Posts

Dekko Foundation to move to Community Learning Center

The Dekko Foundation, a private family foundation started in 1981 in Kendallville, Indiana, by the late businessman and philanthropist Chester E. Dekko, will move its offices to the Community Learning Center this year.

The Dekko Foundation’s board of directors, comprising members of Mr. Dekko’s family, has endorsed the move because of its potential to advance the foundation’s mission of fostering economic freedom through education. The spirit of collaboration that lies at the heart of the Community Learning Center and the proximity to organizations that work directly with young people will allow the foundation to be more effective in carrying out Mr. Dekko’s vision.

“We are excited that residents of Kendallville and Noble County have come together to support the Community Learning Center as it endeavors to assist individuals of all ages through lifelong learning and skill development,” said Thomas Leedy, president of the Dekko Foundation. “Working alongside agencies at the CLC that are striving to remove barriers to economic freedom will make us a stronger foundation.”

The new office, which will be on the third floor of the Community Learning Center, will accommodate the foundation’s nine-person staff and have spaces that can be shared with other community organizations.

“At the Community Learning Center, we have the opportunity to learn from agencies working hard every day to support young people as they build the skills, knowledge, and character that are fundamental to them growing up to become self-sufficient adults and ultimately capable of achieving economic freedom,” Leedy said. “That knowledge will help inform our role as a funder and benefit our mission.”

The Dekko Foundation has been among the community members and organizations that for more than a year have been collaborating to make the Community Learning Center project a reality. Recent milestones have included the announcement of the first seven agencies that will offer programs and occupy space inside the facility, and the transfer of ownership of the property from the City of Kendallville to The Community Learning Center, Inc. Earlier this month, the Community Learning Center hosted an open house that provided a first look at the improvements that have been made to the facility and allowed individuals to connect with program providers.

The Dekko Foundation is providing financial support for the Community Learning Center’s ongoing renovations and operations. Leedy sits on the board of directors of The Community Learning Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2019 to oversee the facility and surrounding grounds.

“Kendallville, Noble County, and Northeast Indiana have recognized the incredible opportunity the Community Learning Center has to be a catalyst for lifelong learning, building skills, expressing creativity, and improving well-being through its multigenerational offerings,” Leedy said. “It’s because of that enthusiasm for the CLC’s mission — Connecting Communities. Strengthening Lives. Securing Futures. — that our board has chosen to support this project, and it’s why they’re confident this move will help carry on Mr. Dekko’s legacy.”

That legacy extends back to 1925 when Chester E. Dekko was born in Ada, Minnesota. Growing up during the Great Depression helped instill in Mr. Dekko a strong work ethic, a deep appreciation for how education can improve one’s standing in life, and a bold entrepreneurial spirit. Mr. Dekko and his business partner, Lyall Morrill, devised an innovative wiring harness for refrigerators and started Lyall Electric in 1952. Under Mr. Dekko’s leadership, the business grew to have a significant presence in several manufacturing sectors and was renamed Group Dekko, with more than 2,500 employees in four states and Canada. Following Mr. Dekko’s passing in 1992, his entire estate was transferred to the foundation.

The Dekko Foundation supports communities where Mr. Dekko had business and personal interests. That includes six counties in Northeast Indiana, five counties in south-central Iowa, Norman County, Minnesota, and Limestone County, Alabama.

“Our commitment to these communities remains as strong as ever,” Leedy said. “The men and women who worked for Mr. Dekko helped make Group Dekko successful, and the foundation will continue to support young people in these communities so they can be successful in becoming self-sufficient and economically free. In addition, we hope that what we’ve learned by being involved in the Community Learning Center project can be a resource for these communities as they advance themselves.”

Moving to the Community Learning Center will mark the start of an exciting new chapter for the Dekko Foundation as it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2021.

“It’s remarkable to reflect on the impact Mr. Dekko’s vision of economic freedom has had over nearly 40 years in the communities that meant so much to him,” Leedy said. “Moving the foundation to the Community Learning Center will help ensure that vision carries on for another 40 years — and beyond.”

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.

Challenges kids face are great, but so too is commitment to overcome them

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

So many children face so many obstacles to growing up into confident, independent adults — maturing into women and men who demonstrate compassion to their neighbors, are capable of contributing to their communities, and find themselves engaged in a fulfilling vocation.

Indiana Youth Institute’s recent Kids Count Conference in Indianapolis, which brought together more than 1,000 professionals from across the state involved in various aspects of youth development, underscored the perils young people face every day.

It also was a welcome reminder there are many, many Hoosiers striving to make children’s lives brighter. Every day.

Make no mistake, the task is daunting. Problems such as drugs, poverty, and unhealthy behaviors remain perniciously embedded in our culture, but they bear newer, greater dangers for young people. Drugs, for example, are refined and made more addictive. Advances in imaging techniques allow us to take a picture of a young person’s brain and see how living in a high-stress, unstable environment inhibits its growth. Even as fewer Hoosier students are smoking cigarettes now, many more of them have turned to vaping.

This generation of young people is growing up in a world unknown to their parents and grandparents. Technology — notably in the form of phones and tablets — is being used as a pacifier. You’ve no doubt seen it: A parent hands a “screen” to a fussy toddler to quiet him. There’s no ill intent behind the decision, just a desire to comfort the child. But when that screen flicks on, part of the child’s brain flicks off. The device encourages the child to become disengaged and disassociated from the human interactions occurring around him, and it’s happening during the period of his life that’s most critical to his brain’s development.

