2022 Annual Report

The Community Foundation of Elkhart County is looking back at the milestones in its 33-year history, including its founding, a significant gift from Guy David Gundlach, and the shaping of our granting by community members.

We often encounter people at a milestone of their own: receiving a scholarship as they graduate from college, making a significant gift, or giving to us via their estate.

We are on the journey together.

Pete McCown speaking

10-Year Retrospective

The Community Foundation of Elkhart County has grown to one of the country’s largest community foundations due to a gift of nearly $150 million from the estate of David Gundlach in 2011 and more than $300 million in donations over the last decade from thousands of individuals and businesses in Elkhart County. Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, reflects on a decade of progress, growth, knowledge gained, and what the future holds.

In the months before Pete McCown officially started as president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, he was invited to a meeting at attorney Mike Pianowski’s office with a man named Guy David Gundlach. Little did any of them realize that the lunch they shared that summer afternoon in 2011 would change the trajectory of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and the county itself. In this interview, edited for clarity, Pete reflects on the last decade.

What do you remember from that meeting?

Guy DavidDavid was 56 when I met him. Part of the conversation was very specific in that he had a couple of properties here in Elkhart that he wanted to title over to us, but mostly it was just a conversation where we were getting to know each other. At the end of the meeting, he did write a check for $100,000 to create a donor-advised fund at the foundation. And he made that gift essentially so that we could practice, together, his giving, his philanthropy, in Elkhart County. David gave me some instruction that he wanted to give those monies to youth-serving organizations. That summer, I invited and collected grant proposals from a grouping of youth-serving organizations. David and I then talked about them, and he instructed me to distribute the $100,000 in a variety of different ways.

“David’s gift is certainly a significant part of our story in our history. But there are more than 10,000 people who have also contributed to the Community Foundation in one measure or the other over our 33-year history.”

– Pete McCown, President of the Community Foundation

When did you come to learn more about his estate?

I knew he had decided to include the foundation in his estate plan, he had disclosed that, but I did not know the details. We only had a chance to interact with each other for three months before he passed away on October 16, 2011. Soon after David’s death, we learned he had named the foundation as the majority beneficiary of his estate and later learned the estate included a Swiss bank account with a balance of $113 million. As we began to marshall the assets of the estate we came to realize there was $30 to $40 million worth of real estate as well. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the important role Liz and Tom Borger played in settling David’s estate and securing his gift for our community.

How did you determine how he wanted his estate to help others?

When we met in person the one time, I asked David what causes were the most important to him. He certainly had a heart for kids, specifically underprivileged kids. I think if he had lived longer we would have developed a greater definition of his philanthropy. But at the time, he somewhat comically said, “Pete, as Mike has explained this to me, the Community Foundation exists to do good in Elkhart County.” In response I said, “Well, and I’m not on the payroll yet, but that’s what I understand too.” And David says, “Well, you know, kiddo, it seems to me that you and your board are better qualified to make decisions about what happens with my gift than I am because I don’t live in Elkhart County, and you’re close to this and you should be able to interpret the greatest needs in the community.”

What did the Community Foundation look like then compared to now?

We were founded in 1989. Before David’s gift, we had $10 million in the Fund for Elkhart County. So other donors had made that decision, along with matching grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. There were five of us employees. We had $43 million in assets and approximately 200 endowments. We administered probably 20 or 30 scholarship funds at the time and had another 20 donor-advised funds and 100 or so agency endowment funds. Today we’re sitting in this new office space that represents probably a 10-fold office environment from what we occupied in 2011. We have $400-plus million dollars on our balance sheet. We have 150 scholarship funds, 400 agency endowment funds and 200 or so donor-advised funds. The Fund for Elkhart County has grown from $10 million to $210 million. In 2011, we gave away $500,000 a year from that discretionary fund involving one grant committee. Today we work with three grant committees, made up of community volunteers, to award more than $10 million each year in grants and scholarships.

What have we learned over the last decade?

One of the things I’m cognizant of is that there’s no “best” way to steward our investment in community projects and organizations. There are multiple ways in which the foundation can fulfill our grantmaking and leadership responsibilities. I am pretty certain we will always be iterating, in some regard. We are the stewards of an important community asset. David’s gift is certainly a significant part of our story in our history. But there are more than 10,000 people who have also contributed to the Community Foundation in one measure or the other over our 33-year history. On a discretionary side of our grantmaking, we’ve been entrusted to be good stewards, but we get to draw the boundaries for how that looks. Sometimes I think the boundaries need to get wider and sometimes they need to get narrower, depending on the circumstance. There is no playbook here. We’ve also learned that David’s generosity didn’t suppress giving from others. In fact, it did the opposite. We have received nearly $300 million in gifts in the last 10 years that do not get attached to David Gundlach.

What’s happening at the Community Foundation now?

We are in the process of conducting a “Listening Tour” and want to facilitate conversations about the future of Elkhart County with approximately 100 focus groups this year. I think it’s valuable for us to create this feedback loop; we need the community to continue to inform the way we conduct ourselves and the way we think. We have become involved in a range of regional efforts that have benefited Elkhart County, so I think that will continue. There are 400 or 500 people who have disclosed to us that we are part of their estate plan. We count them as members of our Legacy Society. I hope these folks live long and rich lives. However, the estate plans of our Legacy Society members represent close to a billion dollars worth of additional giving to the foundation over a generation or so. So there’s no question the foundation will continue to grow in terms of scale, and as a result, its ability to impact the community.

What does the future hold for the Community Foundation?

The question I ask myself is “on what date do we arrive at the high-water mark of a billion dollars and then $2 billion and $3 billion?” When I came to the foundation we had a discussion at one of my first board meetings about what the foundation might look like at $400 million. Earlier this year we arrived there before the stock market pulled back. So last June I took the board through an exercise in which I challenged them to consider what CFEC would look like if it grew by 10X again and had a balance sheet with $4 billion in assets. Certainly you’d have to have a larger staff and office. Likely our investment strategies would change to some extent. However, this planning exercise was more valuable as a futuristic view of our community impact and vision. Today we give away $30 million a year. We were forced to consider the questions of “What does our stewardship look like 20 years from now if we are responsible for investing $300 million annually into our community?” Despite the fact that the stock market has gone in the wrong direction the last six months, I am very optimistic about the future for the Community Foundation. The foundation will continue to expand its impact in our community through the generosity of those who entrust us to steward their philanthropy. We will also continue to learn and improve our practice of community leadership and collaboration. For me personally, this is a labor of love; I am grateful I get to be a part of this work.


A Gift in Honor of Imogene

A lifetime of faith and stewardship carries on in Imo’s Den – a historic home along State Street in Elkhart that provides housing for interns and staff at Lifeline Ministries.

When Imogene Rupel passed away in 2016, her husband Keith wanted a way to honor her. He turned to his long-time friend Darrell Peterson, executive director of Lifeline Ministries. The Rupel’s generosity is memorialized in a legacy that will help generations to come.

Imo's Den Plaque

Every time Darrell Peterson climbs the stairs at Imo’s Den, the hair on his arm stands up and he sees goosebumps.

It’s not fear, but awe at how the four-unit apartment building came to be thanks to the generosity of one man wanting to honor his wife.

Darrell thinks of the hours it took to reclaim those worn wooden steps and other parts of the large structure to turn it into living spaces for young people as they learn skills and take on adulthood.

