Category Archives: News & Events

Staff day in South Milford

The LaGrange County Community Foundation staff visited South Milford in May to see two recent grant funded community projects.

On this trip, they visited two new spots: Coffee & Cream and the South Milford Veterans Memorial Park.

Coffee & Cream of South Milford

Coffee & Cream opened their doors on May 25 at 8015 E 750 S in downtown South Milford. Jeff and Andrea Wolheter had a vision for this 130-year-old historic building. They wanted to bless people in the community with amenities such as a place to meet, eat, drink, and have high speed internet.

The LCCF staff made the trip to visit Coffee & Cream after awarding the nonprofit a Community Impact Grant for $12,500 for coffee and drink equipment in 2023. And not just because of the grant. But because, well, coffee…

Coffee & Cream did not disappoint with a good range of coffee and drinks, ice cream and baking goods. There is something for nearly everyone. They have a nicely laid out seating area, a variety of booths, tables and chairs, and very comfy lounging chairs. Decor and lighting says high-end coffee shop. They also have free internet!

Their mission is to enhance their community by fostering an environment that feels like home with great tasting food and drinks, loving and hospitable service, and building a sense of connection and community.

From what the LCCF staff experienced, they are reaching that mission.

South Milford Veterans Memorial Park

After a visit to the coffee shop, the staff walked the short distance to the South Milford Veterans Memorial Park.

The park is situated on the south side of the railroad viaduct on SR 3. The park was created when the original Veterans Memorial Monument needed to be moved from the intersection of SR 3 and 750 S for road improvements and visibility.

The monument, erected in 1923, was created to honor men from the community who served their country. In addition to the monument, a second war memorial included a case holding a 1895 machine gun and several Civil War cannon balls.

The South Milford Community Improvement League worked tirelessly to rebuild the Veterans Memorial Monument and create the new memorial park. The Community League celebrated the dedication of the South Milford Veterans Memorial Park on August 19, 2023.

The park features the rebuilt Veterans Memorial Monument, memorial plaques, a shaded area, benches for sitting and reflecting, a pavilion and memorabilia. The park is a wonderful addition to South Milford and great way of honoring veterans.

2023-2024 Youth Philanthropy Recap

LIFE is a youth philanthropy program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation. LIFE members gain experiences in community service and charitable giving. The students also provide oversight to youth grant funds at the Community Foundation.

During the 2023 – 2024 school year LIFE offered one grant cycle, awarding $17,495 to youth serving organizations and school projects.

The meetings were packed full of grantmaking decisions and planning for LEAP. They broke into event committees to conquer and divide. LEAP is a one-day event for youth, grades 9 -12, from all three public high schools to learn about philanthropy, community service and leadership. The event had two guest speakers: Seth Maust from Five Star Life and Octavia Yoder with the Community Foundation.

The students began their community service projects in December by delivery generosity cards. Students who participated in LEAP helped create these impactful cards of gratitude for local nonprofits, fire departments, police, and for the businesses who financially supported the LEAP event. In February, LIFE visited with residents at the Waters. They connected while playing games and visiting.

Jamelle Godlewski from Lead and Impact shared about seven habits of highly effective people and helped the students create personal mission statements.

Gwen Owsley was a member of LIFE and Westview’s junior class representative. For the past two years, she served as co-recorder. She was instrumental in helping fundraise for the LEAP event. We were deeply saddened by her unexpected passing. Our hearts are with her family, friends, and all those who loved her. We will remember her bright smile, joyful demeanor, and her enthusiastic spirit in all that she did.

LIFE closed the 2023-2024 school year with the May retreat. They completed a final community service project at the Garage Community Center in LaGrange, packing meals for LaGrange County Hope.

As we plan for next school year, we hope to continue encouraging philanthropy in our community and peers, experience community service and charitable giving through grantmaking.

Heart of Gold Award honors volunteer service

The LaGrange County Community Foundation’s Heart of Gold Award shines the spotlight on community residents passionate about making a difference.

The Community Foundation received nine nominations for the annual Heart of Gold Award, each with their own inspiring story of service and volunteerism. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the award.

All nominees will be recognized at the Community Foundation’s Annual Celebration on June 13 at the Farmstead Inn & Conference Center in Shipshewana.

