Tipton County Foundation
Growing, Leading, and Serving Since 1986!
PO Box 412 • Tipton, IN 46072 •

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30th Anniversary!

The Tipton County Foundation is accredited in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™, a program that establishes legal, ethical, effective practices in philanthropy.

Email the Foundation's President


Frank Giammarino
 for information about funds, investments, events, and volunteering

Community Development Officer
Lori Tragesser
for Grants
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Chad Huff

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Rhonda Nightenhelser
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Info &

Published in the Tipton County Tribune,
April 22, 2016

A Tribute to Generations of Neighbors

As we observe Indiana’s Bicentennial, we remember that in 1844, Tipton County was founded in the fertile swampland of Indiana. Much has changed, but our County retains its essential agricultural character.

This county’s 15,000 neighbors went about making it a great place to live, learn, work, worship, and play. In 1984, Pioneer Hi-Bred International commissioned Purdue University to study Tipton County as a model of small rural localities across the nation. What does a county like this one need, and how do we get it?

Thirty years ago, community leaders responded to the Purdue study by creating the Tipton County Foundation to grow the needed resources, to serve unmet needs for education, youth, seniors, recreation, and to provide leadership for creative problem-solving—all to improve the quality of life. Steadily that dream of community-minded leaders is being fulfilled.

The Foundation made its first grants to the Sharpsville city park and to the establishment of the Tipton County Mustard Seed. Over these 30 years, civic-spirited volunteers have guided the growth, service and management of the organization, to continue works throughout the county.

The Founding Board of Directors in 1986 was composed of Robert Wichmann of Pioneer (the first Board chairman), Jerry R. Armstrong (second Board chairman), Ben B. Hobbs (third Board chairman), Floyd E. Collins, E.W. Kelley, Dr. Destry Lambert, Dan Mattingly, Don McCorkle, and Dr. M.G. “Chub” Smith.

Others who have served on the Board through the years include Thomas McKinney (fourth Board chairman), Virginia Chambers (fifth chair and first chairwoman, Mark Raver (sixth Board chair), Jeane S. Boyer, Judy Burton, Carl Colbert, Stephen Collins, Joe Cottingham, Rex Craig, Thomas Dolezal, Dennis Henderson, Paul Julius, Karen King, Janice Legg, Vickey McCorkle, Fern Tyner Nash, Brad Nichols, Dan Noble, Vernon Schmaltz, Robert Schram, Dr. Judy Stouder, and Ron Warren.

In 2016, the Board members are seventh Board Chair Jan Henderson, Vice Chair Tom McKinney, Secretary Nancy Nicholson, Treasurer Mark Baird, Ben Hobbs, Dr. Kevin Condict, Lary Graves, Jason Hare, JoAnn McQuinn, Anabeth Rayl, Amber Rodibaugh, Dr. Mike Smith, and Sharon Smith.

In addition to the Board, there are over 100 Volunteers currently serving with TCF committees and activities!

In the early years, the Foundation relied on Volunteers for ALL the work. Eventually, retired banker Robert M. Schram was asked to serve part-time as the first executive director of the Tipton County Foundation. Then, John C. Walker served as executive director for thirteen years, until June, 2005. During John’s tenure, the Foundation grew from $500,000 in assets to nearly $18 million in various funds established by numerous donors to serve the causes they care about, helping TCF to become the largest per capita community foundation on record. Assisting John in the Foundation offices were Nancy Ashley and Jan Crouch, who served through the transition when John retired.

In 2005, the Foundation hired its first full-time president. Additional staff members serving today, with several years’ experience, are community development officer Lori Tragesser, education program officer Chad Huff, and bookkeeper Dawn Dunn. Previous program officers were Abbie Smith and Megan Zanto, and Valerie Stapleton served as bookkeeper. The following students have served as interns: Chad Huff, Jason Schoettmer, Cameron Tragesser, Drew Frawley, and Hunter Jones.

Community support has led to overwhelming growth. Over $30 million has been contributed and mostly invested in nearly 100 permanent endowments. Investment earnings have amounted to over $15 million, which in turn has been granted to organizations for operations and special projects, and for scholarships enabling hundreds of students to continue education beyond high school.

Hundreds of families support funds and projects at the Foundation each year, making it possible to provide other grants and benefits.

With those assets, the Foundation has been able to assist in funding county projects like the Tipton County Historical Society’s Heritage Museum, the Windfall Community Center, the Veterans’ memorial at the Courthouse, and essential support for the Tipton County Boys and Girls Club, Encore Lifestyle and Enrichment Center for senior citizens, Tipton County Mustard Seed, Alternatives, the CW Mount Community Center, programs at Tipton and Tri-Central Schools, and other community organizations and projects.

The Agribusiness endowment, in cooperation with the county’s Young Farmers Hoppers for the Hungry program, supports the community food pantry , addressing our operational priority to issues of nutrition and health. The Women’s Fund, one of the fastest growing endowments at the Foundation, brings over 200 women and girls together for its annual Afternoon Tea, to celebrate women and to award grants that empower women and girls in Tipton County.

Volunteers administer over 60 endowed scholarship funds, awarding $160,000 every year, and make a nomination for Tipton County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholars. Tipton County’s youngest students benefit from the Kindergarten Countdown program, created by the Indiana Association of United Ways with sponsorship from Indiana University Health, including Tipton Hospital. It serves those entering kindergarten with little formal classroom experience. And the whole family can enjoy an afternoon of fun, food, and entertainment at the fourteenth annual Ducky Day in Tipton Park, August 28!

The John Findling fund continues its legacy of helping the neediest children in Tipton County by providing grants to programs such as Backpack Blessings, school emergency assistance funds, Jubilee Christmas, the Mitten Tree, and Coats for Kids.

Besides legacies originally entrusted to local financial institutions that were then transferred to grow the community foundation, many donors have recognized the safety and competence of TCF for handling their permanent lasting gift to their hometown and generations of neighbors to come. Any listing runs the risk of omitting valued friends, but the pillars of philanthropy include Lowell and Mary Luella Miller, Robert C. and Phyllis M. Orr, E.W. Kelley, Wilma and Gene Parks, Robert and Dorothy Wooldridge, Ray and Lillian Bower, Howard N. Myerly, Judge C.W. Mount, Elizabeth Y. Lebo, Joseph K. Orr, and the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Special acknowledgment must be made to Pioneer Hi-Bred International. As great corporate and individual citizens, their employees, customers, and executives nurtured the Foundation from the beginning, and gave their time and talent as well as the significant gifts of office facilities, including the extraordinary Conference Center donated to the Foundation in 1999 as a unique headquarters for a community foundation in Indiana. The former First National Bank & Trust and National City Bank, as well as BMO Harris Bank and Foundation have also facilitated gifts from major donors.

And while we all must be grateful for those contributors of significant means, whose endowed gifts have made a lasting legacy, it is important also to appreciate the hundreds of families that give $100, or $50 or $10 each year to such projects as the United Community Fund, City of Tipton Fireworks, the Canine Officer funds, and Shoes for Kids.

Through philanthropic donor services, strategic grantmaking, and constructive leadership, your community foundation unites the gifts of many to sustain the causes that matter to all.

Thank you for helping the Tipton County Foundation to do good, Growing, Leading, and Serving since 1986. For more information, our latest annual report, and the priorities the Board has set for the next four years in our new strategic plan, visit www.tiptoncf.org.

Visit the 30th Anniversary Webpage

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