Community Survey Results Will Help
Decide on Large Grant Project

The Blackford County Community Survey available during the month of October was an outreach from the Blackford County Community Foundation to the community for the county residents’ input. A total of 244 people responded.

Collecting current data on the priorities and concerns of the county is part of the grant process required to submit a community grant for up to $100,000 to the Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant is due in March.

Four major areas of concern were apparent in the survey results:
1) revitalization of our downtowns and other public aspects of our communities, including more retail shopping available, more community activities, and more beautification/blight elimination;
2) creation of more jobs that carry improved wages and other aspects of the economy;
3) more attention to the drug issues that are part of modern life; and
4) resources for additional youth and family development.

Other concerns receiving multiple mentions were related to finding more community leadership and other ways to encourage wider community participation and volunteerism.

The Foundation is currently studying these survey results and earlier community surveys to determine what project might be accomplished with the $100,000 grant funds that suit the communities’ interests and concerns and that also advance the community improvement plans already in the works.

Finalists Announced
Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship

Six finalists have been chosen as the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee moves toward selecting a final winner of the 2020 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. Those six students are all seniors at Blackford High School. They are Nicholas Otwinowski, Bethany Elkins, Nolan McConnell, Ellie Langdon, Straton Stone, and Natalie Thurman. The winner will be announced in December.

The scholarship will provide full tuition for four years at an Indiana college or university and an annual book stipend of up to $900. Lilly Endowment Inc. has been financing the scholarship program since 1998. This year 143 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarships are being awarded around the state.

Thirty-eight Blackford County students have received the scholarship since its inception in 1998.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

Contribute Your Insights

GIFT VII is a Lilly Endowment Inc. initiative that encourages every local community foundation to develop a large project to improve the quality of life in the local community. If accepted by Lilly Endowment, the project would receive up to $100,000 in grant support. The project, however, must be based in the community’s perceptions of its own needs.

So the Blackford County Community Foundation is seeking your input about life in Blackford County.  The Foundation has released a short survey that residents are asked to complete prior to Thursday, October 31st, about the quality of life in Blackford County.  That information received will be used by community leaders to determine the focus of a large funding request from the Lilly Endowment Inc. that will be awarded in spring of 2020.

“The Foundation hopes to hear from residents throughout Blackford County about what they love, don’t love and would change about Blackford County,” said Elizabeth Whitt, Executive Director of the Blackford County Community Foundation.

Residents can complete the survey at the Blackford County Community Foundation’s office at 121 N. High Street in Hartford City.  The Foundation is working with local partners like the Blackford County Schools, Blackford Youth Sports, and the Farm Bureau to reach residents.

Residents are encouraged to attend a public meeting on Wednesday, November 20th at 6:00 PM at City Hall in Hartford City to learn results of the survey.

Alexandra Blackwood Named 2019 Lilly Endowment Community Scholar

Alexandra Blackwood becomes one of 38 local Blackford County students who have received a Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship since the program began in 1998. Blackwood is the daughter of Shelly Blackwood and Jeff Blackwood. She will graduate from Blackford High School in May and intends to study English education as preparation for a teaching career, a career especially chosen to combine her love of reading and its ability to change a reader’s perspectives with her wish to make a difference in many people’s lives.

Blackwood has been especially active as a volunteer both at the high school and within the community through her high school extracurricular activities, including band, Key Club, JAG, and National Honor Society. She currently works at the Hartford City Public Library several hours per week.

Four other students were also finalists for the scholarship. One is Blackford High School senior Calista Johns, daughter of Amber Johns, who intends to study social work and ultimately become a high school counselor.

Another finalist is Myles Cline, son of Brian and Renee Cline, a Blackford High School student planning to study biomedical engineering with an eye toward engineering the technology that improves patients’ health.

Taylor Wells is a third finalist and daughter of Jeremy and Jaclyn Wells of Montpelier; she is a senior at Southern Wells Jr.-Sr. High School and plans to study biology before attending medical school to become an anesthesiologist.

Breanne Morgan is also a finalist. She is the daughter of Matt and Brenda Morgan and a senior at Blackford High School. She plans to study accounting or finance so that she is prepared to open her own bakery business.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program begun in 1998 are 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

This Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship is the first of over 70 scholarships to be awarded through the Blackford County Community Foundation to the graduating class of 2019. All of the other scholarships available through the Foundation are awarded through one application submitted to the Foundation office or the guidance office at Blackford High School by March 5, 2019. Applications and additional information are now available online or at the Foundation office (121 N. High St., Hartford City) or at the guidance office at Blackford High School.

