K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad gestures while explaining a slide laying out a plan to invest $1.8 million in nine rural communities for wellness programs. Photo by David Slone
K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad gestures while explaining a slide laying out a plan to invest $1.8 million in nine rural communities for wellness programs. Photo by David Slone
WINONA LAKE – K21 Health Foundation made three big announcements at its 20th anniversary celebration Tuesday that could impact communities in the county for generations to come.

K21 is committing $1.8 million in nine rural towns for their best step forward toward health and wellness. The towns include Claypool, Etna Green, Leesburg, Mentone, Milford, North Webster, Pierceton, Silver Lake and Syracuse.

It’s pledging $1 million for the construction of an ice rink/pavilion in the county.

And K21 purchased the property at 1101 Park Ave., Winona Lake, for the establishment of a permanent home for itself.

K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad made the announcements at the Winona Heritage Room to a gathering of community leaders, elected officials, nonprofit organizations and current and former members of the K21 Board of Directors. He said the current 17-member board made the decisions in the last few months.

The Health Foundation is very excited about the $1.8 million commitment to the nine rural towns, he said.

“We feel strongly that we want to be known and seen and impact every person in Kosciusko County in every corner of Kosciusko County. We care about every person, and so we care about communities like Claypool, Etna Green, Leesburg, Mentone, Milford, North Webster, Pierceton, Silver Lake, Syracuse. If you are from those communities, the Foundation cares about you and wants to make a difference in your community and that’s what we’re going to do,” Haddad stated before announcing the K21 Board of Directors’ commitment to the nine rural towns.

Each town will be provided with a grant of up to $200,000 “for their best step toward health and wellness. Every community is a little different. Every community has its unique needs and unique opportunities and we want to know what each of these towns need or want to move and impact their residents in the area of health and wellness. So we are super excited about working with the leadership, the leaders of each of those communities, to help bring out what would be their best impact in health and wellness and then being able to provide funding to help them move forward.”

Haddad also talked about a healthy life needing to be a year-round healthy life, but there is a tendency in the winter months for people to hibernate inside their homes. He said K21 wants to help the community deal with its sedentary lifestyle in the winter months.

“We believe we have to create more and more year-round activities so we, again, change the culture of what we believe and how we believe we should live,” he said.

Haddad said there have been four Kosciusko Leadership Academy White Papers on ice rinks but they got stalled.

“And it’s time. It is time in our community. It is time, it is time, it is time for us to get this done. And the K21 board has made a pledge that we are going to commit $1 million to a future ice rink/pavilion in the county,” he said. “We are in. We are in. We are committed. I believe that this is the next game changer for our community – that we can create a year-round all-family opportunity for people to live a healthy life all through the winter. And really be an even more attractive community than we already know we are.”

He challenged everyone in the community to get the ice rink done.

“We’ve got some things to figure out, but we’ve got a million-dollar headstart, so let’s make this work,” he said.

On the purchase of the building in Winona, Haddad said K21 has always rented or borrowed space in an attempt to be frugal with its money.

“But I can tell you that the board has always desired to put their roots in the ground in this community. And, really, we know space matters and to physically have a presence in this community says, ‘We are here, we are here for you and we’re going to be here for a long, long time,’” he said.

The building will be renovated over the winter with K21 hoping to move in by the spring.

Haddad said that while the building may look like a lot of space for the small K21 staff, it does need a lot of space for board meetings and “we’re excited about being able to design it in a way to share that space with other nonprofits and organizations that need to borrow space.”

He said the building will have several meeting rooms for those other organizations to have meetings, and room for a new or growing organization to have space.

The 20-year K21 anniversary celebration started with Board Chair Andrew Grossnickle welcoming everyone to the event.

“Really what we’re celebrating is 20 years of impact on the community, and also hoping to set the stage for the next 20 years moving forward and helping our community here in Kosciusko County,” Grossnickle said.

Grace College President Dr. Bill Katip talked about the $2.7 million K21 has provided – over it’s 20-year existence – to Grace. Katip also provided the invocation.

Haddad recognized those present and talked about the board of directors. In 20 years, 58 people have served on the board.

He also discussed K21’s history, which began in 1999 following the sale of Kosciusko Community Hospital to a for-profit health system. KCH was founded in 1967 as a community nonprofit hospital. The approximate $63 million in proceeds from the sale of KCH created the permanent endowment that became the Foundation. It now has $75 million in assets.

A 5- to 6-minute new video on K21 was shown, which will be on the Foundation’s website. Haddad then discussed the six “Impact Areas of Health” K21 focuses on, including direct health care services, nutrition and prevention, active youth development, community culture of healthy living, environmental health and health recovery and opportunity.

Three people then spoke about how K21 impacted their organizations.

Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert spoke about how K21 has helped the school district focus on wellness. He then presented a “Drumfit” group from Harrison Elementary School, which demonstrated adaptive physical education.

Rebecca Bazzoni, Joe’s Kids founder and executive director, shared what Joe’s Kids and K21’s partnership has meant to families of special needs kids in Kosciusko County.

Lilly Center for Lakes and Streams Director Dr. Nate Bosch spoke about how K21’s help has benefitted his organization in the past and present and for the future.