Dekko Foundation provides support for community learning center

The Dekko Foundation announces a funding plan has been established to help move forward the community learning center in Kendallville, a collaborative project to provide educational opportunities to residents of all ages.

The foundation, which promotes economic freedom through education, is among a group of local organizations that for the past several months have been working to turn the former East Noble Middle School building into a community center where young people and adults can improve their self-sufficiency and skills.

The center will feature an array of programming designed to meet community members’ needs and spark their own potential through education, skill development, entrepreneurism, artistic expression, wellness offerings, and more.

The future community learning center in Kendallville.

The center and its programs align with the Dekko Foundation board’s desire to invest in programs that build skills, knowledge, and character in young people from birth through 18 that put them on the path to achieving economic freedom as adults. The board believes economic freedom occurs when individuals create value through goods and services that benefit others, which creates economic value for themselves. Economic value leads to choices, and those choices lead to chances.

The more chances individuals enjoy, the more likely they are to fulfill life’s moral mandate of becoming materially self-sufficient. That, in turn, fosters self-esteem and self-worth in individuals, and facilitates their ability to create charitable choices for others.

“The vision for the community learning center fits well with the foundation’s mission,” said Thomas Leedy, president of the Dekko Foundation in Kendallville. “The programs it offers will help community members create value for themselves and others and provide opportunities for them to increase their self-sufficiency. We are excited by this project’s potential to not only build up people, but also build up a neighborhood, a city, and an entire county.”

The foundation’s board has authorized the establishment of an endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Noble County. The fund contains $1 million that will be used to offset a portion of the community learning center’s operating costs or to demolish the building if the project ultimately proves to be unsuccessful.

The board has approved an agreement with the City of Kendallville, which will own the former middle school until it can be transferred to a new nonprofit organization, The Community Learning Center, Inc. Through this agreement, the foundation will provide for the maintenance and upkeep of the building, and cover utility and insurance costs associated with the building until the community learning center becomes operational. No city funds will be used to support the community learning center.

Representatives from more than a dozen Noble County organizations have for the past several months been meeting regularly to devise programs for the community learning center, determine its governing structure, and create a financial model for the center’s sustainability. Programs at the center will fall within the areas of education and skill development, creativity and expression, and health and wellness.

The Dekko Foundation’s board supports the community learning center because of its potential to carry on the legacy of Mr. Chester E. Dekko, who started the foundation in 1981. Mr. Dekko was an entrepreneur and businessman, as well as a generous philanthropist who believed in helping the communities who helped his business become successful. He credited his success to his education and his lifelong love of learning.

The community learning center can help ignite that same lifelong love in others, inspiring them to increase their knowledge and skills and their ability to be self-sufficient and economically free.

“The foundation is pleased the community has embraced this project and its potential to help transform people’s lives,” Leedy said. “We will continue to collaborate with our community partners to create a center where individuals of all ages can come, learn, connect with their interests, and change themselves for the better. When that happens, everyone benefits.”

Our latest conversation starter: Golden

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

It’s here!

Golden, our conversation starter that celebrates young people ages 13 and beyond, is here. This book encapsulates seven time-tested youth development principles that inform our grantmaking and apply to our mission of promoting economic freedom through education.

Golden has been a long time in coming. It’s based on our research and understanding of youth development — in this case the teen years, which is a period of remarkable transformation in a young person’s life. We titled it “Golden” because we believe the teen years are exactly that. Too often, teens are viewed negatively, but we don’t think that should be the case at all. We think teens are promising, brilliant, and VALUABLE. Teens have so much to give to the world.

The principles found in Golden aren’t necessarily new. They’re not groundbreaking or even all that unique. But they are paradigm-shifting in the sense that adults can’t direct a teen’s transformation. They can, however, help prepare caring, supportive environments for teens as they make the journey to adulthood.

The seven principles in Golden are:

  • Mutual respect underlies EVERYTHING.
  • Real really matters.
  • A little sweat builds a lot of equity.
  • Attention and commitment come from within.
  • Patience is faith in action.
  • You need to see it to be it.
  • There is more in us than we know.

For the past several days, we’ve been sharing these principles on our Facebook page. And, of course, there’s much more information in Golden about them. We encourage you to read it yourself and see if it meshes with your own thinking. If you’d like a copy, please email me at brochford@dekkofoundation.org, or you can message us on our Facebook page. You can also read an online version of Golden on our website here.

Golden is the fourth of our child development conversation starters that we’ve produced over the years, the others being our Owner’s Manual for newborns through age 5; Sturdy Stems for young people ages 6-12; and 7 Simple Ideas to Make Your Classroom Bloom! for educators and parents.

We call them “conversation starters” because they’re intended to do just that: begin a dialogue about the great things that happen when adults step back and consider what young people need to grow and develop. But they’re not written in stone. We believe the principles described in them are timeless, but our understanding of them is updated and changed as we learn more — especially as we work with grantseekers who are trying to do what’s best for young people each day.

