From the Community Foundation’s Program Team

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Dear friends,

Candy Yoder

In the field of grantmaking, a range of models is used to meet the goals of funders and the community. Our community foundation has traditionally been a responsive grantmaker and funded projects local partners presented to us. As the Community Foundation of Elkhart County identifies priority areas for funding, an initiative approach is warranted, where dollars plus leadership are needed.

The connected network of trails called Connect in Elkhart County is the first such initiative, where a steering team is overseeing the planning and execution of a master plan adopted by community stakeholders. Brittany Short has been hired to ensure execution of the plan; she is employed by and housed at the Community Foundation.

A second initiative is taking shape in the early childhood space, the area of emphasis identified by the Kids and Families Committee. A group of community leaders and stakeholder have reviewed community data, interviewed parents and stakeholders, and identified strategies for initial actions. Building Strong Brains – Elkhart County’s Early Childhood Initiative will be launched November 1 at an event featuring Dr. Dana Suskind as well as a report on the emerging strategies. I believe this effort over the coming decade or more can transform our community and I’m excited about what is emerging.

If your organization impacts either pathways & trails or early childhood development, we welcome your engagement in these efforts. These are owned by the community, for the benefit of the community. Our role at the Community Foundation is to join others in leading and stewarding the work.

Thank you for all that your organization does to improve the quality of life in Elkhart County – across the full spectrum of community life.


Candy Yoder, Chief Program Officer


The Community Foundation’s board approved $2.7 million in grants at its October meeting. The grants included:

  • Placemaking grants totaling $599,500

  • Kids and Families grants totaling $769,330

  • Career Pathways grants totaling $884,545


We loved being with our local nonprofit CEOs at the annual retreat at Oakwood Resort in late August. We learned from Darrell “Flash” Gordon about leadership and were vulnerable with each other in sessions led by Julie Cotton and Ritch Hostetler.

Since then, we’ve had a handful of other amazing events and have more to come. The Learning Center is focused on helping nonprofits in our community access training and professional development.

Our next event is November 9. We have more than 70 people signed up and the event is full at this time.

In January, Bill Stanczykiewicz will lead a two-day workshop on fundraising from foundations and how to manage grants.

Kevin Deary is joining the Community Foundation

KevinAs many of you know, Kevin Deary is retiring from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County on December 31. His career of helping kids has spanned nearly 40 years and his work has helped change the lives of so many young people in our community. 

We are thrilled that Kevin will be joining the Community Foundation family after taking a few months of sabbatical after his role of president/CEO ends. In April, Kevin will be the Director of Professional & Organizational Development for the Community Foundation.

That means that he’ll oversee The Learning Center and other ways the Community Foundation offers non-monetary support to the nonprofit community. He’ll be available as a coach, mentor and sounding board. He’ll be able to steer people to other coaches and work with nonprofit leaders and staff to help them grow. This will be a huge benefit to our community as well and we can’t wait for Kevin to join us.

Building Strong Brains launch

Building Strong BrainsIn Elkhart County, only 42 percent of children demonstrate all of the skills ready to succeed in kindergarten on day one.

Raising that percentage will require collaboration to improve the system supporting the more than 18,000 children under age 6 and the families who raise them in our community.

In 2020, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County committed to focusing on improving early childhood development and education. Members of the Kids & Families Committee and board agreed to not only fund this area, but do so in a broader more systemic way than simply responding to grant requests.

A group of partner agencies has come together to work collaboratively: 

  • Community Foundation of Elkhart County
  • Horizon Education Alliance
  • The Source, hosted by Oaklawn
  • Child and Parent Services
  • Crossroads United Way

Since May, teams have been meeting to work on three key issues facing Elkhart County: health of mothers and children, support for young families, and high-quality childcare and learning environments. The findings of those focus groups will be presented at the November 1 event. Also at that event, Dr. Dana Suskind, a pediatric surgeon, social scientist, and leading authority on the role parents and caregivers play in promoting children’s healthy brain development, will help or community understand how to better support children and those who raise them.

We hope to see you!

Connect in Elkhart County

Connect in Elkhart County is rolling along.

This initiative based out of the Community Foundation seeks to grow Elkhart County’s trail network from 68 miles to 130 miles in the next 10 years.

It’s a big goal and we’re excited about the progress over the last 16 months since we started intensively working to make this happen.

Six months ago, Brittany Short joined the Community Foundation as the project coordinator for this effort. In recent months, she’s worked with others here at the foundation to gather local, municipal leaders for conversation and planning and then gathering planners and engineers to do the same. We need to collaborate to knit together and grow our existing trails, as well as add new ones.

We’ve also conducted a number of public events to help get people excited about using trails for biking, walking and running. Elkhart had a successful Bike to Work Day. A Pedal Party engaged people from Nappanee and Wakarusa. The Ridge Run and Roll gathered people in Middlebury (shown in the photo above) for a 5-kilometer bike ride and run. 

Download a PDF version of this newsletter here.