30 Sep Press Release
The Community Foundation of Grant County has received a Community Leadership Grant of $150,000 as part of the seventh phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative. With the grant, the Community Foundation will grow its community leadership footprint by launching Thriving Mill Township – an initiative designed to drive systems change and solutions to alleviate child poverty.
“Every day, 4,469 Mill Township residents living in poverty – or just beyond it – face a resource desert for needs such as food, childcare, and transportation,” Community Foundation President and CEO Dawn Brown said about the Grant County township, which encompasses Gas City, Jonesboro and parts of rural Marion. “This grant will allow the Community Foundation to launch Thriving Mill Township in a community well suited for scaling impact and promoting sustainable solutions.”
The Community Foundation of Grant County is one of 84 foundations in Indiana receiving grants through this round of GIFT VII grantmaking. Lilly Endowment created GIFT in 1990 to help local communities in Indiana develop the philanthropic capacity to identify local needs and challenges. It launched GIFT VII in 2018 and made available a total of $125 million to help foundations strengthen their leadership capacities in the towns, cities and counties they serve. Lilly Endowment expects to make additional GIFT VII grants in the coming months.
As part of GIFT VII, the Community Foundation of Grant County was awarded a planning grant of $75,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assess opportunities and challenges in Grant County. The planning process and its stakeholders, inspired by 2015 headlines that named Grant County as the county with the highest percentage of child poverty in the state of Indiana, identified childhood poverty as the No. 1 systemic issue to be resolved in the community.
“The planning grant process allowed us to engage with our community about a reality that has been a hard truth for decades – the systemic issue of child poverty,” Brown said. “Through the planning process, we listened to our community: 275 people living in poverty through our Voices Project; 100 residents through community town halls; 45 influencers; and 18 thought leaders. What we learned has led to the systems change plan we are launching through Thriving Mill Township.”
In March 2020, the Community Foundation was invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period. In crafting its Implementation Grant proposal, the Community Foundation built on a Thriving Grant County movement that uses a nationally recognized Collective Impact Framework driven by local residents imagining a brighter future. The goal is for community members to work together to create long-term sustainable change beyond a single program. It is upon this framework that Thriving Mill Township will be built.
“The activities conducted during the planning process, particularly the Voices project, is what guided us to continue using the collective impact model in our implementation work,” Brown said. “We realized that community leadership is not just about defining the systemic issue or preparing a strategy to attack it. It’s about bringing everyone together – those in poverty and those serving those in poverty – to determine the best course of action.”
GIFT VII funds will be used to launch community-led and identified activities across three Thriving Mill Township networks: Family Well-Being, Talent Pipeline, and Community Development. Thriving’s staff and capacity will be grown in resource navigation, evaluation, data analysis, and sustainability.
“We’ve learned that a comprehensive solution to poverty in small, rural towns simply does not exist,” Brown said. “The learnings from this GIFT VII Implementation Grant will provide the Foundation with a systems change model that can be replicated in additional Grant County townships, as well as other Indiana communities.”
The Community Foundation of Grant County, Indiana, Inc. is an advocate for local philanthropy and is dedicated to improving the lives of people in the Grant County area. Since 1984, the Foundation has been working with donors to establish charitable funds and has supported non-profit organizations through a variety of grantmaking efforts.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.