Leadership Jackson County celebrating 40 years during upcoming fundraiser

In late summer 1982, Leadership Greater Seymour was created to help participants become more involved in local decision-making.

Monthly seminars were held on the third Thursday of the month with a focus on community awareness and development and use of leadership skills.

Among the topics included were heritage, culture and history of Seymour and Jackson County; state, county and local government; education and human services; commerce and industry; leadership styles and strategy; group dynamics; community development; leadership in action; placements; networks; and internships.

Those in the program had an opportunity to serve an internship on a community board and work on a creative project that would benefit the greater Seymour area.

“This is a great opportunity for Seymour residents to sharpen their leadership skills and become more involved in the community,” said Jim Carter, president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce board of directors at the time.

The program was sponsored by Lilly Endowment Inc. and Cummins Foundation in addition to local support and was administered through the chamber and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

In the fall of 1984, the program’s name changed to Leadership Jackson County because it continued to include people from all over the county.

Later on, it became a nonprofit organization, and the classes started dividing into teams to complete a project on a certain topic, including community growth and awareness, social concerns, youth, history, health and more.

LJC is still going strong today and is celebrating its 40th year of existence by inviting the more than 800 alumni to attend an upcoming celebration and fundraiser.

With the theme of “Celebrate our past, look to our future,” the event is set to start at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at Pewter Hall, 850 W. Sweet St., Brownstown. It will include dinner, a cash bar, information about LJC and its youth program, YoJack, a presentation on projects over the years that are still in existence today, recognition of all 40 classes and a dessert auction.

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the Jackson County Chamber, 105 S. Chestnut St., Seymour, or online at eventbrite.com. They are only available in advance.

The dessert auction will be a fundraiser, so attendees should bring cash.

“I am excited for the event to be able to see all the people I have met through LJC, get some great desserts and support an amazing program all at the same time,” said Kate Garrity, a member of the committee organizing the celebration and fundraiser.

Garrity is putting together the presentation on projects over the years. She’s executive director of Child Care Network, which for years organized Kids Fest. That started as an LJC project but has been canceled in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am excited to be able to bring Kids Fest and Touch-a-Truck back in 2023,” she said.

Touch-a-Truck was her group’s project when she was in the LJC class in 2016-17. That allows kids to get up close to various vehicles, such as a firetruck, a police car, a snowplow and more, at Kids Fest.

“Sometimes, the only interaction children have with these sorts of vehicles is in an emergency, which is very scary,” Garrity said. “This allows children to learn what the trucks do, interact with the people driving them and hopefully grow more comfortable with them so that an emergency situation might not be quite as scary.”

These are just two examples of projects that have made an impact in Jackson County thanks to LJC.

The program makes an impact on the participants, too.

“When I participated in Leadership, I was only a year into my position,” Garrity said. “LJC allowed me to meet and get to know a variety of people that I would most likely not have normally crossed paths with. LJC also allowed me to learn about other aspects of Jackson County that I would not have known otherwise with being new to the area at that time.”

She said she still uses those connections today.

“Child Care Network has benefited from staff members participating each year in the class as well as adding quality members to its board of directors,” she said.

Deb Schwartz also is on the 40-year celebration and fundraiser committee. When she was in the LJC program in 2000-01, she had the perspective of not being born or raised in Jackson County.

“I knew very little history, the needs of our community or what our community had to offer my family and me,” she said. “Being in LJC allowed me to learn about my county, its needs and programs offered here.”

Both Garrity and Schwartz said it’s great to see LJC still going strong after 40 years.

“I think Leadership is still going strong because it brings people together from all walks of life,” Garrity said. “There isn’t one group of people that participate, so in turn, the entire county benefits and sees its value.”

Schwartz said LJC has had great directors who love their county and give back to their community, and most of the people who have graduated made an effort to get involved in the community by donating their time, money or resources.

“Many past graduates now are board members, leaders in the community and are still involved,” she said.

Marge Klinck was the program’s first director. She was followed by Ann Windley from 1994 to 2005. Then Susie Gleyze-Thomas came on as co-director before becoming executive director in 2007. Terrye Davidson was executive director from 2011 to 2020, and then Rexanne Ude took over and still is in that role today.

The YoJack youth leadership program started in 2000 and now is for eighth-graders with fall and spring sessions. The director is Karen Haas.

If you go 

What: Leadership Jackson County 40-year celebration and fundraiser

When: 6 p.m. Sept. 22

Where: Pewter Hall, 850 W. Sweet St., Brownstown

Who: All alumni, directors and supporters over the years are invited

Cost: $20 (available in advance only online at eventbrite.com/e/leadership-jackson-county-40-year-celebration-tickets-376253814287 or at the Jackson County Chamber, 105 S. Chestnut St., Seymour); bring cash for the dessert auction

Details: During dinner, there will be speakers, an introduction of current and former directors, recognition of all 40 classes and information about class projects over the years. A dessert auction fundraiser to benefit LJC will follow.

Information: Like facebook.com/leadershipjacksoncountyyojack

Support the program 

To commemorate Leadership Jackson County’s 40th year, a program is being produced for the upcoming celebration and fundraiser to showcase community sponsors and longtime supporters.

There are opportunities for sponsorship and ad purchases. Individuals, couples, families, classes, businesses, industries, organizations and anyone else interested may call 812-595-9162 or email [email protected]. The deadline to be part of the event program is Friday.