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Member Spotlight: September McConnell, Whitley County Community Foundation

Tuesday, February 4, 2020
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This member spotlight features our interview with September MConnell, CEO of Whitley County Community Foundation. September shares her excitement around Next Level Whitley County, an unprecedented partnership led by the foundation that joins government, nonprofits, private business, education, and the public to transform their community.

What’s the biggest impact your organization has made this year?

Two years ago, we began coordinating a strategic community framework—now called Next Level Whitley County—with goals including reducing jail recidivism, addressing employment shortages in our manufacturing community, and combating the growing burden on social service organizations who are seeing increased trauma in our youth. While a number of wins are emerging, right now we are most proud of the fact that Parkview Behavioral Health just established offices in our community and will be providing professional mental health and substance abuse services to jail inmates.

What’s next on your work agenda?

The collaborative work emerging under Next Level Whitley County will remain a priority for the next few years. It’s an unprecedented partnership for our county, knitting together government, nonprofits, private business, education, and the public. We feel like we have something very unique and powerful unfolding and the foundation’s board is committed to the long-term successes that have been identified. In addition, there’s likely a new home for the community foundation in the near future. It’s bittersweet, but we’re outgrowing the 160-year-old building we’ve been in since 1999.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in your sector?

In Northeast Indiana, the 80/20 Foundation Trust recently formed and we are enjoying the collaborative opportunities afforded us by having another funding partner who shares our commitment to transforming our area for the better. 

How did you get started in this work?

An internship with the Indiana Sports Corporation put me on the nonprofit path. In 1997, a museum director pressed me about my career goals and I confided that if I ever hit the lottery, I’d start my own foundation. About two weeks later, I received a call asking me to apply for the executive director position at the community foundation. In retrospect, 23 years later, I feel like I hit that lottery.

What’s kept you there?

Genuine love of community, generous donors, supportive board members, and the world’s best co-workers.

When and where are you the happiest?

Anywhere extended family and friends are together having fun—that’s usually a fish fry at Crooked Lake.

Who inspires you?

My husband Jim—who is the whole package. My kids who amaze me. My parents who never stop working and giving. Vanessa Bills, for her patience and quest for knowledge (Community Foundation of Whitley County). Jenna Ott, the definition of grace (Dekko Foundation). Suzie Light who has the world’s best laugh (Kosciusko County Community Foundation). Dawn Brown’s creativity (Community Foundation of Grant County). Jennifer Danic’s confidence (Steuben County Community Foundation). Tanya Young’s heart (Community Foundation of DeKalb County). Terri Johnson’s cheerleading (IPA/GIFT). Sheena Stewart’s team spirit (Community Foundation of Whitley County). Lisa Wilson’s resilience (Whitley County). My brothers—Matthew for being humble, Michael for being ambitious. My sisters-in-law who passionately care for animals. Jill Elkins for her kindness and wit (Whitley County). Sharlene Berkshire for her common sense (Community Foundation of Whitley County). John Lefever’s ability to strategize. David Smith’s ability to provoke thought (Community Foundation of Whitley County). Tim Bloom’s integrity (Community Foundation of Whitley County). The brainy girl power of Rhonda Jones (Community Foundation of Whitley County) and Marcia McNagny. John Whitleather’s perpetual orneriness (Indiana Bar Foundation). Andy More for showing me how to walk the walk (Community Foundation of Whitley County). And my bulldog, Pie, who knows how to take a really good nap.


Connect with September

Do you have questions or ideas for collaboration? Reach out using IPA's Member Directory.

IPA's Member Spotlight Series

IPA Member Spotlights are written by IPA members to share their personality, purpose, and passion for philanthropy. By following this series, you can connect with peers doing work similar to yours and find opportunities for collaboration. 

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