Community Foundation of Elkhart County receives $2 million Lilly Endowment Inc. grant

December 7, 2020

Contact Information: Pete McCown, President, Community Foundation of Elkhart County, (574) 295-8761, Pete@InspiringGood.org

ELKHART — Community Foundation of Elkhart County has received a Large-Scale Community Leadership Grant of $2 million through the seventh phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative. The grant will support efforts to construct and operate a new Tolson Center for Community Excellence in Elkhart.

Community Foundation of Elkhart County is one of 11 community foundations in Indiana to receive a Large-Scale Leadership Grant as part of a competitive component of the GIFT VII initiative. Through GIFT VII, Lilly Endowment encouraged Indiana’s community foundations to deepen their understanding of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing their local communities, prioritize them and develop plans to address the challenges and opportunities. The Large-Scale Leadership Grants are in addition to non-competitive GIFT VII Community Leadership Grants that Lilly Endowment made earlier this year to 87 of Indiana’s community foundations. Community Foundation of Elkhart County received a $200,000 leadership grant in September.

Since the summer of 2018, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County has helped convene conversations about the future of Tolson Center, which the Elkhart City Council voted to close. With the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation gathered individuals and organizations focused on how the center could better serve the community. The vision of that collaborative effort is to use the Tolson Center as a beachhead for a broader collective impact effort in this neighborhood south of downtown.

“We are so pleased that Lilly Endowment again entrusted us with its generosity as we work on this project to inspire good in our community,” said Pete McCown, Community Foundation president. “This is an affirmation of the broad community effort underway and will help us achieve our goal of a new Tolson Center for Community Excellence more quickly and also inspire others to give.”

A new 15-member Tolson board first gathered in summer 2020 and is working toward creating a new organization that is a public/private partnership to operate Tolson Center for Community Excellence. That group is raising money and planning construction of the $11.5 million project. The Lilly grant brings the total gifts and pledges so far to $10.7 million, including $5 million from the City of Elkhart, $2 million from the Community Foundation and $1.7 million from local philanthropy.

“The 11 grants Lilly Endowment is funding through the highly-competitive component of GIFT VII hold great promise of helping community foundations strengthen the leadership roles they play in improving the quality of life for their communities’ residents” said Ronni Kloth, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development. “We are truly impressed by the collaborative projects these community foundations have developed to address the compelling needs they have prioritized and look forward to seeing the impact of their efforts in the years to come.”

Community Foundation of Elkhart County partners with donors to leverage their philanthropy in ways that transform lives. Since 1989, the Community Foundation has created more and improved pathways by helping generous donors to meet community needs, providing scholarship opportunities to local students, and making grants to nonprofit organizations working to improve Elkhart County. The Community Foundation strives to be a local entity known for inspiring good and impacting success.

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.