In every apartment is a plaque honoring Keith and Imogene Rupel. Darrell wants the young people who live there to remember this Elkhart couple. He wants those at Lifeline Ministries, a ministry that provides a safe, family-like atmosphere for youth from third to 12th grades, to know about the Rupels.

Keith Rupel grew up poor in South Bend and fought in General George S. Patton’s division at the Battle of the Bulge. After the war ended, one of his brothers introduced him to Imogene Page, who worked at Wygant’s Florist. Their first date was on Valentine’s Day in 1946.

As they dated, Keith went off to study at Purdue University and would hitchhike home to see her. They married in June 1947 and he graduated almost a year later.

In the next decade, Keith and Imogene started a family and built two houses, first south of South Bend and then on Highland Avenue in Elkhart, where they worked together on weekends. She cut the limestone and he laid it. In 1963, Keith started REPCO, his own engineering firm, and his daughter Sandra Gentry remembers the smell of ammonia coming up from the basement as he created blueprints. His first clients were Don and Joe Schrock of DJ Construction. And as an example of the integrity and trust between the new business partners, that deal was sealed not even with a handshake, but with trusting nods.

In 1970 tragedy struck, as their 15-year-old son Gary drowned in a pond at Old Orchard Golf Course. Keith and Imogene were devastated, but instead of falling into despair, as some other fathers who lost children did, Keith said he was grateful to God for the 15 years he had with his best friend.

When the insurance settlement came, Keith and Imogene gave it away to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Keith took Gary’s bike to Irv Polk at Youth For Christ/Lifeline so that some other young person could benefit from its use. That encounter resulted in Keith and Irv becoming great friends.

Darrell Peterson, executive director of Lifeline Ministries, and Sandra Gentry honor the memory of her parents Keith and Imogene Rupel.

Over the years, as Keith and Imogene’s stewardship grew alongside his business, they gave generously to places that encouraged faith or provided education, including Trinity Lutheran Church and his beloved Purdue University, where they set up several scholarships. As the Rupels planned their estates, they chose organizations they wanted to support after their deaths.

Keith knew early on that Imogene was the one from the moment he spilled a milkshake on her new straw hat and she didn’t get upset. Over the years, their love for one another continued to grow. The Rupels loved spending time with each other. They traveled to the Smokies on vacation and went to Purdue football and basketball games together. In later years, he built a laundry room onto their Highland Avenue home, despite his own macular degeneration, so that she wouldn’t have to go up and down stairs. After that, he designed a ramp and had it built for Imogene’s walker.

“True love,” says Sandra.

After several years of failing health, Imogene passed away in June 2016. At her funeral, Keith told Darrell that he wanted to honor Imogene. Darrell thought he should give some time, but Keith showed up at Lifeline the next week. Darrell was already planning on renovating a  four-unit building to house interns or those coming out of Lifeline. Keith asked, “If I pay for one of the apartments, can we dedicate it to Imogene?” Darrell responded, “Absolutely.”

Darrell appreciated Keith’s gift and commitment to this project. Soon after, Darrell was out of town on vacation but came back to meet with Keith when he called. In the foyer of Lifeline, Keith said, “I don’t want to dedicate an apartment to my wife. I want to do the whole thing in her honor.”

With his donation, work on Imo’s Den started in earnest. Keith swung the first sledgehammer to start demolition and showed up on Fridays with donuts or cider. The kids would head towards his vehicle not just because he had snacks. “He was always so kind and gracious,” says Darrell.

A historic house along State Street in Elkhart is now Imo’s Den.

He provided funds to support Lifeline events and helped with more than Imo’s Den. A perfect example of his kindness was after seeing a photo of girls from Lifeline at prom, Keith paid for corsages for all the girls every year after that. “Every girl needs a corsage,” he said.

The Imo’s Den project was delayed for more than three years due to historical designations and renovation. Darrell and Sandra, who had been coming down from her home in Michigan to see her father and the progress on the project, were frustrated. Keith remained gracious.

Darrell had plans for how to get 95-year-old Keith up on the porch when it was part of Parade of Homes. Just days before that, Keith died at the age of 95.

Sandra gave the speech he’d written for her to give at the party unveiling the building. He had been ready to rejoin his wife on the other side and likely knew his time was short. “I think he knew,”  she says.

Keith Rupel built two homes for his family and later funded the creation of Imo’s Den.

The Rupels had always been generous with their time and money. They had spent little on themselves and made it clear how they wanted their estate to be handled. The Community Foundation established donor-designated funds supporting Lifeline and Faith Mission. The generosity after their deaths left a legacy that will help generations to come.

Keith paid nearly all of the costs for Imo’s Den. Lifeline is starting construction on a new main building. Its internship program is bringing in college students from across the country to learn how to work with young people in a faith-based organization. Programs in elementary schools are growing, as is vocational training. The family is also growing. Sandy is often with Darrell and his wife, Leslie, and Emily and David Gaona, who are the Petersons’ daughter and son-in-law, as well as leaders at Lifeline. And they all want to hold baby Isabella Gaona, David
and Emily’s newborn.

Darrell has now been leading Lifeline for 14 years, carrying on the legacy of the late Irv Polk who urged him not to let it die. Lifeline has grown, “What God’s done at Lifeline is nothing short of a miracle,”  Darrell says. “What Keith and Imogene decided to do is investing that will see returns and dividends in heaven.”

Play Video
Tom Grove illustration

Scholarship Honors Tom Grove’s Impact as Teacher and Artist

Tom Grove was an award-winning artist and photographer known by friends and family for his quick wit and sharp intelligence. But it was his dedication as a beloved photography teacher for 40 years at Elkhart Central High School for which he is best remembered most.

Tom’s passion for encouraging students to pursue their interest in the arts is celebrated by a scholarship established by his friends and family and managed by the Community Foundation.

Tom Grove was a skilled fine artist and photographer with a quick wit, sharp intelligence, and mastery of Scrabble and crossword puzzles. But what is remembered most about Tom is how he made people feel good about themselves and helped them believe they could accomplish anything.

“He was the guy in the room that if you were around him, it was something special,” says Tom’s brother, Stephen Grove.

Tom grew up in a large, tight-knit family in southern Indiana. He was known as the funny guy in the family with a keen ability to make others laugh.

He attended Ball State University, initially pursuing a degree in architecture but later changed to fine art and education. He was also deeply involved in
Greek life at the university, where he developed lifelong friendships.

While he was an extremely talented painter and illustrator, he gravitated toward photography. Perhaps it was the science of photography and the ability to look at the everyday as art. “When you saw Tom’s photography, you got a glimpse into his eye, what he was seeing and why he would capture it and frame it as art,” says Steve. “He once explained to me it’s not that you are showing someone that a particular thing is art, but instead looking at it and saying, ‘What if this was art?’”

Tom Grove Art
Tom Grove created art and photos, as well as had an impact on students.

Tom and his work earned many prestigious awards, including: a two-time Lilly Creative Teacher Fellow, a Toyota International Teacher Program participant, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Research participant. A selection of his art is on permanent exhibit at the Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, Indiana.

In his 40-year career as an educator at Elkhart Central High School, Tom didn’t just teach thousands of students. He inspired them. Tom was a beloved photography teacher, retiring as the head of the Art Department just months before he died in 2017. He had been diagnosed with cancer and complications from treatment caused his untimely passing. “Good teachers know their stuff, and Tom knew his stuff,” says Cynthia Holland Marks, who taught in the art department with Tom for many years. “He gave 100% every day. Kids loved him. He stood up for the fine arts.”

