Community Foundation of Elkhart County supports flood victims

ELKHART COUNTY — The Community Foundation of Elkhart County’s Disaster Relief Fund was established in 2009 by the city of Nappanee to provide future disaster relief service for residents of Elkhart County following the model utilized by Nappanee when their community was devastated by a tornado on Oct. 18, 2007.

Then-mayor, Larry Thompson was proud to provide seed money on this fund after their relief efforts were complete and to recognize the hundreds of donors who supported these efforts from across the county, the region, and the country.

This fund address needs in the community in the aftermath of a disaster within Elkhart County. Examples of qualifying disasters include but are not limited to weather calamities such as tornadoes or floods; industrial accidents; or acts of terrorism.

How it works

The Community Foundation’s Board of Directors has the authority to activate the fund, evaluating several factors, including a disaster’s severity, impact, community need and availability of adequate resources. An advisory committee made up of community leaders affected by the disaster will determine the most effective and equitable means to distribute funds based on the need and scope of the disaster.

The Community Foundation encourages contributions to the Disasters Relief Fund at any time, with targeted resources development activities also following specific disasters. All monies raised are distributed through grants to eligible nonprofit organizations providing assistance to disaster victims.

The Community Foundation does not charge any fees for administrations of Disaster Relief program or grant distribution and encourages the same waiver amoung recipient nonprofit organizations.

Specific grants allocations will be decided by special advisory committee, chaired by Larry Thompson and includes Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman; Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese; Nick Kieffer, president and CEO of Goshen Chamber of Commerce; Levon Johnson, president and CEO of Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce; John Levitt, partner- Salem Insurance of Nappanee and Goshen; Larry Gautsche, CEO of LaCasa; and Shannon Oakes, senior program officer at the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.

This decision-making process ensures those with local expertise distribute resources to the nonprofit organization best suited to meet community needs. Allocation is responsive, efficient and transparent.

“The advisory committee will be putting the structure in place to know how we can address the needs of individuals, families, and businesses," said Jodi Spataro, chief advancement officer. "Basic needs are likely the most urgent needs. Safe housing for those who have been evacuated from their homes, clean-up efforts, restored utilities, lost revenues from closed businesses are all things we have heard are needs. Time and further recovery efforts will identify other needs as disaster relief efforts continue.”

According to Spataro, one of the fastest, most practical ways to make a difference is simply by donating money.  Some may not be able to donate money but can donate time. They will do their best to post ways to volunteer with clean-up or to raise awareness of community needs. People can also help inform and educate people as needs arise.

“We all truly can help each other in some way and it's crucial we all work together. I want all people to know they have the power to make a difference. By simply getting involved, we can unite and relieve peoples suffering,” said Spataro.

The Disaster Relief program is primarily designed to address community needs once emergency issues are addressed. However, the advisory committee may elect to grant to first-response organizations if community needs dictate.

How to Give

Donations to the Disaster Relief Fund can be made online at or mailed to the Community Foundation, 300 Nibco Pkwy, Ste. 301, Elkhart, IN 46516. Community Foundation staff members can also work with business or corporate entities that would like to establish a matching-gifts program for employee giving to disaster relief efforts.

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