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The Community Foundation of Whitley County recently presented a $100,000 grant to Mission 25. Seated from the Mission 25 Board (from left) are Matt Shipman, Shawn Ellis and Melinda Woll. Standing, from left, are Community Foundation officers Marcia McNagny, Andy More and George Schrumpf.

COLUMBIA CITY — The Community Foundation of Whitley County Inc. has received a Community Leadership Grant of $100,000 as part of the seventh phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative. With the grant, the Community Foundation will support Mission 25’s role in the Next Level Whitley County framework. The funding will allow the certified recovery center/transitional housing shelter to hire and train additional staff as it expand its nonprofit services.

The Community Foundation of Whitley County is one of 84 foundations in Indiana receiving grants through this round of GIFT VII grant-making. Lilly Endowment created GIFT in 1990 to help local communities in Indiana develop the philanthropic capacity to identify local needs and challenges. It launched GIFT VII in 2018 and made available a total of $125 million to help foundations strengthen their leadership capacities in the towns, cities and counties they serve. Lilly Endowment expects to make additional GIFT VII grants in the coming months.

“The focus of Next Level Whitley County is to understand and address the mental barriers to recovering from substance abuse, reducing recidivism in our jail, and helping individuals to retain gainful employment. “It’s an unprecedented partnership for our county, knitting together government, nonprofits, private business, education and the public. We feel like we have something very unique and powerful unfolding and the foundation’s board is committed to the long-term successes that have been identified,” said September McConnell, Whitley County Community Foundation CEO.

In addition to Mission 25, other collaborating partners include the 80/20 Foundation Trust, Whitko Schools, The Whitley County court system and judges, Community Corrections, Whitley County Commissioners, Park Center, IVY Tech, the Bowen Center, the Whitley County Health Department and a number of supportive private businesses.

“Early wins in this work include the establishment of the Whitko Career Academy, a Whitley County location for Parkview Behavioral Center to offer mental health services and a new community center at Miami Village Mobile Home Park,” said McConnell.

“The Next Level Whitley County framework grew out of community conversations hosted by the Foundation in 2018. As part of GIFT VII, the Community Foundation was awarded a planning grant of $50,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assess opportunities and challenges in Whitley County. In March 2020, the Foundation was invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period.

“GIFT VII funding from Lilly Endowment was timely and an important catalyst as it provided the resources required for local leaders to plan, develop and now implement a strategy to address the needs that were identified locally. We couldn’t be more grateful for the on-going support of Lilly Endowment,” said Andy More, Community Foundation board president.

“Throughout the planning process we heard from people who are in need of help. The court system and Community Corrections want to help inmates looking to break negative cycles that create jail recidivism; often this means enhanced mental health services and a plan for education and transitional housing. Our local manufacturing leaders need help in acquiring skilled labor. Our youth service providers and educators are seeing a level of trauma and disengagement in children that they feel under-equipped to address; they too, need assistance. By coming together, we hope to raise the bar in corrections, mental health, vocational training and on-going support services. The results will be exponential, strengthening families and bettering the community as a whole,” said McConnell.

In the coming months Whitley County residents can expect to hear more from local leaders regarding future plans to address jail recidivism, enhance adult learning opportunities and expand social services.

The Community Foundation exists to foster philanthropy for the lasting good of Whitley County. Founded in 1991, the public charity has awarded over $30,000,000 in grants and scholarships to local charities and worthy students. This funding has been made possible due to the generosity of Whitley County residents, past and present, who view the Foundation as a trusted resource for charitable giving and meeting local needs.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

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