Category Archives: Youth Philanthropy

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.

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.

LIFE grants support LaGrange County youth projects

LIFE members volunteer at The Waters in LaGrange.

LaGrange County Community Foundation awarded ten LIFE grants totaling $17,495 to area organizations and schools during its 2024 LIFE grant cycle.

The grants will support educational and youth projects in LaGrange County.

LIFE is a youth philanthropy program of the LaGrange County Community Foundation. Members represent Lakeland, Westview and Prairie Heights High Schools, with one representative from each class in 9th-12th grades.

The students learn about philanthropy and charitable giving and are responsible for reviewing and making funding recommendations for the LIFE funds at the Foundation.

“Grants awarded through the LIFE program provide members with grantmaking and charitable giving experience. They connect with programs active in our community and financially support them through this competitive grant program,” said Leanna Martin, Community Foundation Program Director and LIFE Navigator. “It’s an excellent way for youth to be a part of the bigger picture within LaGrange County.”

Prairie Heights High School received a grant of $1,050 to help purchase professional style mixers for its culinary program. The program is in its second year at Prairie Heights, with nearly 60 students enrolled in the Culinary Arts career pathway. The culinary students have catered meals for athletic teams, provided refreshments for dances and made muffins and cookies for the food service at Prairie Heights.

Westview Elementary School also received a grant of $1,800 to help purchase display boards for the Westview Elementary Art Show.

Additional 2024 LIFE Grant recipients include:

  • Community Harvest Food Bank, “Kids BackPack and TeenPak Hunger Relief Initiative,” $2,500;
  • Crossroads United Way, “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library LaGrange County,” $2,500;
  • LaGrange County Department of Parks & Recreation, “Adventure Bound 2024,” $2,500;
  • Prairie Heights Football Boosters, “Prairie Heights Football Annual Free Youth Camp,” $1,800.
  • Westview Elementary School, “Personal Hygiene Supply Packs,” $2,020;
  • Westview Jr-Sr High School, “aMAYzing Crew (technology),” $2,125;
  • Westview Jr-Sr High School, “Oakley’s Cardio Drumming Squad,” $700; and
  • Youth for Christ Northern Indiana, “Westview Campus Life,” $500.

Each school year, LIFE seeks proposals for youth programs serving youth in LaGrange County. LIFE members review the submitted grant applications and make recommendations to the Board of Directors who approve the grant awards.

These grants are made possible through the generosity of donors who have supported the LIFE Grantmaking Fund at the Community Foundation.

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.

LIFE: Youth Philanthropy in Action

The LIFE program is a youth philanthropy group supported by the LaGrange County Community Foundation. LIFE provides an opportunity for young people to gain experience in community service and charitable giving. The students provide oversight to funds held at the Community Foundation. This school year LIFE offered two grant cycles awarding $11,926 to youth-serving organizations and school projects. For the complete list of LIFE grants click here.

We began our community service projects in November, serving lunch to the elderly at the LaGrange County Council on Aging.

In December students adopted a family for Christmas through LaGrange County Miracle Tree, providing funds from their own pockets as well as Community Foundation funds to support a child in need. In the spirit of Christmas, members also passed out cookies and provided in-person thank you to Sheriff’s department and local police departments.

In March the students attended Dekko Foundation’s Philpressionism, a youth pod retreat, in Kendallville. The retreat lasted two days and was packed full of community service ideas, leadership, and relationship building. They also performed a skit detailing what LIFE is.

As our LIFE program comes to an end for this school year we are headed to Miller’s Merry Manor to clean up their courtyard.

Our last meeting in May will be the retreat, where we will spend some time reflecting, team bonding, and participating in one last community service project, picking up trash along the Pigeon River as we kayak.

As we look ahead to the 2022-2023 school year, we will continue encouraging philanthropy in our community through LaGrange County youth.

For more information about LIFE, please visit,

LIFE Members provide Holiday Cheer to Parkview Health Workers

At LIFE we look for individuals who give their time, talent, and treasures to help better the community. Not often do we recognize workers like those in healthcare who dedicate so much time and effort to the safety and health of our community.

Dalton and I met our LIFE Navigator at the Parkview LaGrange Hospital to deliver some Holiday Cheer.

Five gift baskets were put together that contained coffee, tea, chocolates, chapsticks, and hand lotions. All things that healthcare workers desire!

A well-needed Christmas boost to the hardworking Parkview LaGrange employees who have done so much for our community this year.

We wish the Parkview healthcare workers Happy Holidays from LIFE.

This post was submitted by Sammy Updike, LIFE member.

If you would like to support LIFE and their philanthropic and community service efforts consider donating to the LIFE ENDOWMENT FUND or the LIFE OPERATING FUND.

LIFE – Community Service at Maple Wood Nature Center

By Breanna Baker

We were given the opportunity to volunteer at Maplewood Nature Center.

When we arrived we were met by a lady named Leslie Arnold who explained her position at the park as a naturalist.

She instructed us as we started service. The group split up and some worked on tidying up the sugar shack.

The rest took the center’s pet turtle named Tuck on a walk and cleaned his habitat.

Leslie guided us on a nature trail through the parks’s forest. We got to witness the maple trees at the peak of Autumn. Their leaves were the colors of rust.

After the walk, we began to work again. Some of us raked leaves while others cleaned and organized the building.

We enjoyed our time at Maple Wood not only participating in service but getting to learn more about LaGrange County. 

Breanna Baker

This post was submitted and written by Breanna Baker, LIFE member. Breanna serves as Recorder on the Executive Team and is a part of the LIFE Marketing Committee.

If you would like to support LIFE and their philanthropic and community service efforts consider donating to the LIFE ENDOWMENT FUND or the LIFE OPERATING FUND.