Leadership studies cut short, but not the lessons

Members of the Leadership Hancock County Class of 2020 include first row, from left: Melissa Watson (Hancock Health), Erika Whittington (Ninestar Connect), Cathy Riley (Hancock County Library), Amy West (Hancock County Sheriff’s Department), Kristen Martin (Jane Pauley Center), Dawn Hanson (Greenfield Central Schools), Tammy Settergren (Just Good Tees), Garren Harter (Hancock Health), Danielle Farmer (Hancock Health), Rebecca Trebley (Hancock Health), Theresa Werking (St. Thomas the Apostle, Fortville), Ciara Nienhaus (Hancock Health).Also, back row, from left: Amy Kirkpatrick (Hancock Health), Metta Sanders (Greenfield Banking Company), Alisha Love (Ninestar Connect), Joel Shores (Joyner Homes), Chantel Fowler (Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County), Bob Mattsey (Farm Bureau), Shane Osborn (Ninestar Connect), Dan Worl (city of Greenfield), Keith Oliver (Hancock County Sheriff’s Department), Tamra Parrish (Hancock Health), Jane Barton (Daily Reporter), Margaret North (Hancock Health), Paul McNeal (Hancock County Library) Submitted photo

HANCOCK COUNTY — Like everywhere else, things were turned upside down for the Leadership Hancock County Class of 2020 when pandemic restrictions began in March.

The monthly class sessions came to an abrupt halt, as did progress on the group community service projects that are often seen as the highlight of the annual program.

“I wish the leadership year would have ended better. I hated to cancel our April meeting, as we had a great lineup prepared to send the class off with a bang,” said Jason Wells, coordinator of the local leadership program, designed to cultivate community leaders.

Even the group’s traditional end-of-year graduation dinner had to be postponed, denying the class the chance to share their group project presentations with their peers and the community.

“Although we won’t be meeting for a celebratory presentation night, we will still meet up this summer for a party, and we still want the class to finish their group projects,” Wells said.

Class members will be asked to return in the fall to present their projects to the next class. The organization will welcome a new group in September.

The Class of 2020 was the 24th class to take part in Leadership Hancock County.

Next year, a big celebration is being planned to commemorate the program’s 25th anniversary, said Wells, who took over leading the program last fall.

Each leadership class meets monthly, from September through May. The last time this year’s class met was in March.

The outgoing class had 24 students who hold a wide variety of positions throughout Hancock County.

As they do each year, participants were divided into teams to work on a class project with a community service emphasis. Unlike previous years, the teams were given the opportunity to select their own projects rather than have them assigned.

One team plans to create a landscaped backyard space at the Talitha Koum House in Greenfield. Another is facilitating a bee ordinance support initiative.

Joel Shores had a great time working with his team to raise funds for picnic tables to be installed at the new Greenfield Youth Baseball fields.

“Our team was called the Sandlot Squad. We worked with local businesses to cover the cost of getting eight new benches at the baseball fields,” said Shores, a purchasing specialist for Joyner Homes in Greenfield.

His team created a Facebook page to spread the word about their project, gathering enough money to upgrade the benches to highly durable, Indiana-made benches made of recycled material.

Typically, the teams share their project presentations at the year-end dinner.

As a graduate of the program, Wells is disappointed year’s class can’t experience the same milestones like project presentations and the graduation dinner.

He was especially disappointed to have to cancel the April session, which would have featured a panel discussion with speakers from Hancock Regional Hospital, the Hancock County Community Foundation and the Hancock Economic Development Council.

“They were going to talk about not only leading a company but leading our community. I was looking forward to that connection to send people off with,” he said. “We’re already in the process of trying to set that up again for next year.”

Shores was motivated to join the leadership class to connect with local business owners, he said, but he came away with much more than that.

Shores said the class experience opened his eyes to just how generous and supportive the Hancock County community is. “I had no idea all the different organizations that were out there to be able to help people. It was an eye-opening experience,” he said.

“We were able to see a lot of things that the average person doesn’t get to see, like behind the scenes at the food pantry. There are a lot of things like that you don’t necessarily know are there until you get a chance to see them, then when you do you can help spread the word about them and share what the community is all about.”

It’s that kind of civic engagement that is the very purpose of the leadership program, Wells said.

“The mission of Leadership Hancock County is to develop capable and motivated leaders to assume an active role in the growth, management, and success of our communities,” he said.

Applications for this year’s new leadership class will be available in mid-June. The cost is $725, which is sometimes paid for by employers. There’s also a scholarship available, Wells said. Updates will be posted on the Leadership Hancock County Facebook page.

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Applications for the 2020-21 class of Leadership Hancock County — the organization’s 25th year — will be available in mid-June. The cost is $725, which is often paid for by employers. A scholarship also is available. Updates will be posted on the Leadership Hancock County Facebook page. The class meets for a two-day retreat in September and then day-long class sessions once a month through April.