, I have always been drawn to landscape.  I’ve always been the guy who notices a nicely manicured golf course or the detail of an intricately designed walkway. It wasn’t until I began looking into possible career paths that I realized I could one day bring happiness and peace to others through landscape architecture. My long-term goals are to run my own architectural firm and raise a strong and active family within a great community.”

Laurie Sherck, the Foundation’s Scholarship Coordinator, Octavia Yoder, Executive Director and Leanna Martin, LIFE coordinator and LCCF Program Director, talk with Braden and his parents about what this scholarship means to him.

Rogers’ school involvement includes being part of student government as class vice president his junior year, being a Student Council member and serving on the Prom Committee.  Rogers is the goalkeeper for the Westview Boys Soccer Team and participates in school musicals. He most recently held the lead role in the musical, “Grease” and participates in show choir, jazz band, weightlifting and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Rogers also has a love of skiing. He founded the Westview Ski Club and is involved in SOLO (Special Outdoor Leisure Opportunities).  SOLO provides opportunities for people with physical and mental limitations to experience downhill skiing with a friend or instructor. The group meets every Monday during the winter months and skis for two hours.

Roger participates in LIFE, a youth philanthropic program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation. He is a guitarist for the St. Joseph Church and participates in New Life Fellowship youth worship group. 

“I strongly believe that if a talent is given, you should seek ways to use that gift in positive ways,” Rogers shared.  Additionally, Braden manages to have time to work part-time jobs in the winter months and a full-time job during the summer.

In determining LaGrange County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar nominees, consideration was given to academic achievement, demonstrated service to others, leadership ability, commitment and motivation to succeed, employment history, extracurricular involvement, essay responses, as well as two recommendations.

“Braden demonstrates many of the qualities we seek in a leader: motivated, hardworking, and engaged in his school and community. The selection committee was impressed by his service to his community and passion for his career goals,” said Octavia Yoder, Executive Director of the LaGrange County Community Foundation.

The top five students who scored highest on their application were then invited to participate in a personal interview conducted by the Lilly Scholarship Advisory Committee.  After the field of applicants was narrowed, nominees were submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), the statewide administrator of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program, which approves the final selection of scholarship recipients.

Finalists for the 2024 include: Taylor Jerdon and Xia Leu of Lakeland Jr/Sr School; Christien Noward and Jace Lang of Westview JR-SR High School. Each of the finalists will receive the Lambright Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 renewable scholarship established by Kevin and Carrie Lambright in 2013.  The scholarship may be renewed up to three more years after the initial award, for a total scholarship of $4,000.

The Foundation is honored to nominate a LaGrange County student for this prestigious award,” Yoder added. “We are grateful Lilly Endowment continues to support future leaders and makes dreams possible for our young students.  Selecting a nominee is a difficult process based on many factors. The committee was impressed by the exceptional scholars in our community.”

Lilly Endowment created the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program for the 1998-99 school year and has supported the program every year since with grants totaling more than $505 million. The LaGrange County Community Foundation has awarded the scholarship to 42 LaGrange County students since the program’s inception.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are: 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

Community Scholarship Program opens applications, offers new awards

LaGrange County Community Foundation is accepting applications to the Community Scholarship Program through February 15, 2024.

The Community Scholarship Program provides 47 unique scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors who are planning to pursue full-time education at a college, university, technical or trade school.

Scholarship opportunities vary according to residency, career fields, current high school attendance, anticipated college enrollment, extracurricular involvement, and academic performance. Students complete a common application and are matched to scholarship opportunities. Scholarship awards range from $500 to $10,000 and may be used for educational expenses.

The Community Foundation partners with families, businesses, and organizations who want to help LaGrange County students succeed in obtaining higher education. New this year are two scholarship opportunities for students pursuing degrees in the field of education.

The Rex Fisher History Scholarship supports a student planning to teach history. A lifelong historian, researcher and student, Rex Fisher was born in LaGrange, and lived in Wisconsin, and Alaska throughout his life. He left LaGrange to attend Ball State and earn a degree in education in 1954. It was there he discovered his love of history and historical research.

Fisher next traveled to the University of Wisconsin and completed his graduate degree. After that, he moved to Alaska to teach U.S. history to high school students and do academic research.

The Rex Fisher History Scholarship supports a LaGrange County high school senior pursuing a degree in education with an emphasis on teaching history. The scholarship is $10,000 per year, renewable up to 3 years with a maximum award of $40,000.

The Jean Seagly Crouse Memorial Scholarship supports a LaGrange County student planning to pursue a degree in education. The scholarship is a one-time award in the amount of $1,000, awarded annually.