The 2024 Heart of Gold nominees include:

Andy Linder
  • Andy Linder of Mongo. Andy is president of the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Mongo Community Development Association, and on the board of directors for the LaGrange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “Andy’s unwavering dedication to serving others, his transformative leadership, and his ability to inspire those around him make him an exemplary candidate for the Heart of Gold Award,” wrote his nominator.
Brett Bateman
  • Brett Bateman of Howe. Brett has been instrumental in building the baseball and softball complex at Spreuer Park in LaGrange, organizing each baseball season, and scheduling leagues, coaches, fundraising, and more. Brett is the president of the LaGrange Baseball League and serves on the board of LaGrange Communities Youth Centers. “He has over the top dedication to the youth of LaGrange County,” wrote his nominator.
David Hostetler
  • David Hostetler of Shipshewana. David served as a volunteer firefighter for 25 years. Twelve of those years he served as Captain for the Shipshewana Volunteer Fire Department. He also serves as a church trustee and fills other leadership roles in his church. He and his family have also opened their home to nine foreign exchange students. “His story is always valiant and heroic, even though he will say it isn’t so. And that the same story is sometimes jubilant, sometimes incredibly heartbreaking, and always sacrificial,” wrote his nominator.
Jean Martin in front of one of the ribbon walls at her arena
  • Jean Martin of Shipshewana. Jean has been influential in the equestrian community. She runs Fox Run Stables, offering lessons, camps, boarding and other horse related activities for children and adults. For the past 14 years, she has coached the Interscholastic Equestrian Association teams. She also serves as the regional president for both the IEA Hunt Seat and Dressage programs. During the summer months, she helps prepare riders for 4-H and summer shows. “Jean thoroughly enjoys working with riders, and her passion and enjoyment for horses is evident to everyone she helps,” wrote her nominator.
Jenny Landez
  • Jenny Landez of Wolcottville. Jenny is a member of Tri Kappa, board member for Northeastern Center, and the board president of Main Street LaGrange. She is a Gallups Strengths coach training, working with high school students. She also helps with athletic events, coaching and fundraising for Lakeland schools. “Over the many years I have known Jenny, she has always given 100% to everything she did,” wrote Landez’s nominator.
Karen Reinking at Ark Animal Shelter
  • Karen Reinking of Wolcottville. Karen is a board member and custodian at her church, shovels snow for her neighbors, volunteers at both Ark Animal Shelter and bookstore, as well as fundraising for Ark.  Her nominator said: “(She is) someone who cares about others, is willing to do when necessary, what needs to be done. Not wanting acknowledgement. Not seeking whistles, bells or sirens. Just doing it.”
Kent Andrews
  • Kent Andrews of Howe. Kent has been a volunteer firefighter for 40 years in Howe with a heart for serving his community. He helps elderly neighbors in Howe all seasons with mowing, raking leaving, and snow removal for no cost. Recently, Kent helped build and install a Free Little Library in the town park. His nominator wrote, “Kent helps anyone who needs help even before being asked. Kent is always helpful, civic minded, trustworthy.”
Laura Hartman
  • Laura Hartman of LaGrange.  Laura has been instrumental in keeping the Lighthouse Ministry going at Pioneer Crossing in Howe, through weekly meetings and special events. She has also been a helper to the people in the community in times when there have been frozen pipes or people just need someone to talk to. Her nominator wrote: “Laura will be the first to tell you she can’t do it on her own or even want any praise when it comes to the mission. She sees the needs and fills them. It’s who she is.”
Madison Bateman and students at Wolcott Mills School
  • Madison Bateman of Howe. Madison runs a cardio exercise program for adults, coaches
    T-ball, serves as the Tri Kappa assistant treasurer and volunteers on several Tri Kappa committees. She is a Lakeland Primary PTO officer and runs the Sunshine Project at Lakeland. Her nominator wrote: “Madison is deserving of recognition. Her heart truly is generous and golden and worthy of recognition.”

In selecting the award recipient, the award committee considers nominees who share their time and sake for others, render a service that changes lives, work to create positive change, inspire others to volunteer and more.

All nominees are eligible to make a $500 grant to the LaGrange County nonprofit of their choice in their name; the award recipient is eligible to make a $1,000 grant.

“All of the nominees represent and embody the spirit of philanthropy in LaGrange County. We are thankful for their service and devotion to meeting the needs in LaGrange County. No act of kindness is too small and we appreciate the ways each of nominees have shared their time for the sake of others,” said Executive Director Octavia Yoder.