When Tom passed, his fraternity brothers, spearheaded by friend Bill Dougherty, suggested the scholarship. Their goal is to honor Tom’s legacy by supporting his passion for the classroom and young artists. “We aspired to create a scholarship that Tom would have wanted. A way for Tom to still be out there, encouraging these young artists, even though he is no longer with us,” says Steve.

“He gave 100% every day. Kids loved him. He stood up for the fine arts.”

– Cynthia Holland Marks, colleague of Tom Grove

For Tom, encouraging students to pursue their interest in art and photography was important. The arts aren’t always as supported or held in the same esteem of other fields. The scholarship helps to validate a career in the arts and inspires people to follow their passion. It continues the impact he made on students in his honor. Mario Casto, who was awarded the scholarship in 2020, says, “I’m really thankful for the scholarship. I’m still inspired by it; it’s motivated me to keep driving forward.” Mario is pursuing a double major in Photography and Marketing at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, with the goal of owning a gallery and teaching photography at the college level.

Tom’s former wife, Mary Jo Sartorius, connected the scholarship creation efforts with the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. “I knew from previous experience that in the hands of the Community Foundation, the scholarship would be well managed and offer a way to endow the scholarship, so his legacy lives on,” says Mary Jo. “Working with the Community Foundation takes the burden of the day-to-day management of the scholarship off of his family and friends.”

Tom’s life meant something to everyone that he touched. He lived by the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done to you, and he gave back to his community in a way that isn’t consistently recognized. Tom’s life illustrated how you can do good and make an impact on people through your actions, how you live your life, and by inspiring others.

On Tom’s memorial Facebook page, a former student wrote, “Grover, you set my path in life, and I could never thank you enough. I’ve had a camera in my hands or around my neck since the day I first took your class. I’ve built a successful business and it’s kept me going through some pretty rough times. Today I am turning in my application for my first big kid job (at the age of 38) as a high school photography teacher and the only person I want to call is you. I hope I can change at least one kid’s life like you changed mine.”


New Tolson Center Arises from Historic Roots

In the 1990s, the Tolson Center was a vibrant youth center that provided a space for community members to play basketball and learn life’s important lessons about friendship, community, and kindness. After funding stopped in 2018, a community effort rebirthed the Tolson Center to better serve the community.

This past summer, community members came together to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Tolson Center for Community Excellence.

Tolson Center Conceptual Rendering

A child carrying a ball runs across the grass on a glorious summer evening.

He was looking toward the crowd that had gathered on the lawn at Tolson Center for Community Excellence.

He was eager to join what was emerging — as are so many others in our community. He was eager to see what is happening at Tolson Center.

For decades, people, particularly young people, have gathered at 1300 Benham Avenue, Elkhart. As a child, Norman Anderson flew kites on the property that had nothing other than the Abshire Car Wash.

After a youth center opened in the 1991, he saw the community come to play basketball and learn life lessons. Tolson’s adult leaders would lead bus trips to sporting events and college campuses. Tolson Center was a key part of the village raising its children.

Tolson needed to be not just a youth center, but a place that could serve the community as a whole and in doing so, make it more whole.

Over the last decade, Tolson was in decline. “That was really hard to watch because it meant so much to so many people,” said Cyneatha Millsaps, whose family had been involved as participants, volunteers and employees.

When the Elkhart City Council voted in mid-2018 to stop funding Tolson Center, the decision saddened Cyneatha and others. Norman was disappointed that the city didn’t have another vision to meet the needs of those on the south side of Elkhart. The decision rippled through Elkhart and beyond. “Whether you are still living in south central Elkhart or grew up through south central, your hears are still in south central,” said Cyneatha. And those with their hearts in that place felt the pain of this milestone.

People quickly urged some sort of action in response and Pete McCown of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Levon Johnson of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce left their offices and met at Central Park to discuss the matter.

That led to the creation of a task force and then community forums to discuss future plans. The 500 or so people who offered suggestions said Tolson needed to be not just a youth center, but a place that could serve the community as a whole and in doing so, make it more whole.

The Community Foundation, Elkhart Chamber and Elkhart City collaborated to create a new 15-member board in July 2020 that would in turn create a new organization and center. Cyneatha had offered her help to Rod Roberson, who was running for mayor of Elkhart. After he won, he appointed her to the board and then those people selected her as the president. “I tell people all the time this is the most diverse board I have ever been on, let alone chaired,” she said.

A public-private partnership was forged with the goal of creating a freestanding nonprofit that could guide Tolson into the future. It achieved nonprofit status in October 2021. Consultants and architects GreenPlay LLC, RRC Associates and Jones Petrie Rafinski helped envision what the center would look like. Architects and consultants helped add details to the vision.

All of this takes funding and the Community Foundation was at the center of helping arrange the funding. So far, $11 million has been pledged. The City of Elkhart appropriated $5 million and has agreed to give $700,000 a year to support the ongoing work. Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Community Foundation both committed $2 million. Another $2 million has been given or pledged privately. About $1.5 million more is needed because of rising construction costs.

The new building will have 30,000 square feet, including two gymnasiums. Outdoors, tennis/pickleball courts will be alongside basketball courts and a soccer field.

The board and others discussed whether to rehabilitate the existing building, but costs and logistics led to the decision to demolish completely and rebuild. After items were removed and auctioned, demolition began in July and construction by DJ Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2023.


Breanna Allen, who worked at Ivy Tech Community College and then Horizon Education Alliance, became the new executive director in April. She remembered how excited her Latino students at Ivy Tech had been as they partnered with Tolson Center to raise money for scholarships. She remembered hearing the news that Tolson would close. Now she gets to help guide its construction and reopening with Cyneatha and others. Breanna said it’s been fun so far and that will continue.

When several hundred people came to the groundbreaking on May 24, people danced. They applauded as the new dirt was turned with golden shovels. The excitement was so evident as people celebrated what was and what is to come.

Breanna wants to reignite that excitement at Tolson that has been a part of its deep history and was evident in her students. The passion of the adults who remember will mix with the exuberance of youth as the new Tolson serves the community with sports leagues, youth activities and space for family and community events.

“The hope is that Tolson Center for Community Excellence will be that safe, educational, recreational hub not only for south central Elkhart, but for Elkhart,” said Cyneatha. “People will come once again and participate in activities going on there.”

Tolson will shape future generations of children and their families. “I think it’s going to be very important to Elkhart. It can be the hub of most of the activities going on in Elkhart,” Norm Anderson said.

It will bring Elkhart together again.

C.A.R.E. volunteers illustration

Taking C.A.R.E. of Day-to-Day Life

Especially for students who attend college away, it’s easy to forget about the daily necessities taken for granted living at home. That’s where C.A.R.E. University steps in. C.A.R.E. University is a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes hygiene products, dry food goods, and school supplies to help college students and their parents with the cost and the challenge of keeping necessities at hand.

Transitioning from high school to college is a major change for students and their families.  Students are often on their own for the first time. And while parents and guardians do everything they can to lessen the uncertainties, some details get overlooked.

