By Gus Pearcy
Despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus, some good news emerged in Hendricks County. Eight years ago when Hendricks County Community Foundation President and CEO William Rhodehamel was brought on, the total assets were just over $7 million. In November, the foundation surpassed $20 million.
It was a bright spot in an otherwise aggravating year which saw the mission of solving local challenges tested. The silver lining in the pandemic was the community’s response.
“It’s been a remarkable experience to see how the whole country has changed and how our community has changed, but also how so many people have come back together to try and help all our neighbors,” Rhodehamel said.
Rhodehamel said gifts were coming in a way he had not seen before.
“There were a lot of people that haven’t engaged before that recognized this is the time to step up,” he added.
Donations were funneled through the foundation to the nonprofits that needed it most in the pandemic.
“We were supporting a wide range of organizations doing direct service,” he said. “We were doing what we could and as quickly as we could.”
To date, the foundation has granted $550,000 to such groups as the Hendricks County Food Pantry Coalition, Sheltering Wings, Family Promise of Hendricks County and Hendricks County Senior Services.
The need was so great and so quick, the board in April decided to “invade principal” on one of the endowed unrestricted funds. It was an emergency measure that is rarely used since most grants are made from the interest generated by the endowment.
“We were able to use those dollars in the community where I think it was needed most,” Rhodehamel said. “I think it was the right decision to make.”
It was an unprecedented response to an unprecedented year where more spending was necessary.
Donor directed funds such as scholarships or endowments to further the goals of nonprofits, operated mostly as normal. However, there was a big change for the Habit of the Heart program. Started by women almost 25 years ago, the program has granted $500,000 to Hendricks County families with emergency needs. This year, the program partnered with Family Promise of Hendricks County to increase awareness and provide financial resources, housing and relief for the homeless and poverty-ladened populations to reach sustainable independence.
Looking ahead to 2021
While the situation is fluid, Rhodehamel said that foundation officials are preparing for the end of the pandemic. However he admits, the new year forecast is unknown.
“We’re hoping by the middle of the year, we’re getting back to something that is more normal,” he said.
Last March, as the public health emergency was ramping up fast, the foundation submitted and was approved for the Community Unity grant. The Lilly Endowment awarded the foundation $200,000 for a program to increase community leadership.
Rhodehamel said the program is expected to start mid-year and will focus on three areas. Civic engagement will look at increasing participation in local government, branding and marketing to increase community pride in partnership with Visit Hendricks County and The Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership, and then beginning the conversation of diversity and equity in our communities.
“We’re much more diverse than we used to be, and we need to be more welcoming,” he added.
Rhodehamel is unsure how these newfound partnerships and donors will remain engaged in the coming years, but said this year’s response was amazing.
“So many of our other nonprofits have been partnering and making sure the resources are there to help our neighbors who are hungry, homeless and hurting,” he said. “It’s just remarkable to think about how our community has come together this year.”
Hendricks County Community Foundation
Address: 6319 E. U.S. 36, Suite 211, Avon
Phone: (317) 268-6240
Social media: Search Hendricks County Community Foundation on Facebook and Instagram