Crouse grew up in Topeka, graduating from Topeka High School as valedictorian of the class of 1944. She attended the University of Michigan for two years before getting married in 1946. After raising four children, Crouse completed her education degree at Goshen College in 1963. She was hired by Westview School Corp. and taught fifth grade at Topeka Elementary for 25 years, retiring in 1988. The Jean Seagly Crouse Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship one-time award in the amount of $1,000.  

“We are thrilled to offer these new scholarship opportunities in the field of education,” said LaGrange County Community Foundation Executive Director Octavia Yoder. “They provide options for students in our county to make college more affordable and encourages more students to pursue a path in education.”

Students can apply for the Community Scholarships at The deadline to apply is February 15, 2024, at 4 p.m.

Seeking applicants for new positions

The LaGrange County Community Foundation is a growing nonprofit charitable organization focused on inspiring and sustaining generosity, leadership and service in LaGrange County. The Foundation is seeking to hire an Office and Scholarship Manager and Program Intern. Ideal candidates for these positions would be passionate members of a dynamic team with the goal of growing community assets.

Office and Scholarship Manager Job Summary:

The Office and Scholarship Manager reports directly to the Executive Director. The candidate is responsible for managing office operations, providing administrative support to the LCCF office, and managing the Foundation’s scholarship activities and programs.

Program Intern Job Summary:

The Program Intern will be engaged with a supporting role in the implementation of the Foundation’s grantmaking and scholarship programs. The position will work directly with the Foundation’s Program Director to support grantmaking and scholarship initiatives and community outreach. Open to current college sophomores, junior, seniors and graduate students attending an Indiana college or university.

Application Process

  • No phone calls, please.
  • Email resume to Octavia Yoder, Executive Director, here.
  • Apply by Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

LaGrange County Community Foundation awards $92,000 to area nonprofits

The LaGrange County Community Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the fall Community Impact Grants cycle.

LaGrange County Soil & Water District Water Quality Monitoring

The Foundation recently awarded $92,000 in grants to eleven nonprofit organizations. The Community Impact Grants support nonprofits in six areas: arts and culture, health and human services, recreation, environment, community development and education.  

The Community Impact Grants are made possible by the generosity of donors who give to the unrestricted and field of interest funds at the Foundation.  

For over 30 years, the Community Foundation has remained committed to its mission of “inspiring and sustaining generosity, leadership and service in LaGrange County.”

“Through our grantmaking program we are able to ensure a lasting legacy for our funders who have made a long-term commitment to support positive growth of our nonprofit community in LaGrange County,” said Octavia Yoder, Executive Director. 

“We are honored to support many deserving nonprofit organizations who are improving the quality of life in LaGrange County and helping meet important and unmet community needs,” Yoder added. 

The 2023 fall Community Impact Grant recipients include: 

  • LaGrange County Department of Parks & Recreation, Tetrick property, $20,000; 
  • LaGrange County Soil & Water Conservation District, Long-term strategic water quality monitoring program in LaGrange County, $11,500; 
  • LaGrange Baseball League, Score board installation at Spreuer Park, $8,000; 
  • Coffee & Cream of South Milford, Coffee & Cream equipment, $12,500; 
  • Agape Child Care Ministry, Program materials, $2,500; 
  • Cancer Services of Northeastern Indiana, Client advocate program for LaGrange County, $2,500; 
  • Clothes & Food Basket of LaGrange County, Operating support, $15,000; 
  • Junior Achievement of LaGrange County, Junior Achievement Biztown Fieldtrips 2023-2024, $5,000; 
  • Boomerang Backpacks, 2023-2024 school year weekend feeding program at Westview and Prairie Heights schools, $10,000; 
  • Youth for Christ Northern Indiana, Westview Campus Life, $2,500; and
  • Kate’s Kart, Book Distribution at Parkview LaGrange, $2,500.

Each year, the Community Foundation seeks proposals for charitable projects and programs that help local nonprofit organizations provide services in LaGrange County. The Grants Advisory Committee reviews the submitted grant applications and makes recommendations to the Board of the Directors who approve the grant awards. To learn more, visit 

Leaders Excited About Philanthropy 2023

Wednesday, November 15, National Philanthropy Day, our LIFE youth philanthropy members hosted the bi-annual LEAP Event, Leaders Excited About Philanthropy. Students from our 3 county public schools are encouraged to get involved in their community during this one-day conference on leadership and philanthropy. 