Registration for the Annual Celebration is open through June 5 at

LIFE youth program volunteers at Council on Aging

LIFE, a youth philanthropy program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation, provides an opportunity for youth to gain experience in grantmaking, charitable giving and community service. The members participate in service projects and biannually host LEAP (Leaders Excited About Philanthropy) – a one day event focused on philanthropy and leadership for LaGrange County high school students.

LIFE members also provide oversight for the LIFE Grantmaking Fund at the Community Foundation. They review grant applications and recommend funding for youth projects.

The program is open to students from Lakeland, Westview, and Prairie Heights Schools. One student from each grade (9-12) is selected to represent their school, with up to 12 members.

In April, LIFE volunteered at the LaGrange County Council on Aging’s monthly luncheon; members helped serve the meal and enjoyed conversation with the luncheon guests.

2023-24 LIFE Group at the LaGrange County Council on Aging

President of the 2023-24 LIFE group Braden Rogers shared, “We volunteered at the Lagrange Council on Aging and served food to older individuals, had conversations with them, and made them feel special. As a youth lead philanthropic organization, it is important to spread the love of our young souls. We enjoyed seeing the smiles on all of the people faces and hope to partake in this event next year. Seeing the smiles of the older generations, hearing their incredible stories, and most of all, meeting new friends were all takeaways from this experience.”

LIFE President Braden Rogers shares at the COA luncheon.

In February, LIFE also had the opportunity to serve at The Waters in LaGrange, an assisted living facility. LIFE members visited during the recreational hour and enjoyed interacting with residents and playing bingo.

LIFE will meet one more time during the 2023-2024 school year for their annual retreat this May. Before the retreat, members look forward to joining the nonprofit organization Meals of Hope in LaGrange to pack meals for children in need.

LIFE will then travel to Camp Lutherwald in Howe for fun and team building, concluding their activities for the school year. The program will resume this fall after the start of the new school year.

LaGrange County Community Foundation receives $750,000 Lilly Endowment Matching Grant

LaGrange County Community Foundation has received a matching fund grant totaling $750,000 as part of the eighth phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s initiative, Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VIII).

LaGrange County Community Foundation will use the funding to further develop its unrestricted fund – the Caring Community Fund – and to support the development of the Hawpatch Trail in Topeka.

Lilly Endowment will provide $2 for every $1 contributed to LaGrange County Community Foundation’s Caring Community Fund and unrestricted funds through December 31, 2025. The Caring Community Fund and unrestricted funds help address current opportunities and challenges in LaGrange County.

Lilly Endowment will also provide $1 for every $1 contributed to the Hawpatch Trail Fund at the LaGrange County Community Foundation through December 31, 2025. The Foundation is supporting LaGrange County Trails’ effort to develop a biking and walking trail in Topeka on the former Wabash Railroad. Gifts to the Hawpatch Trail Fund will support trail development as the group acquires the property, completes survey work, and begins engineering for construction of the trail. Gifts to the Hawpatch Trail Fund will be matched up to $225,000.

LaGrange County Trails seeks to build the Hawpatch Trail in Topeka on the former Wabash Railroad line.

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for the continued generous support of community foundations in Indiana, including LaGrange County. With local contributions and the Lilly Endowment match we will add $787,500 to LCCF’s unrestricted funds and $450,000 for the development of the Hawpatch Trail,” said Executive Director Octavia Yoder. “One of the key opportunities in LaGrange County’s comprehensive plan is the further development of multi-use trails in LaGrange County. This is pivotal opportunity to support the development of a trail that will greatly enhance the quality of life in southern LaGrange County.”

“We are thankful for the opportunity to grow long term assets for LaGrange County and to continue to meet nonprofit and community needs. GIFT VIII represents a unique opportunity to triple the value of a donation,” Yoder added.

Donors can also establish a named unrestricted endowment fund with a qualifying gift of $3,500. Donors interested in receiving a $2 for $1 match on a donation should contact Executive Director Octavia Yoder.

Through GIFT VIII Lilly Endowment has awarded matching fund grants totaling $133.8 million to community foundations serving all 92 of Indiana’s counties. Eligible community foundations submitted proposals requesting grants ranging from $100,000 to $15,000,000 based on the population of the counties they serve.

