Inspiring innovation: Grants help nonprofits fine-tune their futures

At the beginning of this month, the Hancock County Community Foundation received bids for their “Big Idea” grant in celebration of the foundation’s 25th anniversary. Up for grabs is $25,000, and the local nonprofit world is all a-twitter. That is a significant investment in any organization, and it has spurred some exciting thoughts in our community. What I like most, though, is the interest and innovation triggered. It would be so exciting to see all these requests come in and get a picture of the heart of Hancock County.

And truly, these requesting organizations are the heart of our community. I am fortunate to sit on three of these nonprofit boards, and the conversation around it has allowed us to think big thoughts. Here are some examples of how we are trying to break down walls and think big:

For a year now, the local American Legion post has been retooling to shift a large part of our focus to supporting Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center, which pairs people with horses for riding or grooming. Edelweiss once had a veterans riding program, but it faded over the years. Because I sit on the executive committees of both organizations, rekindling the veterans program at Edelweiss naturally became a passion for me. And the Legion members embraced it. It served two of the Legion’s core missions: Youth programs and Veterans assistance.

Now we have two veterans in the program using Edelweiss’ horse therapy to assist them with their PTSD issues. And our donations are helping fund fencing operations that assist the entire program.

This success of mutually-supporting teams helping the community has morphed into our Big Idea grant. Christy Broady, the executive director of the Weir Cook Memorial Project, is a local fixture in veterans organizations in our county and beyond. She was the driving force behind the renaming of the Indianapolis Airport after Col. Cook, a Hancock County World War I Ace and fighter pilot who lost his life in his second war, World War II. If you ever fly out of the airport, you will see his statue as you enter the terminal. That is Christy Broady’s work. She also was instrumental in re-energizing the Veteran’s Center at Fort Harrison.

Now Ms. Broady has turned her sights on developing a veterans center in Hancock County. She used the HCCF’s “Big Idea” application to flesh out the details and build a plan for success, and whether she receives the grant or not, she has built a road map that all the local veterans groups can rally around and support. Her organization will take the lead, as it is excellent at building consensus, and our hope is that by 2018 this center will be a reality. The downstream effect of HCCF’s grant opportunity will help draw veterans to our community and assist the ones here, and in the process, we will build a central facility that our community can be proud of. It also incorporates elements that can assist the county economic development team and the Hancock County Visitors Bureau in a terrific partnership. That is a big idea.

Edelweiss, too, is thinking outside the box. Our need there is for an indoor arena. Many people know of Edelweiss, but what they may not know is that we are an outdoor-only facility. We can only operate about six months per year. But the need is year-round, so we are planning and working to build an indoor riding arena so our clients can use this amazing therapy through the winter. The HCCF Big Idea grant has helped us fine-tune this need and quantify it and look for partners to help move us in that direction.

Thank you HCCF for making it possible for our local non-profits to dream big.

Kurt Vetters, a longtime resident of Greenfield, is a U.S. Army veteran, author and local businessman. He can be reached at kvetters@gmail. com. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.