By Deb Patterson
WARSAW — The 54th annual Kosciusko County Community Foundation’s Celebration Tuesday, Nov. 17, included a big announcement by Heather Presley-Cowen, High Performance Government Network, who has been working with the foundation on a housing strategy. Presley-Cowen announced a special pilot program, created by the state just for Kosciusko County, during the foundation’s live video celebration event.
This program is to help people have a matching savings account to use to buy a home, repair the home they currently live in, get job training, get a job, get a car to get to work, “these kinds of things to help people build assets, have more tools for employers who want a great workforce and housing for a great workforce.”
Presley-Cowen stated a $2 million revolving fund is being built and will be “unlike anywhere else in the state … to develop all these wonderful tools around housing … all because the foundation decided to listen and come back to the community with ideas how it could convene all leadership together and lead into implementation.” The fund is being funded by the state in partnership with Zimmer Biomet.
Presley-Cowen was one of three speakers during a live video presentation by the foundation for its celebration. Other presentations were heard from Gabe Koser, a counselor with Turning Point Counseling Center, North Webster; and Sherry Searles, director of LaunchPad.
Presley-Cowen explained her firm comes into communities and looks at existing conditions. What they found in Kosciusko County was a perfect storm – strong median income, great property values, demand for housing, expanding employers. “Under the foundation’s leadership we saw lots of great downtowns where we can start … great for development,” she said. The first phase was to develop a catalyst to bolster leadership to make decisions around housing with a broad cross section of community leaders. A second phase is optimizing the housing market. “Not just building a bunch of housing units because there is a need … build enough housing, the right size housing … this county is going to grow if it chooses to build to its own market potential.”
Additionally she noted the state has “come through in major ways to support it. The initiative proposed to the state is based on the housing strategy but it also had a people side to it, called People Centered Placemaking. It’s not to build housing but thoughtful units in gorgeous communities with beautiful scenery to help people live their best life.”
Koser spoke of how the foundation has helped Turning Point make their services affordable for all people. “Clients can pay what they can to get good counseling,” he stated. “We are so grateful to give and make resources available and to have people working directly with mental health professionals, through all of us working together.” Koser noted the history of Turning Point and how its services have grown to “meet more and more needs … This year the virus caused an increase in divorces, overdoses, depression, kids feeling isolated … we are meeting the needs in different mental health services online or phone,” he stated.
Koser stressed how, through the help of the community foundation, Turning Point’s services are being made affordable to all persons. “Clients can pay what they can to get good counseling.”
LaunchPad, according to Searles, has provided access to child care and early learning since 2017. During the history of the program she noted the two programs started in the Wawasee Community School Corporation – one providing child care for staff and the other providing early learning programs for children 3-5 years of age.
The arrival of COVID-19 brought a new challenge for LaunchPad when child care centers closed and affecting health care workers who needed child care to continue providing needed services. Through the community foundation a pop-up child care program was started for hospital, nursing home, pharmacy and retirement home staff.
Insight into 2021 was also a part of the celebration. Stephanie Overbey, executive director, addressed the upcoming year. “Expect to see from us in the year 2021 to continue to monitor and respond to the needs that arise from COVID, invest resources in workforce housing, child care access and comprehensive planning for the entire county.” Additionally the foundation looks toward celebrating the 25th anniversary of KEYS.
“Most of all we will continue to help donors accomplish each of their unique charitable dreams, one donor, one dream at a time.”
Two retiring board members, Bob Bishop and Steve Snyder, were recognized for their years of service and assistance in various areas. There was also a year in review video presented. Approximately 98 people participated in the live video event.