Community Foundation of Elkhart County receives Lilly Endowment Inc. grant

Money will help plan for new Tolson Center & Park


October 5, 2020

ELKHART, Indiana — Community Foundation of Elkhart County has received a Community Leadership Grant of $200,000 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 continue planning for a new and improved Tolson Center & Park.


Community Foundation of Elkhart County is one of 84 foundations in Indiana receiving grants through this round of GIFT VII grantmaking. 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.
“Our work in Elkhart County is str

engthened by the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc. We are deeply grateful for their support as we work with the new Tolson board to envision and rebuild this valuable community center in Elkhart,” stated Pete McCown, President of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.


As part of GIFT VII, Community Foundation of Elkhart County was awarded a planning grant of $100,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assess opportunities and challenges in Elkhart County. In March 2020, the Community Foundation was invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period.


“The initial grant helped us take time to learn and listen to what the community wanted from this neighborhood center,” said Candy Yoder, Chief Program Officer for the Community Foundation and a new board member for the Tolson group. “We were able to both hire experts and create spaces where the community could offer feedback.”


The planning process resulted in a collaboration between the City of Elkhart, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce to proceed with an $11-million project to rebuild the center and add additional amenities and recreation features on the surrounding property. The new grant will help as planning for construction continues.


“The new Tolson will serve the community in larger and more expansive ways for decades to come. Generous donors are stepping forward, along with the Community Foundation and City of Elkhart, to fund the vital project,” said McCown.


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 developmenteducation 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.