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

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!

Our 2020 annual report: “Pedal to the Mettle”

At the Dekko Foundation, we believe being self-sufficient and achieving economic freedom is a lot like learning how to ride a bicycle. It takes a lot of learning, practice, and perseverance to become a good bike rider, just as it takes knowledge, skills, and character to be self-sufficient and economically free.

That’s why we invest in opportunities and experiences that support children and young people from birth through age 18 in becoming the best bike riders they can be, so that no matter what life throws at them, they can navigate around the obstacles and successfully reach their destination.

You can learn more about our investments that support the growth and development of children and young people in 2020 annual report, “Pedal to the Mettle.” And you can watch the video below to see how knowledge, skills, and character help children and young people to keep pedaling and moving forward.

Our office is new; our mission remains unchanged

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

“Thank you for calling the Dekko Foundation. How can I help you?”

For any potential grantseeker desiring more information about our mission, for any grantee wanting to touch base and share their progress, for anyone reaching out to be connected with our proactive initiatives, that’s the greeting they hear on the phone.

Wanting to help — to support the great things that adults and youth-serving organizations are doing so that children are taking steps forward to their eventual economic freedom — has been at the heart of what we do since Mr. Chester E. Dekko started the Dekko Foundation nearly 40 years ago in 1981.

Since that time, our founder’s home on Baby Mountain in Kendallville, Indiana, was where our work was centered. But with our eye toward the next 40 years and beyond, we’ve relocated our office few miles to the south in the Community Learning Center because we think doing so will make us even more effective at fostering economic freedom through education.

Where we work has changed. The work itself has not.

The Community Learning Center

The Community Learning Center in Kendallville.

Likewise, supporting our grantmaking priority areas — those places where Mr. Dekko had business or personal interests — continues to direct our work. Northeast Indiana, in particular DeKalb, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley counties, will always be a priority for us because it’s where Mr. Dekko launched and grew what would become Group Dekko International. So, too, are Limestone County in Alabama and Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Ringgold, and Union counties in Iowa because Mr. Dekko located several of his manufacturing operations there. And the same goes for Norman County, Minnesota, because it was home to Mr. Dekko’s family, he grew up there, and he supported the community long before he created his namesake foundation.

So if our mission and work remain unchanged, you may be wondering, “Why move at all?” It’s a great question, and there are a few important reasons why we decided to relocate to the Community Learning Center.

First and foremost, Kendallville is our home. When a more than century-old, nearly 150,000-square-foot former school was vacated a few years ago, we joined with other community members and organizations to identify a new use for it. Those efforts, along with the invaluable support of local elected and education leaders, resulted in the Community Learning Center, which opened in 2019.

Being in the Community Learning Center provides the unique opportunity to work alongside organizations that serve children and young people and are striving to remove barriers to economic freedom. We believe the spirit of collaboration that guides the center and its programming will make us a better funder, as well as have a positive impact on Kendallville, Noble County, and Northeast Indiana.

Mr. Dekko was a strong advocate for communities seizing the initiative to solve their own problems and achieve their own successes. We think the Community Learning Center exemplifies that ideal. What’s more, with its mission of advancing the self-sufficiency of residents of all ages, the Community Learning Center and the organizations offering programs within it will support children and young people as they build knowledge, skills, and character that can set them on the path to economic freedom.

That’s our story. What’s yours? Does your organization have a project that contributes to children and young people growing up to be economically free? We’d love to hear about it.

“Thank you for calling the Dekko Foundation. How can I help you?”