Our 12 LIFE members along with their LIFE leader, Leanna Martin have been working since Spring 2023 to organize this event for high schoolers from Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview. This year’s event was held at Lakeland high school. The members chose the speakers, nonprofits in attendance, icebreakers, snacks and even found donations and sponsors for the event.

There were a lot of fun and education activities throughout our 4 hours together. Our time included lots of Icebreakers for the kids to get to know each other. They also organized a Community Nonprofit Fair in which volunteers/ employees from Agape Missions of LaGrange County, LaGrange County Community Foundation, Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center, LaGrange County Habitat for Humanity, and Reason 4 Hope attended. These nonprofits spoke to the kids and shared how they started, where they are located, what they do, and how a person could get involve or help the nonprofit. After the student listened to the nonprofit, they would get their Passports signed to enter for prizes. The prizes were donated from many of our awesome community members, nonprofits and business (see list below!).

We also had a great speaker, Coach Seth Maust from Five Star Life. He spoke to the kids on looking beyond themselves to see others, leaders volunteer first, as well as many other good philanthropic ideas. Octavia Yoder, Executive Director at LaGrange County Community Foundation also spoke to the students about philanthropy, working for a nonprofit and what jobs are available, notably in our area. There was also a small Community Service Project they were able to participate in.

Before they left, students were asked to take part in an end of event survey, in which 100% of the 45 students who participated, said that they would recommend LEAP to a friend.

Our LIFE members did an amazing job of working hard and running the event. But none of that would have been possible without the donations and sponsorships from our community. We want to thank the following individuals/ businesses/ nonprofits for helping the LEAP event be a success:

Donations: Crossroads United Way, E&S Sale, Elijah Haven, Farmers State Bank, Habitat for Humanity, LaGrange County CVB, LaGrange County REMC, Lassus Bros. Handy Dandy in Wolcottville and Yoder Popcorn. Financial Support: Cierra Young & Jessyca Castle, LaGrange Veterinarian Clinic, Shipshewana Trading Place, Tammi Haviland, The Riegseckers, Inc., Topeka Pharmacy and Wear Haus Designs.

Rainbow Years shines in new space

Rainbow Years Learning Ministry is a childcare and preschool program of Shore Church in Shipshewana.

We recently visited Portia Amstutz, director of Rainbow Years Learning Ministry in Shipshewana to see the progress on their $1 million renovation project. Rainbow Years is a ministry of Shore Church, providing year-round daycare and education to children from birth to age 11.

Rainbow Years renovated their space to add more childcare seats. At one point, their wait-list exceeded their capacity.

In June, Rainbow Years received a Community Impact Grant of $21,736 to purchase materials and equipment for its updated facility.

We were excited to see their new space!

Rainbow Years can currently take around 90 kids, ages birth to 11 years old. With the help of the grant, they were able furnish two new classrooms, giving each age level a class of their own. They not only were able to furnish the two new rooms, but they also replaced some old items throughout the facility.

One of the newly furnished classrooms available now for Rainbow Years.
New classroom furnished with the grant funds received.

The grant helped purchase new sleeping cots, glider rockers, furniture for the teacher’s work room and main office, refrigerator and microwave for the teachers, a washer and dryer unit, cribs, changing tables and toys. It also helped create an indoor “recess” area.

They also created a fun, comfortable space for school-age kids to meet before and after school, as well as in the summer.

When we asked Portia what is meaningful about her work; she said the impact they have on the children. She said it’s because the most critical time for learning is before age 5 – it’s an important job!

Cribs and a glider rocker are a few of the many items added to the infant room.

The Foundation is excited to partner with nonprofits like Rainbow Years to help improve the early education of the youngest children in our county.

Community Impact Grants help nonprofits to be more effective, efficient and self-sustaining. The Community Foundation looks to fund innovative or creative projects addressing community needs like Rainbow Years.

Currently, Rainbow Years currently has about 18-20 spots open for childcare! In the next few weeks, they will be able to accept Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers for low-income families. This program will make their childcare even more affordable for more families.

You can learn more about their programs and availability at

Portia Amstutz reading to some of the children at Rainbow Years Childcare Ministry.

Lilly Scholarship finalists selected

From left are the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship finalists Xai Leu, Jace Lang, Taylor Jerdon, Christien Noward and Braden Rogers.

Five LaGrange County high school seniors have been named finalists for the LaGrange County 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. The prestigious award goes to an outstanding high school senior in LaGrange County.

The finalists include Taylor Jerdon (Lakeland High School), Jace Lang (Westview High School), Xai Leu (Lakeland High School), Christien Noward (Westview High School), and Braden Rogers (Westview High School).

