Martha Sandoval of the Schererville Chamber of Commerce first suggested the development of a local education foundation in the winter of 1995-1996. She gathered a small group of like-minded community members, and the Lake Central Education Foundation (LCEF) was begun. In the summer of 1996, the group marched in parades, handed out pamphlets at community events, and solicited its first members through a mass mailing. By that fall, the LCEF had generated enough money to offer its first round of grants. Eleven grants, for a total of $3,892.00, were awarded. As they say, the rest is history.
As of Fall 2022, the LCEF has awarded 604 grants for a total of $310,349.86. Every school and several community groups have received funding from us. We also provided a $500 scholarship to a deserving Lake Central senior for several years.
The usual pattern of our giving includes two rounds of grants per school year, one in the fall and another in the spring. Traditionally, we offer a smaller round in the fall than in the spring. Maximum grant amounts have ranged from $250 to $1500.
We usually stick to a generic grant format, allowing staff or community members to apply for any type of innovative student learning activity. However, from time to time we like to encourage certain initiatives in the school. Therefore, we have been known to offer rounds that promote science, interdisciplinary activities, higher order thinking skills, and so on.
When the foundation was five years old, we began to feel that the same people were repeatedly applying for grants. We wanted to encourage more teachers to apply. Therefore, Round #11 was dubbed the “Rookie Round,” and applications were only accepted from those who had never received an LCEF grant before. When Clark Middle School was built and many teachers were in new buildings, new positions, or just plain new, we offered “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” and gave over $8000 to help the newbies better establish themselves.
In 2004, the Lake Central Education Foundation reached a milestone. We had given over $100,000 to the Lake Central School Corporation. We decided to throw a party to celebrate. The banquet was called the 100 Grand Celebration. Despite a raging snowstorm, an elegant dinner was held at Meyer’s Castle on January 25, 2005.
In 2019 a seed grant in the amount of $1500 was awarded to Elana Arens, Director of Lake Central School Corporation Libraries. Mrs. Arens’ applied the LCEF funds to create a “Uni Portable Library” with the goal to increase student reading. Her efforts included working with the Lake County Library System and libraries within the LC schools. Ten benches, 400 books and the LCEF purchased custom-designed portable bookshelves were transported to various public parks in the Tri-Town Area. As children checked out books (over 1,450 books in 2021, to over 554 youth) from this “open air” library, they could read in the park or take the book home. Books were returned to area schools and public libraries. Additionally, at each location there was a guest reader so children could enjoy hearing stories read to them. During each grant round, we look forward to potential seed-grant opportunities as teachers and/or other stakeholders think of creative ways to prepare students for the world in which we live.
During its first decade, memberships, the Indiana Education License Plates program, fundraising, and donations supported the Lake Central Education Foundation almost entirely. In 1996, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation allowing license bureaus to offer an education plate. The purchaser pays $40.00, designates Lake Central as the school district, and $18.75 comes to the LCEF. So far, we have received over $70,000 from the Indiana Education License Plates program.
Over time the LCEF became more aggressive in fundraising efforts. Those efforts included several annual November Fall Back 5K/2.5 Mile Walk/Runs, a recent Be a Hero-Honor Dr. Dayna Less 5K Walk/Run, several formal dinners featuring a Reverse Raffle, and collaborations with Culver’s on corporation-wide custard sales. We continue to dabble in miscellaneous fundraisers, keeping only the best on an annual basis.
LCEF also seeks grants of its own. For three years we have received funding from INAPEF (Indiana Association of Public Education Foundations). In 2006, we were awarded $866.00 in seed money for our first reverse raffle. In 2007, a grant for $1783 helped us jump-start our membership program. In 2008, we were given $1015 to use for technology (namely, a new laptop) to organize our membership and financial data.
Some original members of the Lake Central Education Foundation remain today. Others have come and gone. One thing remains the same: we are proud of the Lake Central School Corporation (LCSC) community and their willingness to write grants that have generated additional funds to support their programs and activities. These programs and activities have positively impacted the learning of over 55,000 students. The LCEF Board is dedicated to making the LCSC thrive in our Tri-Town Community.