Dekko Foundation closes office temporarily

We, like all of you, understand the challenges facing our nation and world and the need to take action to protect the health of all from the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we recognize the strain that response has placed on organizations that serve young people.

As mandated by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, our office is closed to the public through April 6. Our team is still working, but previously scheduled meetings will be conducted by phone to help safeguard our staff members’ and grantseekers’ health. If you need to reach us, please call 260-347-1278 or email

During these uncertain times, we are talking with other funders about how philanthropic organizations might better respond to the needs of our communities and support the work of organizations that serve young people. We will provide updates about those efforts on our website and Facebook page, and via email.

Thank you to everyone for doing what you can to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Take care and be safe.

Nonprofit Toolbelt update

We have reached our allocation of Nonprofit Toolbelts this fiscal year, which means we aren’t accepting new grant applications. If you think your organization would benefit from a Nonprofit Toolbelt, we encourage you to learn more about our Stronger Organizations proactive initiative.

Our Start Where You Are Bar is always available to help your organization assess its needs. If you want to talk to a Dekko Foundation staff person, feel free to call us at 260-347-1278. Or you can email

Program boosts training in principle-based learning

A new program will help undergraduate students and veteran educators receive training and credentials in creating principle-based learning environments for young people. Our board has chosen to support this effort because if there are more high-quality, principle-based learning environments, then there will be more young people building skills, knowledge, and character that will help them grow up to be economically free.


From Trine University:

Building on the strength and growth of its Franks School of Education, Trine University will launch Indiana’s first Montessori teacher education degree program to help meet the growing need for teachers with Montessori credentials.

Trine’s Montessori teacher education program will be one of only a few undergraduate programs in the nation offered at the university level, and will provide training that leads toward state-recognized Montessori licensure for both undergraduate students and teachers already in the field.

“While Montessori schools continue to grow, there is a state and nationwide shortage of credentialed teachers,” said Anthony Kline, Ph.D., dean of the Franks School of Education. “In addition, teachers who lack Montessori credentials must complete rigorous training during the summer. This can place a financial strain on schools and the educators receiving the training.”

“Trine University’s Montessori teacher education program will ensure a pipeline of high-quality teachers trained through a Montessori lens to focus on whole-child development. We strongly believe that Montessori training will enhance graduates who teach in traditional school settings as well.”

“We look forward to the impact this new program will have, not only on our university, but on future generations of children who will benefit from a Montessori education and educators trained in the Montessori Method,” said Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., Trine University president.

The Montessori Method of education was developed in Italy by Maria Montessori in the early 20th century and is designed to build on the way children inherently learn. Now practiced worldwide, Montessori education is known for individually paced learning and fostering independence, and encouraging empathy, social justice and joy in lifelong learning, according to the American Montessori Society.

The university has begun the search process for hiring a director for Montessori education at Trine, and will announce a timeline for program launch once that person is in place.

Undergraduate students at Trine will receive training to earn Indiana Department of Education licenses in Elementary Generalist (K-6) and Montessori within four years. Through Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) accreditation and American Montessori Society (AMS) affiliation, graduates also will earn credentials to teach students ages 6-9 in Montessori settings.

Current teachers will be able to earn Montessori credentials through summer training programs at Trine and at Oak Farm Montessori School in Avilla. The program could include graduate-level credit that would lead to a Master in Montessori Education degree.

Oak Farm Montessori School, founded in 2000 by Lorene Dekko Salsbery, also will serve as Trine’s primary partner for observation, practicum and student teaching opportunities for students. A variety of local Montessori education settings also may provide clinical opportunities.

Trine’s new Montessori teacher education program is made possible in part through a grant from the Dekko Foundation. The foundation, which seeks to foster economic freedom through education, will provide $385,000 toward startup costs, which include salary for a program director and redesigning a classroom on the Trine campus to mirror a best-practice Montessori environment for elementary-age learners.

“As Trine University prepares its students to succeed, lead and serve, and also looks for new ways to enhance the quality of life in Indiana, we are grateful for generous partners like the Dekko Foundation,” said Brooks.

“The educators who complete this program will be grounded in the principles of child development and how to provide high-quality learning environments for young people that will assist them in building knowledge, skills and character so that they can grow up to be self-sufficient and ultimately economically free,” said Tom Leedy, president of the Dekko Foundation.

The Dekko Foundation is hiring!

The Dekko Foundation has an opening on its staff for a program officer. The details of the position are explained below.



The Dekko Foundation seeks a full-time Program Officer. The Program Officer is responsible for reviewing grant proposals and managing relationships with grantees. The ideal candidate has strong interpersonal and communication skills, demonstrated critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and a heart for working with nonprofit organizations. The Program Officer works with staff, grantseekers, committees, and grantees to ensure that the Dekko Foundation’s mission of fostering economic freedom through education is carried out through effective grantmaking.


The ideal candidate will have a minimum of five years of experience working in the nonprofit sector or related field. Knowledge of professional philanthropy is a plus. See additional details listed below.


The Dekko Foundation values education, through both formal institutions and life experiences. The ideal candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of education for this position through a certification, degree, or real work experience related to the work of a Program Officer.


Supports the Foundation’s mission, vision, and values by exhibiting the following behaviors: excellence, competence, collaboration, innovation, respect, commitment to our community, accountability, and ownership. 


The Program Officer plays a key role at the Dekko Foundation. As a consistent representative of the Dekko Foundation, a Program Officer embodies the values and mission of the Foundation. This position requires out-of-state travel, and on occasion meetings outside of normal business hours. The Program Officer is responsible to the Vice President of Programs to carry out all of the responsibilities related to a responsive grant portfolio.


Complete a portfolio of grant proposals that requires making site visits, managing relationships with grantees, developing grant outcomes and milestones, and monitoring grant progress and impact.

  • Review grant proposals. Draft and edit grant proposal summaries and recommendations for staff, committee, and board review.
  • Participate in, and sometimes lead, multi-disciplinary teams addressing current and emerging Foundation priorities.
  • Provide high-quality customer service to colleagues, grantseekers, and grantees by responding promptly and respectfully to a variety of inquiries.
  • Contribute to the ongoing process of developing systems to measure, learn from, and improve impact.
  • Be an active and supportive member of the program team.
  • Create, implement, and/or lead special projects as assigned.
  • Maintain collegial working relationships with colleagues and constituents.
  • Any other responsibilities as assigned.


The Program Officer is best described as a servant leader. They are professional, personable, upbeat, approachable, flexible, respectful, motivated, and passionate about the mission of the Foundation.


  • Ability to make sound decisions that align with organizational priorities.
  • Outstanding written and verbal communication skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to identify and solve problems individually and as a team.
  • Effective presentation skills.
  • Proven creativity.
  • Strong critical thinking skills.
  • Basic Microsoft Office knowledge.
  • Appreciation for self-directed learning.


Contact Jenna Ott, Vice President of Programs, at 260-347-1278 or with any questions related to the Program Officer position.

Interested candidates should send a cover letter, professional resume, and two references to Jenna Ott at the email address above on or before Monday, December 9, 2019.

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.”