Meet our team: Payton Hart

Payton Hart, grants and program associate

Payton Hart is the grants and program associate at the Dekko Foundation. She joined the staff in June of this year after serving as a graduate assistant volleyball coach at her alma mater, Bethel University.

Question: In your role as grants and program associate, what are some of the primary responsibilities you handle from day to day?

Answer: My primary responsibilities are running weekly reports, processing payments, producing grant paperwork, and maintaining the daily functions of the grants management system. I also review, draft, and edit grant proposals for the staff, Grant Review Committee, and board meetings.

Q: What are some of the things you’ve learned about philanthropy since joining the team?

A: I have learned so much about philanthropy since joining the team. First and foremost, I learned how to pronounce it! (After a lot of practice. 😊) Philanthropy is so much more than just donating money. At the Dekko Foundation, philanthropy is finding ways to invest in positive change in children and young people so they can grow up to be economically free. In my eyes, I think of philanthropy as giving time, money, or resources to help make the world a better place.

Q: What would you want a potential grantseeker to know about our work here at the foundation?

A: I would want potential grant seekers to know that the staff at the Dekko Foundation are approachable and helpful. The Dekko Foundation team is always looking for ways to connect people with resources and potential networking opportunities, so one should never hesitate to email or call us with questions.

If you’d like to learn more about our mission of fostering economic freedom through education, contact Payton or a program officer at 260-347-1278, or email dekko@dekkofoundation.org.

iSMART Lab prepares students for success

A new high-tech lab is helping the students of today build highly valued skills for the future.

The iSMART Lab opened this school year in the Community Learning Center in Kendallville, IN. The lab features an array of state-of-the-art equipment that allows adolescents to get hands-on training so they can be successful in advanced manufacturing and logistics careers.

Inside the iSMART Lab — the name stands for information systems, manufacturing, automation, robotics, and technology — students are grounded in the basic concepts of Industry 4.0. Also called the “fourth industrial revolution,” Industry 4.0 represents the growing number of “smart” manufacturing facilities that use cloud-based processes to make their workflow more efficient.

That’s particularly relevant in Noble County, IN, where the iSMART Lab is located. Noble County has one of the highest concentrations of manufacturing businesses of anywhere in the country. That’s why a group of local partners representing education, workforce development, and philanthropy came together to make the iSMART Lab possible.

The Noble County Economic Development Corporation began spearheading the effort in 2020. The collaboration includes Impact Institute, which provides career technical education for high school students in northeast Indiana; Freedom Academy, which offers workforce training for employers; the Community Learning Center; and the Dekko Foundation.

The iSMART Lab has been awarded more than $820,000 in grants that have been used to outfit it with the same type of cutting-edge equipment, robots, and software found in manufacturing facilities. This fall, Impact Institute began offering its two-year Smart Technologies & Automation program to high school juniors and seniors in the iSMART Lab. And Freedom Academy launched its new Industry 4.0 training classes for adult workers.

In October, nearly two dozen middle school students took part in a daylong Manufacturing Experience camp in the iSMART Lab. They worked on AC/DC electrical systems and circuits, tried their hand at soldering, and explored how to use programmable logic controllers and 3-D printers.

Collaborating to help make the iSMART Lab possible made sense for us at the Dekko Foundation because it aligns with several of the things we’re interested in funding. It provides an opportunity for young people to practice problem solving in ways that have real-world connections. It’s a place where they can follow their interests, build skills, and apply their knowledge and talents. And it can help them better understand what their options are after they graduate from high school.

We’re excited by the potential of the iSMART Lab to help young people building knowledge, skills, and character. We think it’s a really smart way to support them in being self-sufficient and capable of achieving economic freedom as adults.

Foundation invests in grantees’ projects

The Dekko Foundation, a private family foundation located in Kendallville, IN, with a mission of fostering economic freedom through education, awarded more than $1.7 million in grants to 14 youth-serving organizations during its most recent round of grantmaking.

The foundation, started in 1981 by the late businessman and philanthropist Chester E. Dekko, invests in projects and programs that help build knowledge, skills, and character in children and young people from birth through age 18 so they can be self-sufficient and grow up to be economically free.

Its grantmaking is concentrated within 13 counties in four states — Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, and Minnesota — where Mr. Dekko had business or personal interests.