In 2016, Danielle Neal learned what her two daughters really needed as they attended college out of state. Since both were on scholarship, they had little time for a job outside their school and athletic commitments. As a result, they were continuously calling home to Danielle, asking for help with basic, day-to-day necessities.

Danielle saw an opportunity to help not just her kids, but those across the community. She began by asking for donations of personal care items to assemble care packages for current college and university students from Elkhart County.

Danielle created C.A.R.E. University, whose full name is Community Assisting and Rewarding Education. The program collects and distributes donations of personal hygiene products, snacks, and school supplies to help college students and their parents with the cost and challenge of keeping necessities on hand.

“For some of these kids, it takes one person to say, ‘I care about you, I want you to be successful, we’re not going to provide excuses but create expectations, and you’re going to meet them with the help that we’re going to give you.’”

—Danielle Neal, Founder of C.A.R.E. University

In 2018, Danielle took steps to make C.A.R.E. University an official nonprofit. In 2019, the organization received the 100 Women Who Care Elkhart County grant of $10,000 from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County that helped boost the number of students it could support. The funding gave Danielle the confidence to continue her mission.“The Community Foundation gave us our first grant, and when you get that as a nonprofit, it confirms that you are doing the right thing,” she says. “They showed they believed in us and wanted to see us grow.” C.A.R.E. University has since received $15,000 in Community Investment Grants and a non-endowed fund that the Community Foundation continues to support.

C.A.R.E. University started with twelve students and has grown to support 70 students during the 2022-23 academic year. The nonprofit now provides funding for laptops for students that completed 10 hours of community service and maintain a 3.5 grade point average. C.A.R.E University also maintains an emergency fund for students.

In addition to supplies, each student is paired with an adult advocate, whose role is regularly checking in with their student and acting as a sounding board. This helps take some of the burden off parents and provides the student with someone to speak with in addition to their parents. “It’s amazing to see the relationships that form over time and the bond that is made,” says Danielle.

Entry into C.A.R.E. University is easy. The student must graduate from an Elkhart County, high school, have a GPA of 2.0, and attend college away from home. “Just because a family makes a certain amount of money on paper doesn’t mean they don’t have things going on, such as health issues or other financial burdens, that inhibit them from fully supporting their child. I don’t want to turn anyone away for financial reasons,” explains Danielle.

Danielle sees growth opportunities through additional partnerships with local businesses. Beacon Health System is a current financial contributor to C.A.R.E. University, and in turn, C.A.R.E. University supports students of Beacon employees, even if they are outside of Elkhart County. American Electric Power has partnered to sponsor the technology program that provides students with laptops and other necessary technical equipment.

Danielle hopes to expand the nonprofit’s reach to help younger students access resources that encourage early academic success and develop to support students attending trade schools with tools and equipment for their classes. But, at its core, C.A.R.E. University’s biggest aspirations are to continuously grow the total number of college students it supports annually. Danielle has a frontline view of the positive impact of C.A.R.E. University has on students, and many have given back to the community and the program after graduating. “There is a quote to the effect that it takes one adult to change a child’s life, and I firmly believe in that,” she says. “For some of these kids, it takes one person to say, ‘I care about you, I want you to be successful, we’re not going to provide excuses but create expectations, and you’re going to meet them with the help that we’re going to give you.’ That’s very important to me.”

C.A.R.E. University hosts an annual kick-off event every July for students, student advocates, program volunteers, and community members. The event celebrates the students and gives them a positive send-off for the upcoming school year.

For more information on C.A.R.E. University, visit www.theCAREuniversity.org

Bob Schrock Helps Others Be Faithful Dads

Bob Schrock had already made a lifelong impact as a dedicated father, husband, and CEO of DJ Construction. But as it came time to retire from his career, he wanted to find a new purpose for the second half of his life. After personal experience volunteering, mentoring, and stories from his peers at church, Bob found his calling in helping young men step confidently into the role of father, as well as assisting those families where fathers were absent.

Bob Schrock with family illustration

Bob Schrock remembers sitting in the conference room at DJ Construction listening to others talk about the Community Foundation’s role in the community.

The Community Foundation was getting a large gift from David Gundlach’s estate. Bob was on the board in 2013 as the organization did its listening tour to determine how to best be stewards of that gift. He invited friends to participate in a session, where President Pete McCown asked, “If you were in Bob’s shoes and could give away $10 million a year to make the community better, what would you do?”

Bob Schrock sits in his former office at DJ Construction. Since his retirement, his son Matt now works in that same office.

Someone in the room said the foundation should help families. The conversation turned to how to help fathers own their role in their children’s lives.

That moment, along with a series of others, helped cement Bob’s mission.

Bob had helped build a successful company as president and CEO of DJ Construction, but had been wrestling with questions about his purpose since he’d turned 50 a few years earlier. He’d read “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance” by Bob Buford about approaching the second half of one’s life. Justin Maust of EntreLegacy Group offered life coaching and Bob said yes, though he’d declined such offers in the past.

As they met regularly over coffee, Justin mentored and helped Bob wrestle with how to spend his days. He was considering leaving the construction business. “The purpose of us meeting wasn’t the transition of DJ. It was the transition of me,” Bob says.

Justin asked Bob, “If you could put a dent in one thing, what would it be?”

Friend and coworker Enos Yoder remembers Bob wrestling with how to give. As DJ had done well, Bob’s financial generosity had increased and he was asking how to get more involved in the community. “I know Bob was searching for his next phase,” Enos says.

Enos Yoder (right) talks about how his friend Bob Schrock found his passion for helping others become better fathers.

Bob and Enos were friends and their children were nearly the same age. They did life together, at church and on the softball field. When Enos’s work life was out of balance because of travel, he went to work for Bob at DJ. Together, they discussed and prayed over how to make a difference. At Sugar Grove Church where they attend, they had heard about the needs of mothers and children after a father abandoned the family.

As a board member for The Crossing and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, Bob had heard stories about students who had achieved success with the help of mentors when dads were absent. He thought about the day he volunteered with Lifeline at an apartment complex, cooking for the families from which the fathers were absent.

He also thought about his own father, Don, who had mentored him and others. “I know I am who I am today because not only did I have a dad in my life, but I knew he loved me and believed in me,” Bob says.

He thought about how he and Enos had mentored Jaraan Cornell, a former Purdue University basketball player who hadn’t gotten his college degree because of his own child’s health issues. “My biological dad walked out on me so there was no way I could walk out on my child,” Jaraan says.

Bob became a mentor and father figure for Jaraan. “Fathering is taking a young man, a young girl, and trying to help change a life,” Jaraan says. “It’s being in a kid’s life. Doing it out of your heart because you care. That’s what fathers do.”

Bob, and Enos, did that for Jaraan and helped him get back to school. The two men were in the crowd at his college graduation. “This was a complete stranger at one point,” Jaraan says of “Boiler Bob,” his nickname for Schrock, “but it didn’t take long until it felt like someone I had known for 20 years.”

While vacationing in Grand Cayman, Bob was drawing charts and graphs, wrestling with the questions from Justin and Pete. He suddenly realized he wanted to make a dent in the fatherless epidemic. He wanted to urge fathers to step up and be leaders in their families. He also wanted others to help young people whose fathers were absent.

He told Justin, Enos and others and was soon meeting with the Community Foundation to establish the Faithful Dads Fund, a donor-advised fund that would support Bob’s passion. Starting in 2015, Bob volunteered as a big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters and is now mentoring his second young man in the program.

