Pleasant surprises: Community Foundation of Boone County awards grants to Big-4 Rail Trail, Isaiah 117 House

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The Community Foundation of Boone County, a granting organization that serves more than 150 nonprofits in the county, recently presented large “surprise” grants to two Zionsville-area entities. One of the grants went to the Isaiah 117 House of Boone County, and the other was awarded to the Big-4 Rail Trail.

Community Foundation of Boone County President/CEO Jodi Gietl said that the foundation enjoys being able to spread an average of $1.2 million from its donation fund and annually invest it back into the community to various nonprofits in Boone County. Gietl said the foundation sometimes prefers to “come in with a broad stroke” and inject a lot of money into a single program.

Gietl said the last time the foundation awarded a similar unsolicited grant was in 2020, when it granted $50,000 in unrestricted, immediate funds to Zionsville Community Schools, and did the same for two other school corporations in Boone County.

“We are passionate about our competitive granting cycles, which is the heart of any granting organization, but every now and then the board and the granting committee likes to come in and make an impact and surprise folks, like we did with the schools back in 2020 and with the two more recent grants,” said Gietl, who has lived in Zionsville for 22 years.

This year’s grants were awarded in March. The first was presented to Isaiah 117 House of Boone County, a nonprofit that houses displaced children awaiting foster home placement located in Whitestown on the Zionsville and Whitestown border.

On March 10, local members and volunteers of the Isaiah 117 House of Boone County were told to meet at the New Hope Christian Church Whitestown, where they were surprised with a $75,000 grant. Earlier, the church had donated three-quarters of an acre of land where Isaiah 117 House is being built.

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Friends of Boone County Trails member Dan Warkentien speaks at the Boone County Courthouse regarding a project grant for the Big 4 Rail Trail totaling $150,000. (Photo courtesy of Julie Reagan)

The $75,000 grant was the single-largest ever gifted by the Community Foundation of Boone County in the organization’s 31-year history.

“We are full of appreciation and thankful for the Community Foundation of Boone County and the rest of the community for continually surrounding our project and supporting our needs,” said Laura Wiggs, program coordinator for Isaiah 117 House of Boone County. “This gift will make such a huge impact in serving these children.

“Every donation and gift reaffirms why we are here, to help youth in their time of need.”

Gietl said the foundation committee enjoys awarding surprise grants to “special organizations” like Isaiah 117 House.

“We wanted to come in and help build the foundation of Isaiah 117 House in Boone County and really get in at the ground level of assisting this nonprofit for the work they do with foster children,” Gietl said. “We wanted nothing more than to help care for vulnerable children in the county.”

The following week, the Boone County Community Foundation gathered at the Boone County Courthouse with community partners, officials and supporters to award $150,000 in grants to provide gifts of public art to the north and south sections of the Big-4 Rail Trail and mile marker signage along the entire trail.

Zionsville Parks and Recreation Supt. Jarod Logsdon said portions of the grant will be used to create a mural on the trail and looks forward to the project bringing more visitors to the trail system.

“We are grateful and beyond excited to partner with the Boone County Community Foundation to bring public art to our park system,” Logsdon said. “Once complete, the mural walk will utilize the blank canvas of the Rail Trail tunnels to showcase a series of art installations that are uniquely Zionsville. We look forward to inviting new visitors on their journey across the Boone County Big-4 Rail Trail.”

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From left, Zionsville Parks and Recreation Supt. Jarod Logsdon, Community Foundation of Boone County President/CEO Jodi Gietl, Friends of Boone County Trails member Dan Warkentien and Thorntown Park Board Secretary Lisa Vitaniemi pause with a project grant for the Big-4 Rail Trail totaling $150,000. (Photo courtesy of Julie Reagan)

‘We call them investments’

President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Boone County Jodi Gietl said that the donations it receives are referred to as investments because the return on donations go right back into the community.

“Donors aren’t just donating money, they are investing it with us,” Gietl said. “They’re investing in Boone County.”

Funds can be donated to the foundation for designated purposes, such as youth interests or the arts, or they can be generalized.

“Our obligation is to always make sure that we are gifting and granting the money out based on the donor’s desires,” Gietl said. “But some donors give to the community impact fund, which is a general fund, which is like them saying, ‘We trust you to know the needs of the community,’ and we are allowed to grant out of that as needs in the county change.”

To donate to the CFBC, visit communityfoundationbc.org.


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