Organizations receiving grants were:

  • Community Foundation of DeKalb County (Auburn, IN): $250,000 to support renovations to the DeKalb Outdoor Theater to provide a better experience for audiences and entertainers.
  • Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District (Garrett, IN): $30,000 to support principle-based professional development for high school teachers.
  • Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana (Fort Wayne, IN): $25,000 to support the organization’s JA JobSpark career awareness program for eighth-grade and high school students.
  • West Noble School Corporation (Ligonier, IN): $3,000 to support a series of cultural events at West Noble Elementary School that brings families and educators together.
  • YMCA of Muncie/Camp Crosley (North Webster, IN): $1,000,000 over three years to support facility upgrades that will benefit programs and increase campers’ engagement.
  • Central Noble Community School Corporation (Albion, IN): $13,500 over three years to support an after-school tutoring program for high school students.
  • Early Childhood Alliance (Fort Wayne, IN): $37,524 to support the organization’s work with childcare providers in northeast Indiana by providing shared services, training, and curriculum resources.
  • Goshen College (Wolf Lake, IN): $35,000 to support the nature-based preschool program at the college’s Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center.
  • Lakewood Park Christian School (Auburn, IN): $7,200 to support a new elective class for students that promotes artistic exploration and skill building through learning about music technology.
  • Wayne Center District No. 7 Historical Site, Inc. (Kendallville, IN): $32,000 over two years to support renovations to a one-room schoolhouse originally built in 1885 so programs can be offered throughout the year.
  • YMCA of Steuben County (Angola, IN): $250,000 to support the construction of a splashpad at the planned Sheets Family Park.
  • Lucas County Agricultural Extension District (Chariton, IA): $7,000 to support a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) academy in which elementary and middle school students take part in hands-on activities and build problem-solving skills.
  • FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in Alabama (Meridianville, AL): $20,000 to support FIRST robotics programs in Limestone County, AL, schools that promote learning and skill building by students.
  • Image of Hope Ranch (Auburn, IN): $15,000 to support the organization’s tutoring and skill development programs for young people that help prepare them for the future.

If you’d like to learn more about how investments such as these support children and young people so they can achieve economic freedom later in life, contact a Dekko Foundation program officer at 260-347-1278. Or visit dekkofoundation.org to explore the foundation’s mission and funding priorities, review its grantmaking process, or send a grant proposal.

Grants support organizations’ work with children

The Dekko Foundation, a private family foundation located in Kendallville, IN, with a mission of fostering economic freedom through education, awarded more than $288,000 in grants to 10 youth-serving organizations in four states during its most recent round of grantmaking.

The foundation, started in 1981 by the late businessman and philanthropist Chester E. Dekko, invests in projects and programs that help build knowledge, skills, and character in children and young people from birth through age 18 so they can be self-sufficient and grow up to be economically free.

Its grantmaking is concentrated within 13 counties in four states — Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, and Minnesota — where Mr. Dekko had business or personal interests.

Organizations receiving grants were:

  • Athens City Schools (Athens, AL): $2,500 to support expanded options for students at Athens Renaissance School to explore music.
  • City of Kendallville (Kendallville, IN): $9,000 over three years to support the children’s area at the annual Apple Festival of Kendallville.
  • Giving Gardens of Northern Indiana (Columbia City, IN): $50,000 to support the organization’s Wild Willow Nature Preschool.
  • Healthier Moms and Babies, Inc. (Fort Wayne, IN): $10,000 to support the organization’s prenatal home visitation program for expectant mothers in Noble and DeKalb counties.
  • Lost Sparrows, Inc. (Winona Lake, IN): $20,000 to support its conference on youth trauma at Grace College.
  • The Crew (Kendallville, IN): $32,000 to support its work with young people in the community.
  • Athens City Schools (Athens, AL): $10,000 to support Athens Intermediate School students’ visit to the Cook Museum of Natural Science.
  • Central Decatur Community School District (Leon, IA): $4,763 to support creating a music recording studio at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School.
  • Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District (Garrett, IN): $30,000 to support an updated art room at J.E. Ober Elementary so students can better express themselves creatively.
  • City of Halstad (Halstad, MN): $100,000 to support turning a former school building into an education and recreation center for community members.
  • Pleasant View Early Learning (Warsaw, IN): $20,000 to support tuition assistance for parents.

For more information about the Dekko Foundation and its grantmaking, visit dekkofoundation.org.

Sweet home Alabama!

Dekko Foundation staff had a great time recently in Limestone County, Alabama, reconnecting with old friends and making new friends.

Among the highlights were meeting with City of Athens, Alabama (Public Relations) Mayor Ronnie Marks and learning about plans for a new park; viewing the ongoing renovation work at Athens Arts League‘s Scout Music House; walking down Merchant’s Alley with former Grant Review Committee member Gary Van Wagnen; preparing for and hosting our own From 40 to Forward open house at the Athens-Limestone County Public Library in celebration of our 40th birthday; and stopping by the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission mock City Council meeting.

It was inspiring to spend time with so many dedicated people who are working hard to make great things happen for children and young people in Limestone County!