Generous Donors Gave $69,575 in Scholarships to High School Seniors

In 2018, 74 Foundation scholarships were awarded to Blackford County seniors graduating from local area high schools. Those scholarships were awarded to 47 different students who plan to continue their education either at a four-year college, a community college, or a vocational certification program.

Donors to the Foundation have viewed education as a high priority in this county since the early days of the Foundation. In 1997, the Montpelier Community Foundation and the Blackford County Foundation merged into the Blackford County Community Foundation. The new entity began with one scholarship fund that awarded $400 in two scholarships in 1997; one year later the Foundation  awarded $3,500 in three local scholarships plus its first Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship.

Now, 21 years after those first scholarship awards, the Foundation has 53 different donors, both individual families and local organizations, who contribute scholarship awards that will help pay for tuition and books for students attending their first year of education beyond high school. These funds represent nearly half of the funds established at the Foundation and most were established to memorialize deceased family members. A list of current scholarship funds and another list of 2018 individual scholarship winners are available on the Foundation’s website.

2017 Grant to Montpelier Civic Center for Improvements and Expansion

The Montpelier Civic Center was awarded a grant in the fall of 2017 for $11,954 that would be used to improve the existing heating and cooling system in the current gym area and to add a new unit to the mezzanine area there. The goal for the Center was to reduce its energy costs by only heating or cooling the gym or the mezzanine. The new mezzanine unit will also allow for better quality heating or cooling in that area and so allow the Center to use that space for an expanded range of activity, specifically by adding more fitness equipment, offer more aerobics classes, permit additional programming in martial arts or self-defense classes, and provide space for winter hitting practice for baseball and softball teams.

A fitness and health focus continues to be the main mission of the Montpelier Civic Center, but the Center also serves as a gathering spot for weddings, receptions, parties, local church activities, Campus Life meetings, blood drives, voting, and other events.

Natural Playscape Playground Plan

How many times do we tell each other that we need to figure out how to get our children outside? To unhook them from their video games?

That thought, plus the Blackford Initiative survey results that suggested that the community have more child and family friendly activities, a plot of land at the Hartford City Public Library, and a fund at the Foundation that must be used for early childhood projects, has pulled the three organizations together to plan a nature play area just east of the Library.

Nature play spaces incorporate the existing landscape into playgrounds that bring nature into children’s daily play in contrast to the usual metal, plastic, and shredded tire playground more typical of our city parks. The current research concerning early childhood learning shows that nature play spaces are especially effective in supporting children’s engagement, imagination and cooperative play. The activity stations in the proposed Hartford City Public Library’s nature play area will also link to literacy activities.

The project has a been approved by the Library Board, approved for various city zoning ordinances, and submitted to an architectural firm for final drawings. Construction on the paths has begun. Additional construction will be undertaken in suitable weather during the winter and early spring.

Updated January 31, 2018

Local Donors Contributed Over $10,000 to Promise Program

On Giving Tuesday, November 28, local donors made contributions that qualified for matching dollars from the national 1:1 Fund. The total amount contributed that day was $10,595.

Blackford County Promise is a program that helps youth in Blackford County dream about their future careers and save for education beyond high school. Those donations will be used to help more local youth open CollegeChoice 529 accounts with an initial $25 deposit and to encourage families to contribute to the accounts by providing matching funds for their own deposits. At this time 617 Blackford County kindergarten through fourth-grade students have CollegeChoice 529 accounts.

In addition to matches for their savings, youth also experience a visit to a college campus and classroom activities that help them dream about possible careers. The Blackford County Promise is a partnership between the Blackford County Community Foundation, Blackford County Schools, Blackford County Economic Development Corporation and Citizens State Bank.

This is the first time the Blackford Promise and the Foundation have participated in these national giving day activities. Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity. It is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and kicks off the holiday giving season.

To learn more about the Blackford County Promise, visit or call Elizabeth Witt at the Blackford County Community Foundation at 765.348.3411.

Posted December 15, 2017

Your Scholarship Donations Support Our Young People’s Dreams

You are a hero every day to local students beginning their college careers. Last year you allowed the Foundation to give out $70,000 to 53 graduating high school seniors so that they could begin their college and career training last August.

You gave out hope for the big dreams of these young people.

  • 13 planned to become nurses, physical therapists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals;
  • 12 proposed to study biochemistry, agriculture, veterinary science, wildlife conservation, and other life sciences
  • 16 prepared to go to vocational programs. 

Let’s do that again. Contact our 2017 Blackford County graduates to let them know that their scholarship applications are due March 9. Applications and details are here . . .