Social media, which has brought people together across cultures and continents, can cause young people to feel alienated and isolated when it’s bent into a tool for bullying. Teachers and school counselors now find themselves helping students navigate the choppy waters of friendships made more fraught by Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and the like because the students lack relationship skills forged by face-to-face interactions with others.

The Kids Count Conference provides a forum for Indiana Youth Institute to preview its upcoming Kids Count Data Book that tracks the well-being of Hoosier youths in four areas: family and community, health, economic, and education. The upcoming 2019 Data Book contains a mixed bag of results, just as it has in previous years. Across all four areas, Indiana ranks 28th among states. Most concerning, the state ranks 48th for child maltreatment; 43rd in the number of youths in juvenile detention, and 43rd in infant mortality. Indiana, however, fares well in other benchmark categories, including fourth-grade reading proficiency (seventh among states), high housing burdens (10th), and high school graduation (13th).

Dr. Christopher Emdin, professor, author, and creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement, speaks at Indiana Youth Institute’s 2018 Kids Count Conference.

With all the challenges facing young people, it would be easy to throw our collective hands in the air because the work to overcome them is just too hard. And yet, as much as the Kids Count Conference is an acknowledgement of the issues that affect the healthy development of children, it is a celebration and affirmation of the many, many schools and organizations that engage, educate, and prepare our young people for the future.

It is that hoped-for future that drives those in youth development and compels them to do more. Chester E. Dekko, who created the Dekko Foundation in 1981, believed when young people have access to an education that helps them grow in skills, knowledge, and character, it prepares them to lead a life of independence and self-sufficiency. That’s why he gave the foundation its mission of fostering economic freedom through education. The principles underlying his mission have stood the test of time and are as applicable in 2018 as they were when he was growing up in Minnesota during the Great Depression.

The foundation, however, cannot do it alone. It is only through the work of partners that the mission of economic freedom through education can be realized. They are the ones working with young people. Every day. They are the ones doing the difficult and often unheralded job of building skills, knowledge, and character. Every day.

Yes, our young people will continue to face significant obstacles as they make the long journey to adulthood. But we should be encouraged there are so many caring adults and organizations throughout Indiana who understand those challenges, are passionate and committed, and stand ready to serve them.

Every day.

(Note: If you would like to read the 2019 Indiana Kids Count Data Book Snapshot, you can download it here.)

How do we look?

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

Since you’re here, you may have had this thought: The website looks different.

Well, you’re right. We’ve updated to a responsive site so it performs better on computers, tablets and phones, and we’ve made some small tweaks that hopefully make the site more visually appealing and easier to navigate.

The former site wasn’t old, per se, but it was created at a time when more people were using desktops and laptops to hop around the Internet. These days, most people are apt to look us up on their phone’s browser instead of sitting down at their desk.

You’ll see that our homepage has changed to emphasize our mission of economic freedom. Since 1981, that has been the reason behind everything we do for young people from birth to age 18. But what is economic freedom? What does that mean to us? The new homepage betters tells that story.

Yet for all the changes, the website has stayed largely the same — and that’s important, because for our grantseekers and grant recipients, our website is where they go to complete their applications and reporting requirements. That’s why the “Apply Now!” and “My Account” buttons continue to be featured prominently at the top of the homepage.

In addition, information about our beliefs, our grantmaking and our proactive initiatives remains unchanged. Those pages are an important resource for visitors to the site who want to learn more about us and our mission, our grantmaking criteria and process, our proactive work, our board and staff, and our founder, Mr. Chester E. Dekko.

I hope you like the updated look. Please feel free to look around, kick the tires (so to speak), and let me know your thoughts and suggestions for making our website even better. You can email me at brochford@dekkofoundation.org or call me at 260-347-1278, ext. 115.

We really like how you think!

 

 

Mr. Dekko left us with two major things.

  • A savings account or endowment that has grown to about $228 million.
  • The mission to foster economic freedom through education.

When we’re at work we talk about economic freedom all the time.  We define it as: “The ultimate liberty to make choices about one’s own life.”  We started wondering if any of you ever think about economic freedom.  Last week we asked our Facebook fans to tell us their definition.  They were pretty impressive–we thought we’d share are few of them here.

My definition of Economic Freedom:

Natalie Reick Axel:  To live a comfortable, independent life with the ability to prepare for the future.

Timothy Bruce:  The freedom to prosper within a country without intervention from a government or economic authority.  individuals are free to secure and protect ones’ own human resources, labor and private property.

Shannon Lowenberg Harper:  Economic freedom is the ability to continually increase the quality of life for yourself, your family and your community by striving to be the best you can be.  To make a difference and serve in any and all ways you can.

Doris Winkler Hobbs:  Economic freedom allows one to be ‘all that he or she can be.’  One can set goals, and have the freedom of striving to attain those goals.  One may choose their occupation or profession to earn they money, then are able to choose to spend that money on material goods or investments…all without the intervention of the government.

Doug Jones:  Having just enough.

Sara McAlexander:  “It is the ability to volunteer and help different people, churches, business and civic organizations, not only in our communities but the state and our country.  Not to have to worry about how your ends are gonna meet so that you can volunteer.

Julie Neas:  The freedom to make an impact on your community.  being able to not only take care of yourself but help others as well.

Renea Salyer:  Economic freedom is peace of mind and the ability to reach your dreams without limitations.

We’re always interested in your take on our mission–so let us know if you have economic freedom thoughts!  dekko@dekkofoundation.org