The mentoring and focus on fatherhood energized Bob for his last years as CEO of DJ. As he was preparing to leave DJ, the management team asked him for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that could guide the company. Instead of one that related to construction or business, Bob suggested the company work at addressing the fatherless epidemic in this community.

“I know I am who I am today because not only did I have a dad in my life, but I knew he loved me and believed in me.”

– Bob Schrock, retired President/CEO, DJ Construction

Bob and DJ sponsored three Fathers Matter Forums in Elkhart County, bringing in nationally known speakers to promote faithful fatherhood and highlight local organizations working on the issue. Bob and DJ helped bring the All Pro Dad program to Elkhart County, where fathers join their kids at elementary school. It’s now in schools in Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee. He’s watched as fathers praise their children in front of others at the school. “Those are powerful moments,” Bob says.

DJ employees volunteer at All Pro Dad events and now the company is leading the Transition To Trades (T3) Program to help young people try construction. Some of the participants are getting jobs at DJ or other construction-related companies from their time working on the tiny homes project at Faith Mission or with Lacasa and Lifeline.

Bob Schrock smiles onstage at a Fathers Matter Forum with Anthony Meadows, whom he has mentored for a number of years.

Bob has been the kind of father every kid wants and needs. “I cannot think of any time growing up where I doubted my dad’s love for me and investment in my life,” says son Matt.

Bob went to dog shows and rock concerts with his daughter Mandi. “He supported my interests rather than push his own,” she says, noting that as she and her husband parent their son they try to do the same.

Mandi is director of brand management at DJ and Matt is vice president. They’ve both seen how their father’s fervor for fatherhood has shaped the company’s response and the family’s philanthropy. They sit with him on the committee, along with Enos, to make decisions about granting from the Faithful Dads fund. As they meet each year in November, on a date near Bob’s late father’s birthday, the family has a clearer sense of how to focus on what they truly want to support financially.

Bob admits that making a dent in the fatherless epidemic isn’t easy to do or measure, but that doesn’t diminish his effort. He’ll keep urging others to be there for children, whether it’s their biological ones or others.

As Jaraan put it, “If we just had 100 more Bob Schrocks, the community, the world, would be a better place for young men.”

Maria Mitchell, shown with her dog, Willis, wants to make a lasting impact.

INSPIRE Scholarship Students Grow Community Connection

The INSPIRE Scholarship awards students who contribute to the Elkhart community through volunteerism. Recent INSPIRE recipients Maria Mitchell and Anna Smucker found that in addition to the personal benefits of volunteering, the scholarship helped them grow their network in the community and inspired a lifelong desire to serve. Maria even aspires to start her own nonprofit.

The INSPIRE Scholarship of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County doesn’t just give students money to help with tuition. It connects them to their community.

The INSPIRE Scholarship, which began in 2017, gives hard-working, community-minded students the opportunity to receive $3,000 per year. To be eligible, each of the recipients must complete a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer time per year in Elkhart County.

“The INSPIRE Scholarship is special. The relationships I’ve made have motivated me to continue volunteering.”

– Anna Smucker, scholarship recipient

As a young girl, Maria Mitchell was on the receiving end of community outreach. She was diagnosed with cancer at 14 and spent months in Chicago, IL, away from home, receiving treatment. Maria made a full recovery, and the help of organizations like Ronald McDonald House made a lasting impact.

“I’m the first to help, because help was given to my family and me when I needed it,” said Maria. In addition to volunteer work for Ronald McDonald House, Maria served on their teen board. She has also volunteered for smaller nonprofits and events around the Elkhart community.

Maria received the INSPIRE Scholarship in 2020 and recently graduated from Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana with an associate degree in general studies. She plans to work in the nonprofit space and aspires to one day start her own organization. “The INSPIRE Scholarship helped me build a network. It’s opened my span of connections, which I know will come in handy as I pursue a career in the nonprofit space,” says Maria.

Anna Smucker
Anna Smucker is inspired to volunteer because of the scholarship she received.

Anna Smucker learned about the INSPIRE Scholarship during her senior year of high school, and was selected as a four-year recipient in 2018. “It’s impacted me much more than I thought. It’s made me think more intentionally about giving to others and giving to the community,” says Anna.

Anna volunteered at the The Depot in Goshen, which is part of a network of nonprofit thrift shops that support local and global relief, development, and peace projects of the Mennonite Central Committee. She also made masks during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a program with the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. “I’ve gotten to know many people, different ages and walks of life, that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she says.

Anna graduated from Goshen College with a degree in graphic design and a double minor in Bible and religion, and music. She is moving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this fall for a year to volunteer with United Way. “The INSPIRE Scholarship is special. The relationships I’ve made have motivated me to continue volunteering,” said Anna.

Anna believes in the power of volunteering. “It’s a good way to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people in your community. It may be challenging at first if it’s not something you’re used to, but it’s a great opportunity to dig deeper,” she says.

Anna is confident that volunteerism and giving back to her community will play a significant role in her life, no matter where her career path leads. “It’s been such a blessing, and I’m so grateful. I’ve learned more about myself and that giving and helping others have become part of who I am. I don’t know that I would have had that if I hadn’t been actively volunteering to maintain the INSPIRE Scholarship.”

Play Video

enFocus Keeps Young People in Region

enFocus believes the key to economic development lies in attracting and retaining talent. Their program brings young professionals into fellowship or internship programs and provides the opportunity to flex their creative and entrepreneurial muscles to solve problems for local organizations. When their time at enFocus is complete, many participants find careers locally; often at the organization they were helping as part of the program. 

enFocus fellows engage in work to help the community and in doing so often find meaningful work here.

Every community in the United States wants its young people to stay, work and contribute.

enFocus interns learn about the community at Goshen Theater during a recent tour.

And, almost every community in the country has to work hard to do what is called “talent attraction and retention.” In the South Bend-Elkhart Region, one of the bright lights attracting young people is a nonprofit called enFocus, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in May.

In 2012, Andrew Wiand and six others visited an incubator focused on entrepreneurship in Durham, N.C. as they studied in the ESTEEM Master’s program at the University of Notre Dame. They were so inspired after their visit that they worked with community and business leaders to start their own version in South Bend. Those first seven fellows worked on projects for eight local partners.

enFocus charges fees to area partners to do research and help support initiatives. Often, it’s focused on solving a problem — which seems to be what engages the interns and fellows the most. Initially, interns and fellows focused on helping only nonprofit groups, schools or municipalities. In Elkhart County, projects have included:

  • Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau (ECCVB) downtown vibrancy assessment and Vibrant Communities BIG Event development.
  • Elkhart County Health Department systematic approach to increase early childhood immunization rates.
  • Goshen Public Library strategic planning initiative.

Following a $42 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to form the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network, enFocus has worked in partnership with iNDustry Labs at Notre Dame to assist in driving innovation at local industries. At Smoker Craft in New Paris, enFocus has helped improve production line efficiency with lean manufacturing techniques. At Robert Weed Corp. in Bristol, enFocus helped with data analysis, supplier management and sourcing optimization.

“We’re seeing a level of engagement with the community that is unprecedented.”