The scholarship is awarded to one LaGrange County graduating senior who demonstrates service and leadership in their community, and a commitment to academic excellence. Among the finalists, one LaGrange County resident will be awarded the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, which will pay their full-tuition at any Indiana college or university, plus required fees. The recipient also will receive $900 per year for books and required equipment.

The Community Foundation received applications from all three high schools in LaGrange County. The  Community Foundation’s Lilly Scholarship Advisory Committee reviews and evaluates applications based on academics, community and school activities, work history, leadership and written essays. Identifying information about the student, such as name, school and gender, are removed during the application process. The finalists are then invited to a personal interview with the committee.

All finalists participated in a personal interview with the Foundation’s Lilly Scholarship Advisory Committee on October 17. The results of the interview round are combined with the application round to determine the 2024 nominees who will be submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana for final selection of the LaGrange County recipient.

Announcement of the recipient will be made in December. The four remaining finalists will each receive the Lambright Leadership Scholarship – a $1,000 award, renewable for up to three years. The Lambright Leadership Scholarship was established by Kevin and Carrie Lambright of Shipshewana in 2013.

The scholarship program is offered each year by the LaGrange County Community Foundation, and other Indiana community foundations across the state to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

In Memoriam

Since 1991, the LaGrange County Community Foundation has been a charitable partner in LaGrange County, helping connect donors to their charitable dreams and building permanent community funds.

Miles Perkins was one of the nine community leaders who believed in the importance of building long-term permanent funds for LaGrange County, thus helping start the LaGrange County Community Foundation.

Miles served as a founding board member and first President of the LaGrange County Community Foundation in 1991, and on the Board of Directors from 1991 to 1997. After his retirement, he worked with the Foundation to establish the Stroh Community Fund in 2000, and the Prairie Heights Perkins Family Scholarship Fund in 2009.

Paul Johnston, a long-term Board member, served the Foundation from 2005 to 2013. He served 4 of those years as Board president during which the foundation gave a grant to support the Pond Lil project at Dallas Lake Park. Pond Lil, located on the south border of Dallas Lake Park, totals 44 acres. The property was purchased by the Foundation from a private seller in 2012. The LaGrange County Parks Department secured grant funding from the state to purchase the property from the Foundation in 2013. This property increased the Dallas Lake Park size to 140 acres. The Foundation was instrumental in the purchase of this property under Paul’s Leadership.

Both men had a heart for volunteerism and service. Their legacy has forever changed the landscape of LaGrange County for the good.

Nonprofits share their experiences applying for a Community Impact Grant

We talked to two LaGrange County nonprofits who received a Community Impact Grant in 2022 to hear about their experiences applying for funding and any tips they had to share with fellow nonprofits seeking grant funding.

Purdue Extension: Blender/Spin Art Bike

Purdue Extension of LaGrange County received a Community Impact Grant of $3,075 to purchase a Blender/Spin Art Bike for youth programming. The bike is used to educate children on healthy food choices and the impact on mental and physical health. The bike has a smoothie and blender attachment, allowing students to see create their own smoothies while biking; the bike also also has a spin art attachment and students can create unique works of art.

The Blender/Spin-Art Bike has frequently been on the road since being introduced to LaGrange County. It’s made appearances at several schools, community libraries, camps, and other events, and has been very popular in each location.

Brittany Gilger, LaGrange County’s 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator, answered a few questions about the grant process that might be beneficial to future applicants.

How did receiving a Community Impact Grant impact your organization?

Receiving the grant for the Blender/Spin-Art Bike from the Community Foundation helped Purdue Extension and LaGrange 4-H deliver innovative programming to youth and adults in LaGrange County focused on topics such as healthy living and STEAM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Would you encourage others to apply? Did you think the application process was difficult?

I would encourage others to apply for the grant. I think it is a great way to get funds/resources for your organization through a local foundation that wants to serve the community. The grant process was easier than others that I have worked with and the Community Foundation was always available to help answer any questions that I had.

If there was one thing that you could share about your experience applying for the grant what would that be?

The Community Foundation has been a wonderful group to work with. They have made the process simple. I love that they have partnered with us in a shared mission of serving LaGrange County.

Want to experience a Blender/Spin-Art Bike demonstration?

Contact Brittany about the program and schedule a demonstration at your event, school, or youth program. You can reach Brittany at the Purdue Extension office at 260-499-6334 or email her at

Community Health Clinic: Building Project

The Community Health Clinic hosts their official Open House to the public on Saturday, September 9, from 2-6 p.m. in Shipshewana.

