Meet our team: Payton Hunley

Payton Hunley, grants and program associate

Payton Hunley is the grants and program associate at the Dekko Foundation. She joined the staff in June of 2022 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

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 to explore the foundation’s mission and funding priorities, review its grantmaking process, or send a grant proposal.

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.