Community Foundation of Jackson County receives $100,000 grant

A $100,000 Lilly Endowment Inc. Community Leadership Grant will help the Community Foundation of Jackson County fund work aimed at lifting 1,000 struggling area families out of poverty and into economic stability.

People like Brooke Goeken of Seymour, a mother of three struggling to make ends meet while living in poverty.

Three years ago, she turned to the Coaching for Success program at Human Services Inc., an initiative supported with Impact Grant dollars from the foundation and grants from the Jackson County United Way.

With the program’s support, Goeken found a stable manufacturing job, learned new life skills and gained confidence.

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“Now, I have permanent housing, I’m financially stable and I have resources in the community if I should need it,” she said. “Without the financial support from the Coaching for Success program, I don’t think I would have been as successful taking that bridge from poverty to financial stability.”

Goeken’s story — and sobering, daunting statistics about poverty in the community — fueled the drive to seek the Lilly Endowment grant, said Dan Davis, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.

Lilly Endowment awarded the grant through the seventh phase of its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow initiative. It is part of $10.65 million granted to community foundations across the Hoosier State through its GIFT VII program.

The grants are designed to help community foundations address an array of local priorities, from improving early childhood education and secondary and postsecondary educational attainment to strengthening economic and workforce development efforts, transportation plans and health outcomes.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County, in collaboration with Human Services Inc. and Jackson County United Way, aims to help lift 1,000 struggling families who are in or on the cusp of poverty out of those circumstances over the next 10 years, making them — and our community — more financially secure and stable, Davis said.

“We know this is a big goal,” he said.  “Achieving it won’t be easy. It won’t be simple, but it is a bold goal worth tackling — a bold goal we must reach.”

The Lilly Endowment grant, along with $30,000 in Impact Grants from the foundation, will fund a three-year expansion of the Coaching for Success program starting in January 2021. It also will provide funding for support efforts from Jackson County United Way, Waymaker Ministries and Anchor House.

The Coaching for Success program moves people forward to a better quality of life using a holistic approach to break the cycle of poverty. Focusing on income, education and housing allows participants to build the necessary skills in order to become independent.

“Identifying the root cause of participant barriers is key,” said Donna Taylor, executive director of Human Services Inc. “By focusing on and eliminating barriers, the participant has the ability to now move forward, leaving poverty behind. As you can imagine, this is no small task and first and foremost requires the effort of the participant along with support from their coach and the entire community support team. Together, we are turning lives around.”

Indiana United Way’s report on Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, or ALICE Report, released in 2018 and updated this spring states that 15% of Jackson County’s population of 43,938 lives in poverty. It also reveals we have a larger population — 24% — who work hard but do not make ends meet, which means 39% of the county’s population lives below the financial stability threshold.

“Those 17,000-plus folks are who we want to help lift up,” Davis said.

The ALICE Report helped shape a series of community conversations conducted by the United Way in collaboration with other partners, including the foundation, United Way Executive Director Tonja Couch said.

“This is an important partnership,” Couch said. “As United Way has focused its attention on moving 1,000 households from financial struggles to stability, it will take the whole community to realize the challenges and barriers these families face. The poverty simulations help provide context and an experience to help others gain empathy for those working hard and falling short.”

The ALICE findings also led the foundation — in cooperation with community partners such as Cummins Inc., Schneck Medical Center, Purdue Extension Jackson County and United Way — to fund two poverty simulations in the community during 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of two more planned this year, but the foundation and United Way hope to see them rescheduled in 2021.

“Our project focuses on the strategic initiatives of the United Way where the foundation believes it can be most impactful with our financial resources and leadership attention, helping Human Services Inc. expand its Coaching for Success program, which provides one-on-one mentoring,” Davis said.

This work fits into two strategic goals: Enhancing educational supports with career readiness and upskilling and supporting and stabilizing family income.

Through Coaching for Success, mentors work with those at or near poverty by moving people forward to a better way of life with the idea of preventing successive generations from entering the cycle of poverty. Efforts are made to build the skills needed so participants may grow in their own abilities to become independent.

Lilly Endowment awarded 84 GIFT Community Leadership Grants for the benefit of counties throughout Indiana.

“We are impressed by the ways in which foundation leaders engaged with their neighbors to explore the most important challenges and opportunities facing their communities,” said Ronni Kloth, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development. “These proposals reflect strategic vision, collaboration and solid planning that can help residents work together for lasting change.”

The foundation is excited about this grant opportunity made possible by Lilly Endowment, said Andy Royalty, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors.

“The Community Foundation of Jackson County is committed to helping people like Brooke move out of poverty, not just for themselves but also for their children and grandchildren,” Royalty said. “Doing so also lifts up and improves our community.”

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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 Lilly Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company with a distinct governing board, staff and location.

In keeping with the founders’ wishes, Lilly Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. It 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.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County was established in 1992. It made its first grants in 1994 and has since funded more than $7 million in grants and scholarships. The foundation administers 217 funds and oversees more than $15 million in assets.

For information about how to make a gift to the foundation or to start a fund, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected]. The foundation’s office is at 107 Community Drive, Seymour. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 1231, Seymour, IN 47274, or made online at and clicking on the "Donate now" button.