I stated earlier that the teen years are a period of remarkable transformation. In fact, they’re a lot like a chrysalis — the last stage before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Interestingly enough, the Greek origin of “chrysalis” means “gold.”

Like the caterpillar, teens experience a time of intense, inward-focused development that prepares them to one day step forward in the world with all of their beautiful colors on display.

We hope you enjoy reading Golden and find it valuable in your own work.

Still committed to arts programming

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

We recently notified educators and arts organizations about our decision to end our Art Dekko proactive grantmaking initiative. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a little more about how we came to that decision while also affirming our continued commitment to investing in arts experiences for young people.

First, it should be said that we as a foundation love the arts. Our board and our staff love the arts for their ability to spark creativity, growth and change in young people. That’s why for more than 15 years the Dekko Foundation has invested more than $1.5 million in our grantmaking areas in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Alabama through Art Dekko. On top of that, we’ve invested in other arts-related programs through our responsive grantmaking.

For those who might be unfamiliar with Art Dekko, each year in January we issued a request for proposals to invest in arts-related programming. If you’ve kept tabs on our Facebook page, you’ve seen some of the results of those Art Dekko investments.

As an organization, we, too, should grow, change and get better over time. Our founder, Mr. Chester E. Dekko, would certainly expect us to. So that’s why as we’ve thought about Art Dekko in recent months, we wondered if we could be making an even greater impact through our investments in arts programming. We believe the answer is yes.

What does that look like? When will that happen? To be honest, we’re still working on it. But we’re excited about what the future will bring, and we certainly welcome any feedback you might have.

In the meantime: We still want to invest in arts programming. We continue to welcome arts-related proposals through our responsive grantmaking process. We accept proposals daily, but since our responsive grantmaking is different from our Art Dekko initiative, we hope you’ll keep in mind the following:

  • You will need to complete an application online at dekkofoundation.org/apply-now. Our staff is always available by phone to answer any questions. Once your proposal has been received, someone will come out and meet with you to learn more.
  • Please allow 90 days prior to needing the funds for our staff to learn more about your proposal.
  • Please be prepared to talk about how your proposal will build the skills, knowledge and character young people need to live economically free lives.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 260-347-1278, or email me at brochford@dekkofoundation.org or Kim Davidson at kdavidson@dekkofoundation.org.

You give us hope!

By Sharon Smith, Program Director

One of my most memorable days at the Dekko Foundation—and I’ve had lots of memorable days—happened one summer about ten years ago.  One of our grantees from Lamoni, Iowa named Benita Booth, was driving through Indiana on her way to the east coast. She wanted to stop in to see our office, say hello and meet our president.

Since we go out to visit our grantseekers, we don’t have that many office visitors—especially not people from out of state. We welcomed Mrs. Booth and sat in our president’s office for some polite small talk.  That’s when she dropped a thought so profound that I think about it to this day.

“You know,” she said, “the money you give us is really important.  But what you really do is give us hope.”

What an amazing way to synthesize the impact of grantmaking.  Giving hope to schools and nonprofits that want offer their young people the very best learning experiences.  Giving hope to communities that their young people will be ready for rewarding careers and independent lives.

When Mr. Dekko started our foundation in 1981, he left us with this mission:  To foster economic freedom through education. He believed that education offered all people hope that they might lead lives of economic freedom.

Thanks, Mrs. Booth, for giving us a new and memorable way of looking at things.

To learn more about grants from our foundation:

http://www.dekkofoundation.org/grantseeker-support/

Feel free to call and discuss an idea for a grant proposal:

260-347-1278

Just do it!

If you’re putting off calling our foundation to ask a question, then we have a question for you.

Why?

Organizationally, we’re 36 years old, and it’s hard to imagine there’s a question we haven’t heard.  Plus, our board of directors has sized our staff so that, during business hours, there’s always someone around to help you in person.

Think your question might be dumb?

It’s probably not dumb.  We go to work at a foundation every day.  Most people don’t.  You guys need a little help understanding how to work with us.  We get that.

Still don’t want to make that call?  Maybe we can help.  Here are some of our most frequently-asked questions:

·         How much money can I propose?  (We get right to the point, don’t we?)  Our foundation doesn’t have set grant amounts.  When we make grants, we factor a lot of things into the equation.  We consider how many children you serve, the amount of change you’re proposing to make in their lives and even the community where you live.

·         If I ask for too much money, is that the kiss of death for my grant proposal?  NO!  See our answer above, as in: We go to work at a foundation every day.  Most people don’t.  You guys need a little help understanding how to work with us.  We get that.

·         When is your next deadline for grant proposals?  We don’t have a proposal deadline.  Instead, we ask you to consider your project and when you want to start it.  Then we ask you to send us your proposal at least 90 days before you need to know whether we’ll make an investment.  When you consider all of this, it may seem like we want to work with people who are planners. That’s true.  Good planning makes for great projects.

STILL have that case of phone call avoidance?  We give up!  You can always email us.   dekko@dekkofoundation.org