– Kristen Smole, Assistant Director of Economic Development, City of Elkhart

The entrepreneurial spirit that created and grew enFocus led to expanding into its own projects. During the pandemic, its fellows helped with the creation of a comprehensive website for Elkhart County residents to help respond to COVID-19. It has also helped with the design of DW Victims Advocacy Center, a nonprofit supporting victims of crime and trauma in Elkhart.

Technically, enFocus is a crew of young consultants who help make the South Bend-Elkhart Region stronger. Some of the 40,000 college or university students who study in the region have opportunities to work on problems or challenges that help build strong resumés. “We get the talent here because there’s cool stuff going on, but the cool stuff has value in itself,” said Andrew Wiand, enFocus executive director who was one of those original seven fellows.

Yet the primary objective of attracting talent means that you hope to keep as much of it as possible. A remarkable number of young people choose to stay in the South Bend-Elkhart Region after their time with enFocus ends. Often, they land a job at a place they were helping as part of enFocus.


Zac Quiett, Business Manager & Transportation Director, Baugo Community Schools

Zac grew up in South Bend and did poorly his first year in college. He left school and worked in the restaurant industry for a long time. He went back to Indiana University South Bend and the National Guard in the early 2010s and graduated in 2016. He then spent two years with enFocus.

Zac wasn’t interested in a job in a cubicle. He had experience as the president of the student veterans group and wanted to give back.

“It wasn’t about a title or position. It was impact and access to making a difference,” he said.

As a fellow, he worked with local school systems, including South Bend and Baugo, which is located in western Elkhart County. At Baugo, he helped the school system join Promise Indiana which starts funds for students in kindergarten to grow money for college.

As his time at enFocus was winding down, he had an offer from local industry. Former Baugo Superintendent Jim DuBois asked him to fill an administrative opening as business and transportation manager. He said yes to the school system and continues in that role. He is now also in the Executive Master of Business Administration program at the University of Notre Dame.

He loves how enFocus is reversing the brain drain. “It retains smart people and they do a very good job infusing those people into the cities, the communities that they work in, and they give freedom to operate in that space,” he said.

EydisEydis Lima, Co-founder, Curiva

Eydis had an idea and plans to move to one of the country’s tech hubs.

As a student at Yale University, she was researching ovarian cancer and saw a potential solution to help women.

After graduation, she came to study in the ESTEEM master’s program at Notre Dame, and was able to build on a concept of creating a diagnostic patch for the detection of high-risk stage cervical cancer called diaPatch. At Notre Dame, she continued to make progress through coaching and mentoring available there and eventually teamed up with cofounder Tracie McGinnity.

After graduating with a master’s in engineering science in May 2018, she was headed to Austin, Texas to work on the startup, but enFocus gave her some income and time to work on her side project as she was still a fellow in the program. She had time to navigate Austin and Silicon Valley as she worked on a business plan.

What Eydis learned through that experience, including working at Goshen Health, is that she wants to be in the Midwest, particularly this region, as she pursues launching her startup.

“enFocus really gave me the resources to learn the consulting mode of business,” she said. “It helps in that capacity in giving some freedom and things, such as IDEA Week, connecting people in the region, particularly in manufacturing space.”

KristenKristen Smole, Assistant Director of Economic Development, City of Elkhart

Kristen was not planning to stay in northern Indiana.

She graduated from Concord High School in 2009 and went to Purdue University to become a veterinarian. After studying political science and public policy, she not only ended up with several degrees, but also on a path toward working with people rather than animals.

enFocus interns visit Janus Motorcycles in Goshen as they engage with the community.

She was home visiting family in the fall of 2019 as she applied for jobs. People kept telling her about enFocus, which had already begun its fellowship year. She explored it and wasn’t sure it would be a good fit, but put off moving to Chicago for a year. She joined enFocus for nearly a year as an intern and then signed on to become a project manager, overseeing four other fellows. She loved that work and the people with whom she worked. “I was planning on staying at enFocus until they were going to get rid of me,” she said.

A role opened in the City of Elkhart and the young woman who had always said “absolutely not” to living in Elkhart County was soon taking a role with the city and evangelizing for it.

“I think the city of Elkhart right now is at a point of transition that is exciting,” she said, noting that the city looks different and feels more vibrant. “The personality of Elkhart is the same, but now we’re reflecting that vibrancy. We’re seeing a level of engagement with the community that is unprecedented.”

Retaining talent is part of the reason the unemployment rate is low and the quality of life here is rivaling other larger cities. She knows that enFocus is part of the reason she is here and making an impact for others.

“enFocus is more important than the region even realizes,” she said.

Students visit the new BizTown in Elkhart.

Biztown Inspiring Young People

It’s never too early for kids to learn about economics and how to contribute to the community in which they live. Entrepreneur Amish Shah had a vision for a vibrant environment, based on the thriving Elkhart he experienced as a kid, where kids could build business and entrepreneurship skills. What began as a curriculum and platform for students to sell lemonade has become a miniature “business city” where fifth- and sixth-grade students receive hands-on knowledge of business operations, financial wellbeing, and commitment to the Elkhart County community.

It’s pretty easy for Amish Shah to point to the milestones that line the road to JA BizTown®.

The Elkhart entrepreneur remembers when his father, Satish, would drop him off at Junior Achievement on Saturdays. As his father worked across the street at AccraPac, Amish caught the business bug at JA. He made a device that could crush the cans that piled up at his father’s factory and soon was riding his bicycle and knocking on doors to collect more orders.

“Somebody’s got to do something… So I just envisioned what if we build a center for youth entrepreneurship.”

—Amish Shah, Founder and CEO of Kem Krest

After graduating from college, someone asked Amish to teach for Junior Achievement, an organization that educates students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. For five years, Amish taught in a seventh-grade classroom at North Side Middle School where he had been a student. “How cool is it that I did JA as a kid and now I’m a young adult and I’m teaching JA in this classroom with my previous teacher Mr. Toth,” he says.

As Amish was talking with students who were feeling the impact of the Great Recession on their families, he realized that he wanted these students to experience the thriving Elkhart that he had experienced when he was a youngster. He surveyed the programs available and saw a need for a vibrant environment where students could learn economics and how to contribute to the community in which they live.

“It was just stuck in my mind, asking what we can do. Somebody’s got to do something,” says Amish, founder and CEO of Kem Krest. “So I just envisioned what if we build a center for youth entrepreneurship.”

He wasn’t sure how to do that, but knew it needed a curriculum, programming and structure. In 2013, he learned about a program called Lemonade Day, which encourages young people to sell lemonade to instill business skills. Before long, he launched the program in Elkhart with Jodi Spataro and Stephanie Patka Mahoney.

LEFT: Young people take on community and business roles to learn entrepreneurship and economics. CENTER: Amish Shah, Candy Yoder, Pete McCown and Jessica Hilary mark the opening of BizTown. RIGHT: Participants in the first Taste of Achievement raised money for Junior Achievement and BizTown.

Teachers and parents helped young people get involved in Lemonade Day and learn economics by selling the sweet and tangy products. Amish found the community support for those making and selling lemonade was remarkable. He wanted to do more and Elkhart philanthropist and leader Craig Fulmer urged him on. Soon, Junior Achievement, which had ceased operating in Elkhart for a time, was up and running again. JA, fueled by Lemonade Day and the strong operating organization Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana based in Fort Wayne, was ready to grow.