The Community Health Clinic in Topeka received a $40,000 Community Impact Grant toward their new facility in Shipshewana, a $4 million project.

Blake Andres, the Director of Development & Planning, recently gave a tour of the facility to a few of the Foundation staff. The 25,000 square-foot facility is almost near completion. The staff is currently moving into the building; some of facility will be furnished over time as the need arises and programming increases.

The staff was impressed by the simple, yet high-tech facility. The Community Health Clinic was conscious of cost and designed the building plan with future growth in mind. With large windows throughout the facility, there is not a bad view of Shipshewana.

It was great to see Blake’s enthusiasm and excitement for the project, and to hear how the new facility will elevate the level of care for people with genetic diseases.

Blake shared his thoughts on the grant process and any helpful information he could pass along to potential grantees:

The Community Health Clinic’s new facility features large windows throughout, letting in beautiful natural light and creating a calming atmosphere.

“Since seeing our first patient in 2013, The Community Health Clinic has been operating out of 3600 sq. ft. of leased basement space which in recent years, has become mission limiting. Early in our capital campaign planning for a new facility, we were fortunate to have some helpful conversations with the Foundation. They encouraged us to apply for a Community Impact Grant.

Our successful grant application had a significant impact on the trajectory of our project. Of course the funds were helpful, but of equal importance, engagement with LCCF helped us leverage the interest of other potential contributors.”

Based on his experience, Blake would encourage other community-based organizations to apply. Here are few of this suggestions:

  • Take the time to review the grant guidelines carefully and scrutinize your proposed project to see if your proposed project outcomes match the Foundation’s current priorities.
  • Reach out to the Foundation staff to confirm your organization’s eligibility and answer any questions you may have about the overall granting process.
  • The process is not difficult, but should not be rushed. Communicate with the Foundation team and assemble your draft application materials early in the grant cycle. Give yourself and your work colleagues the time to carefully evaluate your draft narrative and supportive materials.

Lilly Scholar shares wisdom from application process and beyond

Arianna Smith received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship in the winter of 2017, during her senior year at Lakeland High School. She recently shared with us some of her experience in applying and what she has been able to accomplish since receiving the Lilly Scholarship.

What did you study in college?

I majored in Computer Science and minored in Law & Society at Purdue University.

How did the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship change your life?

It’s had an unbelievable impact. It gave me the opportunity to attend an amazing college program that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. During my time in college, I made great friends & connections and I had really meaningful personal & professional experiences. I learned so much and I wouldn’t have been able to without the support of the scholarship.

Where did you attend college? What were some highlights from your college experience?

I attended Purdue University in West Lafayette. Some highlights include yearly Friendsgiving (at the dining court or friend’s apartments); taking dance and art classes for fun; mentoring and teaching other students as a lecturer and Teaching Assistant; and meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds.

What are you doing today?

I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Computer Science in fall 2022. I now live in Seattle, Washington, where I’m a software engineer at Microsoft. I’m about to have my one-year anniversary at work, and I love my job!

What would you like to tell students who are considering applying for the LECS?

If you’re thinking of it, do it! LECS is an amazing opportunity to grow and experience new things. You can accomplish more than you can imagine with it. LECS also provides you with a community of people that you can look to for support, so if you ever feel unsure, you’ll have that network to lean on.

Arianna Smith grew up in Howe, Ind. She received the LaGrange County Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship in 2017, and now lives in Seattle, Wash., and works for Microsoft.

When completing the application, what tips would you give to students?

Really think about what you are passionate about and why, and try to communicate that at every stage of the application. Ask your friends, family, teachers, etc. for advice about your application at every stage. It can be intimidating to share with others, but it will be worth it in the end.

How engaged are you in your community today? What do you find important in life?

I’m engaged with my community in Washington through volunteering and mentoring, and I think about my community back home all the time. The support that I received (financial, emotional, mental – all of it!) has allowed me to feel confident in setting and pursuing my goals. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the people in my life who have known and encouraged me, and I feel stronger and more sure of myself when I remember that they believe in me. That community support and encouragement is what I find most important in life, and it’s something that I want to be able to provide to others as well.

Receiving the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship can open doors for students. It’s exciting to see what recipients like Arianna are able to accomplish with the help of the Lilly Scholarship.

Students graduating from a LaGrange County high school with a minimum GPA of 3.75, and plans of attending an Indiana accredited college or university in the fall 2024, are eligible to apply for the Lilly Scholarship.

Specific information about the application requirements are available at Applications are due September 8, 2023.