Legacy Foundation launches vision-shaping project - May 12, 2017

Courtesy of Post-Tribune

Written by Nancy Coltun Webster

As the Legacy Foundation approaches its 25th anniversary, it will host an event in September to try and bring together 1,500 people to formulate a vision for the future.

At a recent annual meeting at the Halls of St. George in Schererville, the foundation, with more than $50 million in assets, presented speakers and plans for the Sept. 26 event called On The Table, modeled after the Chicago Community Trust’s On The Table Initiative. The idea is for participants from civic, religious, nonprofit, municipal, social services, health care and other walks of life to break bread and talk about community challenges and opportunities.

Carolyn Saxton, CEO and president of Legacy Foundation, said the process involves hosted events and 100 of the 200 events needed have been scheduled.

Judy Lindsey, executive director of the Methodist Hospitals Foundation, is among the first 100 people who have committed to serving as a host. Lindsey is also one of two dozen members of the On The Table steering committee.

“Carolyn pulled together a group to act as a steering committee to engage as many people as possible to serve as hosts,” Lindsey said. “I’ve been able to enlist six people in my network (to host). They represent perspectives in health care disparities, emergency medical services and trauma, services for seniors and a sorority that does fundraising to give to community organizations. I felt the network would bring together perspectives that would benefit Legacy.”

Lindsey participated in the Chicago Community Trust’s program a few years ago when she worked for Chicago Public Media.

“I had an opportunity to see just how this process mushroomed. How it inspired grant-making as Chicago Trust approached its 100th anniversary. In addition to bringing focus to needs of the community, it will elevate the visibility and impact of the Legacy Foundation and the importance of philanthropy,” Lindsey said.

Attendees also listened to featured speakers, who included Robert Johnson, chairman of the Legacy board of directors, Garrard McClendon, assistant professor of education at Chicago State University and host of Counterpoint with Garrard McClendon on Lakeshore Public Media, and Kimberly Reppa, a 2011 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient who is now a PhD student at Purdue University.

McClendon discussed his family’s decision to create a fund to honor his parents Milton and Ruby McClendon of Hammond, who were murdered after a home invasion and robbery on Oct. 18, 2009.

“It was my mother’s birthday and my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary weekend,” McClendon said. “There were family members who wanted to create revenge. But we decided to create a fund. We called Legacy. We didn’t want flowers and a lot of cards. Those cost a lot of money. So, in lieu of flowers and cards, we established the Milton and Ruby McClendon Educational Fund. We raised $9,000 in one week. My parents’ dream lives on in Legacy Foundation.”

Money from the fund has gone to the Hammond Education Foundation.

“I thank God for the Legacy Foundation. It shows how far money can go if you give it to a worthy cause,” said McClendon.

Reppa, a graduate of Hanover Central High School, said the Lilly scholarship enabled her to attend Purdue and intern at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. It covers full tuition, fees and provides a $900 book stipend each year for four years of undergraduate studies.

Johnson discussed the foundation’s upcoming 25th anniversary in December and how it is devoted to the social and economic advancement of Lake County. The Merrillville-based organization offers programs such as Neighborhood Spotlight, Legacy Learning Lab, which provides support and training to area non-profits and METAS (Motivate, Educate, Termina, Alcanza Y Suena) aimed at increasing the number of Latino students enrolling and succeeding in college. In addition, Legacy has collaborated with area agencies and businesses to raise $3.6 million in local matching funds for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s On My Way Pre-K in Lake County.

In the past year, Legacy delivered grants to dozens of efforts through the Lake County Community fund to support such efforts as the Sojourner Truth House Parenting Conference, the Catholic Charities Wheelchair Ramp Program and the volunteer engagement room at the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.

In 2016, more than 100 Lake County students received awards from more than 35 scholarship funds to pursue higher education.

Legacy is one of 10 community foundations in the U.S. offering the On The Table initiative with $1.5 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Legacy received $60,000 for the initiative.

The Knight Foundation provides grants to projects in 26 communities where the Knight brothers published newspapers, which once included the Post-Tribune.

“My hope, actually my dream, is we become a leader for our creative thinking and out-of-the-box solutions,” Johnson said.