After several years of planning and coordination with a range of others, Amish was ready to build a JA BizTown in Elkhart, modeled after one in Fort Wayne. The miniature city, constructed inside a building, has storefronts representing actual businesses and organizations in the community. It took time for staff, funding and planning to come together, but JA BizTown opened in 2022.

Soon students were taking on roles as CEOs, accountants and bankers. They were producing goods and services and paying for them. They were doing hands-on economics in a setting modeled after their own community. There’s even a spot for young people to donate to nonprofits via the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.

Approximately 700 students came to JA BizTown as the school year was ending in spring 2022. The program targeting fifth-graders and sixth-graders is part of the local ecosystem to teach entrepreneurship, financial well-being and commitment to this community. The hope for the future is that people will point to their experiences participating in Junior Achievement and JA BizTown as milestones on their own professional journeys.

The Community Foundation has committed $750,000 to JA BizTown and given $500,000 so far. Junior Achievement continues to raise funds and the Community Foundation continues to support the fundraising efforts.

If you would like to donate please email Jessica Hilary at [email protected]or call (574) 320-6222. 

Investing in Change

Early Childhood Initiative Seeks to Prepare Children and Families for Success

An investment in our children is an investment in the future. The Community Foundation of Elkhart County, the Horizon Education Alliance, The SOURCE, and Crossroads United Way are addressing how to ensure Elkhart community kids entering kindergarten are poised to reach their full potential. By listening to parents in the community, the initiative seeks to improve how its children succeed, starting with maternal and child health, family and caregiver support, and high-quality childcare and learning environments.

Getting children ready to learn and succeed is the goal of an early childhood initiative in Elkhart County.

The village has been working to raise a child, so to speak, for a long time, and the Elkhart County village is upgrading its approach.

A new initiative, led by the Community Foundation with Horizon Education Alliance, The SOURCE, and Crossroads United Way will address ways to help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to reach their full potential. The initiative will focus on a systems-level approach, considering how the various existing programs and services contribute to success and where opportunities for improvement exist.

“This is a long game, with a 10-year investment or longer.  I think this is our best opportunity to transform our village.”

– Candy Yoder, Chief Program Officer, Community Foundation

Candy Yoder, chief program officer for the Community Foundation, has spent her entire career focused on the well-being of children. Others in the community have also done great work on that front. “It’s really clear there are many professionals with long history and experience who are committed to this work,” she says. “There is a great deal of interest. It’s time now to consider how the entire system can be improved.”

The Community Foundation has had an abiding interest in kids and families as an area of focus; community listening sessions consistently raise this as a top priority for the community. When areas of emphasis were approved by the board in 2020, early childhood development and education was selected for the Kids and Families Committee. Historically most grant funding has been awarded for singular programs and projects. This new initiative will identify a more collective and systemic approach for grant investments.

In September 2021, those leading the initiative started meeting with Tamarack Institute, which leads systems-level work in Canada to fight poverty. The tools and processes from that work can be applied to this area in Elkhart County.

Over the last number of months, more than 50 parents have come to listening sessions to help leaders better understand the challenges they face in raising children.

In May, at a quarterly meeting for the Elkhart County Child Dashboard, practitioners learned about the initiative and three action teams quickly formed at that meeting. Those groups have been meeting this summer to discuss:

  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Support for Young Families
  • High-Quality Childcare & Learning Environments

In support of these initiatives, a larger community gathering is being planned for this autumn to equip community partners as they work together. The event will include reports from the three actions with prioritized opportunities identified. The featured speaker will be Dr. Dana Suskind, a professor of surgery and pediatrics and author who has researched the neuroscience of early child development.

The Community Foundation’s Kids & Families Committee overseeing its Community Investment Grants in that space is in the process of reprioritizing its funding to support these system changes.

The “theory of change” that undergirds this work is that if a system results in children and mothers having positive health outcomes, having access to safe and stimulating environments, and families having access to the things they need to support children’s positive development, then the community’s children will enter kindergarten poised for success.

Yoder believes this is a great opportunity for the community to improve how its children succeed. “I’m very hopeful and excited,” she says. “This is a long game, with a 10-year investment or longer. I think this is our best opportunity to transform our village.”

The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is one of Elkhart County’s trails to become part of a network.

Connect in Elkhart County Leading Efforts

Connect in Elkhart County is paving the way to create a 130-mile trail network. The goal is to connect many key county communities with trails that provide safe and separate travel from roadways. Whether creating new paths or connecting existing trails, the trail system will help get community members and visitors to Elkhart County moving.

Elkhart County is great at making things to move people.

Thousands of recreational vehicles, boats and even motorcycles come together here so that people can travel with them.

Within the county, visionaries saw the possibilities in the abandoned, Pumpkin Vine Railroad corridor and a rutted path along a Goshen canal to create some of the first and best paths in Indiana.

New trails have emerged over the years, but now it’s time to create a world-class trail system in a community known for how it helps people get moving.

The Community Foundation’s Placemaking Committee is one of three groups of volunteers who award Community Investment Grants to make our community stronger. The Placemaking Committee’s goal is to improve the quality of place in Elkhart County by working with community partners to invest in our backyard. Several years ago, each granting committee narrowed its focus down to two significant priorities to concentrate efforts on making a more considerable impact in Elkhart County. The Placemaking Committee chose vibrant downtowns and parks and trails as priority areas.

The committee members quickly realized how much we have to learn about parks and trails when we started gathering the various transportation and parks plans. There have been 20 of them involving 19 organizations since 2010. Hundreds of people in our community have been engaged in those conversations and efforts.

The Community Foundation partnered with YARD & Co., an urban growth firm, to help guide our exploration of these relevant plans. In the year working with the foundation and community stakeholders, YARD & Co. produced an implementation guide. With this guide the community can develop and execute a comprehensive mobility plan for Elkhart County.

Committed partners and agencies built trails that help Elkhart County residents and tourist move across our community. Additional trail-making in this community of manufacturing industry trailblazers will require bringing more entities together and connecting the efforts.

We are on our way. Brittany Short agreed to join the effort as the project director. Brittany brings a wealth of experience to this role. Since 2011, she and her husband Spencer have owned and operated Pumpkinvine Cyclery in Middlebury.

And in 2020, Brittany stepped up as the president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine board, the nonprofit entity that has overseen the development of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail and the move toward completion.

As a community, we can learn from the decades of work it took to craft the Pumpkinvine. Elkhart is building up its riverfront and the River District. Nappanee and Wakarusa are working on a trail connection. Middlebury is adding trails in addition to the Pumpkinvine.

So far, Elkhart County has 68 miles of bike lanes and trails. We aspire to be like other communities with more trails. Some involved in this effort have visited Greenville, South Carolina, where trails create a bike-friendly community. 

We believe we can build a 130-mile network connecting many of the key communities with trails that provide safe and separate travel from roadways. In Elkhart County, the Community Foundation hopes to leverage several million dollars of funds with other government and private sources to build this network. 

Connect in Elkhart County is an outgrowth of Vibrant Communities, an effort the Community Foundation helped fund with the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau to identify the projects that would enhance residents’ quality of life. “You can’t successfully argue quality of life doesn’t affect your community,” said Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman.

Stutsman and other local political leaders gathered in May to discuss involvement in Connect in Elkhart County. A meeting with planning staff members from the county, cities and towns followed in July. A public launch is being planned for this fall.

“Some of the pieces are in place,” said Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins. “This effort will provide the overall vision. How do we all work together to make this happen?”

