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?”

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