WINONA LAKE — K21 Health Foundation used its 20-year anniversary celebration Tuesday night, Sept. 10, to announce three major initiatives aimed at improving health opportunities to residents in every part of Kosciusko County.
K21 Health Foundation was established with $63 million from the sale of Kosciusko Community Hospital and has grown over the years to help many entities with by awarding $52 million to non-profits, schools and municipalities that are working to support health and wellness needs.
But on Tuesday night, K21 made a splash at the end of its anniversary celebration at the Winona Lake Heritage Room when President and CEO Rich Haddad made a three-pronged announcement to several hundred guests.
In summary, the foundation is:
- Pledging $1 million toward the construction of an ice skating facility.
- Making available a combined commitment of $1.8 million to nine towns outside of Warsaw and Winona Lake.
- Acquiring a building at 1101 Park Ave. in Winona Lake for its future home office for K21.
Talk of an ice rink has been kicked around for decades and has been the subject of four white papers, Haddad said.
“It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for us to get this done,” Haddad proclaimed to the audience.
“I believe this is the next game-changer for our community. We can create a year-round all family opportunity for people to live a healthy life all through the winter,” he said.
Talk of an ice rink has gained momentum in recent years. The Warsaw parks department briefly considered constructing a rink near Center Lake Pavilion last year, but more recently, officials have said it could end up as part of the North Buffalo Street plaza project that includes housing and a large multi-use building.
Haddad challenged the community to work together to form a plan of action.
Creating opportunities for recreation falls right in the middle of the agency’s mission.
“There are limitless activities in the warmer months in our community, however, our residents tend to hibernate in the winter with limited options for activity,” Haddad said.
The plan to work with nine towns — Claypool, Etna Green, Leesburg, Mentone, Milford, North Webster, Pierceton, Silver Lake and Syracuse — is an attempt to exemplify the agency’s desire to ensure there is a focus on all parts of the county.
Each town will have an opportunity to receive up to $200,000 for projects that will focus on health and wellness opportunities in their community.
“K21 Health Foundation is a countywide funder, and we care about every person living in Kosciusko County,” Haddad said in a prepared statement issued after the meeting. “The board of directors wanted to make a clear and significant declaration to that truth, and to recognize that each community has unique needs that can be supported.”
The two proposals suggest a balanced approach.
“This was a great one-two punch, to be honest, to announce both at the same time,” Haddad said afterward.
As for the future office, when he announced the acquisition, Haddad encouraged the audience to look through windows on the south side of the Heritage Room to see the future home.
The building, just to the south, once housed the Billy Sunday museum and was recently used for offices. The foundation acquired it from Grace College and plans to renovate the building with a goal of moving in by late Spring of 2020, Haddad said.
He said they plan to make some of the rooms available for use by other non-profits.
The group’s current office is on North Pointe Drive in Warsaw.
“K21 has rented and borrowed for 20 years, and it was important to the board to establish a permanent home to convey to our community that K21 is here to stay,” he said.