In 2023, Lilly Endowment launched GIFT VIII to help community foundations strengthen the towns, cities and counties they serve. Matching fund grants are one several funding opportunities designed to help community foundations promote long-term viability; further strengthen their abilities to lead; encourage board engagement; and support and develop strategic efforts to enhance quality of life in their communities.

McBride joins Community Foundation team

Jennifer McBride serves as our Office and Scholarship Manager. Her role primarily focuses on the Foundation’s daily operations, greeting visitors, processing donor gifts, coordinating board and committee meetings, as well as managing the Foundation’s scholarship programs.  

McBride holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Trine University. She worked for LaGrange County government for 17 years, and previously worked at the Town of Shipshewana. One of her passions is reaching and serving youth – she has been a dedicated volunteer in church youth group programs for the past several decades.

McBride is a lifelong LaGrange County resident and lives in Howe with her husband, Rick. She has three children and three grandchildren.

McBride volunteered as a scholarship evaluator for the Foundation’s Community Scholarship Program in the past and was eager to dive into her new role this February. She is responsible for building and managing the online applications, promoting opportunities to local youth, coordinating volunteer evaluators, and presenting the final awards to students.

She is excited to be a part of the Community Foundation team.

“My heart is for the people of the community,” McBride said. “I enjoy being able to help others,” she added.

Q & A with Laurie Sherck

Leanna Martin and Laurie Sherck present the nominees for the Heart of Gold Award at the Community Foundation’s 2021 Annual Meeting.

Laurie Sherck joined the LaGrange County Community Foundation staff in 2019 as the Office and Scholarship Manager. She retires at the end of March. While we are sad to see our co-worker and friend retire, we are excited to see what she will accomplish next. We spoke with Sherck and asked her to share about her work, her retirement, and future plans.

Why are you retiring now, while you are still so young?  

I’ve had people tell me, “You’ll know when it’s time to retire.” They’re right.  I just know it’s time. I want to retire and still be able to do some of things I’ve always wanted to do.

What are the big plans for retirement? 

Enjoying my grandkids and hopefully get in some traveling with my husband.

Are you going to fill your time right away with volunteering with various nonprofits, etc.? 

Upon the good advice of a wise friend, I’m giving myself 90 days before committing to anything, but eventually, yes. 

What things do you love, and want to focus on in your retirement years? 

I love hiking and I hope to get some of that in. I enjoy quiet times with my Bible and study books and enjoy reading. I enjoy coffee and conversation with friends and family, so I definitely need to work that into my schedule. There are some non-profits that I’m interested in volunteering for from time-to-time. This is why I’m giving myself 90 days. There is so much I want to do, I could easily fill up all my time and quickly feel overcommitted and overwhelmed.

What is your favorite food/drink?  

Is chocolate considered food? Favorite drinks: Coffee and iced tea.

What is your favorite hobby?  

Reading is probably my favorite pastime.

What will you be doing on day ONE of your retirement? 

Actually — we’re leaving on a family vacation for a week and a half.

Anything new you’d like to learn or do for retirement? 

I bought my husband a Cricut for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I’d like to figure out how to use it.   

What are some of your favorite moments in working for LCCF?   

I love my co-workers. We’ve had some pretty fun adventures. Because of them, work has never felt like work. It is always rewarding and fun to award the students receiving scholarships. It’s also rewarding to me to know our Foundation is making a difference in our little community through grants that assist non-profits, and scholarships that help students toward achieving their dreams.

What do you hope for your predecessor?  

I wish all the best for my predecessor, and I hope she will enjoy the work the Foundation does as much as I have.

What will you miss most about working at LCCF everyday?   

That’s easy, the people.  The people I work with and have done life with the last several years, our fantastic Board of Directors and committee members,  and the wonderful donors, students and community members that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know over the past few years.  I’m sure gonna miss seeing my co-workers daily or “The Girls,” as I call them — but rest assured — they haven’t seen the last of me!🙂 

We wish Laurie a blessed retirement. We KNOW she will still be doing big things!

Sarah Hostetler and Laurie Sherck volunteer at the LaGrange County 4-H Fair in June 2023.
Sarah, Laurie, Octavia and Leanna enjoyed some early morning coffee… one of their favorite things to do together

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.