HANCOCK COUNTY — Luke Schilling, a junior at Eastern Hancock High School, was named this year’s recipient of the Martha Beckenholdt Youth Philanthropy Award.

The award, named in honor of longtime Hancock County resident and philanthropist Martha Beckenholdt, recognizes a Hancock County high school junior who has contributed outstanding time, talent and energy to philanthropic endeavors.

The Community Foundation of Hancock County announces a new winner each year after accepting nominations of youth throughout the county.

This year’s recipient was selected by the community foundation’s 16-member youth board, Y-GIVE (Youth Giving Investing Volunteering and Engaging), based on combined scores of applications and interviews.

 Luke Schilling presents a check to Emily Meckel, founder of Poss-ABILITIES, a nonprofit which teaches children of all abilities how to learn from livestock. Luke is this year’s winner of the Martha Beckenholdt Youth Philanthropy Award, which provides a $1,000 grant to be donated to a nonprofit of the winner’s choosing. Submitted photos

Luke was awarded a $1,000 grant to be donated to the nonprofit of his choice. He chose to support Hancock County Poss-ABILITIES, which provides opportunities for those with physical, emotional or cognitive abilities — age 3-25 — to work with a mentor to learn all about raising and showing livestock.

Participants are matched with a mentor like Luke, who helps them learn to engage with livestock in preparation for a Poss-ABILITIES livestock show at the county fair.

Luke, a longtime Hancock County 4-H member who shows livestock each year, said he admires the nonprofit’s mission to to help individuals with mental, physical and emotional disabilities experience what showing an animal is like.

He volunteers with the program to share art of showing pigs.

“I look forward to working with my student and introducing them to my pigs as we get ready for the show at the 2024 Hancock County 4-H Fair,” he said.

Luke also volunteers at his church — Wilkinson Church of Christ — as well as the Feast of Plenty each year. He also sponsors through Compassion International and owns his own company, Big Doug’s Secret Seasoning, the proceeds from which support PASS (Players Assisting in Selfless Service).

He was nominated for the youth philanthropy award by Ty Hunt, Director of Nutritional Services at Hancock Regional Hospital and coordinator of the Feast of Plenty meal that takes place at the county fairgrounds each Thanksgiving.

“Luke has a foundation grounded in honesty, hard work, compassion for others, and a strong relationship with Jesus,” said Hunt.

He is “quiet, perceptive, intelligent and committed to every task he takes on,” he continued. “His hard work and willingness to learn have allowed him to be successful and continue to grow and spread his wings as he matures.”

Luke said he chose to donate his $1,000 grant to Poss-Abilities in order to share his love of raising and showing livestock on his family’s farm.

The local nonprofit was created by Emily Meckel, based on the passion her daughter Emily has for raising and showing sheep.

“I wanted to create and facilitate the same opportunities for her peers, and those who might not otherwise have access,” said Meckel, as stated on the nonprofit’s website.

“Poss-ABILITIES is more than just livestock,” she said.

“We strive to build strong bonds between youth and families that will last a lifetime. I call it the ripple effect. Witnessing peers interact together over a love of animals regardless of ability is truly the most incredible project I have ever been a part of,” Meckel said.

To learn more about Hancock Poss-ABILITIES, visit hancockpossabilities.com.