“If we are going to connect, now’s the time,” said Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson.



The Community Foundation of Elkhart County supports organizations, nonprofits, and initiatives in Elkhart County through a series of grant programs. We help our grant recipients achieve the most significant possible impact through funding that fuels the betterment of the communities and people within Elkhart County. The foundation awarded over 100 grants in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Here is this year’s list:

Bashor Home
Day Reporting Program
Baugo Community Schools
Jimtown Community Center
Big Brothers Big Sisters Southern Lake Michigan Region
Elkhart County Mentor Recruitment
Bushelcraft Farm Corporation
Farm-Based Internships
C.a.r.e. University
Operational Support
Concord Community Schools
Strategic Planning to Support Students Success
E3 Robotics Center
CNC Equipment
Elkhart Education Foundation
Summerscape Field Trips
Talent Attraction and Civic Innovation
Elkhart Center for Entrepreneurship
Research: Social Service Labor Shortage
Operational Support
Operational Support
Fischoff National Chamber Music
Arts-in-Education Residency
Five Star Life
Summer Program
Goshen Theater
Summer Drama Camp
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce
Business Diversity Initiative
Horizon Education Alliance
Operational Support
Horizon Education Alliance
Gallup Student Engagement Poll
Horizon Education Alliance
Counseling Event
Indiana Black Expo – Elkhart Chapter
Indiana University Education Conference
Indiana Black Expo – Elkhart Chapter
Trail Blazer Awards
Indiana Black Expo – Elkhart Chapter
Black Women Expo
Construction Program Tool Replacement
Summer Camp
South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership
Startup South Bend – Elkhart, Year 3 of 3
Stable Grounds
Capital Campaign
The Crossing
Satellite Programs
Tolson Center
Project Fund, Year 2 of 2
Simple Interactions Development Project
university of notre dame
Center for Civic Innovation Internships, Year 2 of 2
Education Counts – Michiana
Youth Service Bureau of St Joseph County
Capital Campaign

Trauma Responsive Care Training
Agape Ministry
Backpack Giveaway
American National Red Cross
Home Fire Campaign 1:1 Challenge*
Blessed Beginnings Care Center
Campus Center for Young Children
Music Together
Center for Community Justice
Operational Support
Center for Community Justice
Community Conversations 1:1 Challenge*
Center for Healing and Hope
Capital Campaign
Child and Parent Services
Healthy Families
Child and Parent Services
CEO Search
Child and Parent Services
Primary Prevention Expansion, Year 2 of 3
Community Health Clinic
Capital Campaign
Cornerstone Christian Montessori School
Building Repairs
Elkhart Community Schools
Parent Connection Expo
Elkhart County Clubhouse
Crisis Intervention Team Training
Elkhart County Clubhouse
Lexington House – A Clubhouse for Elkhart, Year 2 of 3
Child Immunization Project ECHD
Family Christian Development Center
Exterior Building Upgrades
Girls on the Run Michiana
Operational Support
GiveHear aka HearCare Connection
Goshen Hearing Healthcare Clinic
Goshen College
ECoSistema Music Program, Year 1 of 3
Goshen Public Library
Latinx and Hispanic Outreach
Greencroft Communities Foundation
Capital Campaign
Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry
Operational Support
Horizon Education Alliance
Operational Support
Horizon Education Alliance
Early Childhood Initiative Support
Hubbard Hill Estates
Early Learning Capital Campaign
Joe’s Kids Inc.
Elkhart County Fundraising 1:1 Challenge*
THRIVE Initiative
Roosevelt Center Gym Improvements
Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition
Thank You Brunch
Data Action Mini Grant
Pathways Retreat
Strategic Planning
Ribbon of Hope
Capital Campaign
Ronald McDonald House of Michiana
Elkhart County Fundraising 1:1 Challenge*
Ryan’s Place
Capital Campaign
Ryan’s Place
Professional Development
Tolson Center
Project Fund, Year 3 of 3
Women’s Care Center
Operational Support
TOTAL $2,390,630

*Challenge grants awarded, full funding is dependent on the organization’s fulfillment of the challenge.

Memberships and Sponsorships$266,727
Acts of Service
Program Support
Case Western Reserve University
Elkhart Community Engagement
Elkhart Community Schools
Priority Audit
Institute for Entrepreneurial Communities
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce
Business Diversity Initiative
Habitat for Humanity
Pre-Capital Campaign Planning Support
Latinos Pro Education
Hispanic Heritage Celebration Sponsor
South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership
Operational Support
Susanna’s Kitchen
Relocation Expenses
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Elkhart Black History Project
City of Elkhart
Riverwalk Grand Prix
Connect in Elkhart County
Project Director
Downtown Goshen
First Fridays
Elkhart Civic Theater
Summer Serenade Series
Elkhart Civic Theater
Seasonal Support
Elkhart County 4-H Fair
Heritage Park Annex
Elkhart County 4-H Fair
4-H Fair
Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Epic Art on the Heritage Trail
Elkhart County Historical Society
History Leadership Institute
Elkhart County Symphony
Operational Support
Elkhart Environmental Center
Elkhart Festivals
Jazz Festival
City of Elkhart Parks Passport Pilot
Friends of the Lerner
Endowment Initiative
Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail
Completing the Pumpkinvine 1:1 Challenge*
Goshen Art House
Seasonal Support
Goshen Arts and Events
Arts on the Millrace
Goshen College
Music Center Seasonal Support
Goshen Farmer’s Market
Share the Bounty
Goshen Historical Society
Strategic Planning
Goshen Hospital
Capital Campaign
Goshen Theater
Seasonal Support
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce
2nd Floor Furnace
Habitat for Humanity
Capital Campaign
Hall of Heroes
2022 Comic Con
Hall of Heroes
2021 Comic Con
Indiana Black Expo – Elkhart Chapter
Soul Music & Jazz on the Green
Middlebury Chamber of Commerce
Summer & Fall Festivals
Middlebury Then and Now
Seasonal Support
Midwest Museum of American Art
Seasonal Support
Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce
Apple Festival
Nappanee Arts Council
Tunnel of Love
Premier Arts
Art Walk
Premier Arts
Seasonal Support
Pathways and Trails Initiative
Ruthmere Foundation
Seasonal Support
Town of Wakarusa
Memorial Park Splash Pad
Town of Bristol
Riverwalk Engineering Study
Town of Middlebury
River Mill Trail Project
Visit Nappanee
Visit Nappanee Events 1:1 Challenge*
Wakarusa Maple Syrup Heritage
Maple Syrup Festival
Wellfield Botanic Gardens
Welcome Center
Wellfield Botanic Gardens
Seasonal Support
25% Matching Grant


Though the year presented a range of financial challenges, we are pleased to report that the Community Foundation of Elkhart County had a good year. The Community Foundation received a total of $41 million in gifts in the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 and because of past giving and investment, we were able to give $33 million in grants.

We are committed to stewarding the community’s assets even during challenging times. Thank you for your generous gifts of time and resources to help us tend the community’s assets.

Your Community Foundation at a Glance







Assets by Year

In Millions

No Data Found

Assets by Fund Type

$393m Total Assets

No Data Found

Grants by Year

In Millions

No Data Found

Grants by Fund Type

$33m Total Grants

No Data Found

Fund for Elkhart County

$9m Total Grants

No Data Found