Send us your project ideas

Greg Woods (left), Nick Riedman and Staci Starcher, members of the Class of 2018, present a summary of their community project during the class's graduation celebration. The three were part of Team Debate, which successfully put on five political debates last spring as part of its project to create county debate committee.

Greg Woods (left), Nick Riedman and Staci Starcher, members of the Class of 2018, present a summary of their community project during the class’s graduation celebration. The three were part of Team Debate, which successfully put on five political debates last spring as part of its project to create county debate committee. The committee will soon be planning debates in this fall’s general election.

HANCOCK COUNTY – Leadership Hancock County is reaching out to nonprofits and other community groups for ideas for community projects.

Enrollees in the leadership academy, which begins its 2018-19 program on Sept. 13, undertake community projects as part of the curriculum. The projects help class members apply lessons they’ve learned in leadership and teamwork. They also help the organizations.

Community groups are encouraged to submit proposals. They can run the gamut, from helping conceive and put on events to coordinating improvements at nonprofits’ facilities. Projects last year included an insect/bird garden at the Hancock County Public Library; a redesign of the offices of Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, a reading program for children; and creation of the nonpartisan Hancock County Debate Commission. You can look over all our past community projects by clicking on the “Projects” tab at the top of our home page.

Deadline to submit project ideas is two months earlier this year: They are due Sept. 7. Applications are available by clicking on the “Applications” tab at the top of our home page. Projects will be unveiled to the class on its Community Issues Day, Oct. 3.

Leadership Hancock County is a tuition-based program that works to identify and nurture emerging leaders. Founded in 1996, it has graduated more than 400 people, including many who have gone on to prominent leadership roles in community organizations, businesses, schools and government.

More information is available online at You also can send email to

Class of 2017-18 finishes with a flourish

After eight months, more than 70 hours of class time, and untold hours working on their community projects, the 24 members of the Class of 2018 took the stage and presented the culmination of their hard work.

The graduation celebration on Wednesday, May 2, was the climax of the 2017-18 program. In front of family members, friends, mentors and fellow alumni, the class members presented short programs on their six community projects, finishing to applause and receiving plaques for completing the program. They also received copies of John Maxwell’s inspiring collection of daily leadership devotionals, “The Maxwell Reader.”

The highlight of the evening came at the very end: Maria Bond, communications director at Mt. Vernon schools, received the 2018 Stacia Alyea Excellence in Leadership Award. The honor was voted on by class members on the class’s last program day, March 7, and it was presented by last year’s winner, Laurene Lonnemann.

Laurene and Maria

Maria Bond (right) and the 2017 Alyea Award winner, Laurene Lonnemann, celebrate Maria’s honor.

Nearly 100 people attended the celebration, which was held for the first time at Bradley Hall in downtown Greenfield. With early-evening sunlight illuminating the stained-glass panels high in the ballroom — including one depicting Ned Bradley, a prominent leader in Greenfield in the late 19th century — the audience enjoyed a reception and dinner before the six project groups made their brief presentations.

The projects were notable this year because half of them originated with class members themselves. The class was tasked last fall with making suggestions for community projects, and a committee consisting of members of the LHC board sifted through a record number of submissions. All of the projects were rousing successes this year, but the three class-member sponsored ones felt extra special. (You can read more about the community projects by clicking on the “Class Projects” tab at the top of the page, then clicking on “2017-2018.”)

The master of ceremonies, LHC Board President Donnie Munden, announced at the end of the evening that enrollment is now open for the 2018-19 academic year. (You can access the application under the “Applications” tab at the top of this page.) The board’s Curriculum Committee already has met twice to consider changes to the program for the coming year, including revisions to introduce more leadership training in place of some of the traditional studies in county history, business/commerce and government. More information will be available soon.


And now, a word about our sponsors

2017-18 Sponsors CROPPED

One of the unsung stories about Leadership Hancock County is the contributions by our corps of dedicated sponsors. Without their help, our program would not be as strong and enriching as it is.

These organizations contribute time, services and, yes, money to support Leadership Hancock County. With their help, we are able to provide comfortable venues for our classes and other events; meals and snacks for the eight daylong programs; and tuition to support the enrollment of some class members.

Their investment in Leadership Hancock County shows their commitment to making Hancock County a better place.

Teams get to work on community projects


Linda Thakrar (left) Maria Bond, Stephanie Haines and Stephanie Wilson go over their calendars as they begin setting up their first meetings to discuss their project. The four will work to establish a clothing bank in the Mt. Vernon schools for students who need fresh clothes during the school day.

Members of the Class of 2017-18 are diving in to their community projects.

The six projects were unveiled at the end of Community Issues Day on Wednesday, Dec. 6. They cover a wide variety of issues — from childhood literacy and health to horticulture and politics. A key part of the Leadership experience, the projects will give class members the opportunity to work in small groups as they take on initiatives designed to better the community. The projects were proposed by various groups and class members themselves. In all, 20 proposals originally were submitted for consideration. A committee of the LHC board of directors chose the projects for the class in mid-November.

The project teams will work to complete their projects in April and will present their results during presentations at graduation on May 2.

Here is a summary of the projects and the class members who will work on them:

Transform the offices of Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, a program to encourage young readers, into a kid-friendly environment. Bentley’s Buddies trains dogs and their owners to spend time with children, who read to the dogs in an environment that helps them build confidence. The program visits classrooms and also works out of an office in downtown Greenfield, especially when school is not in session. The Leadership team will design and present to the organization ideas for decor and will organize a volunteer effort to redo the office space to make it a more kid-friendly atmosphere. Team members: Alex Bush, Medicap Pharmacy; Chris Carter, Hancock Regional Hospital; Cara Fields, Elanco Animal Health; Tracy Sweet, IU Health.

Create a pilot program to keep school health offices well-stocked with emergency clothing stores in the event of playground accidents, dress-code issues, bathroom emergencies, etc. The program would begin in the Mt. Vernon schools and would be built so it could be used in districts countywide. Health offices already collect clothing items for emergency needs, but schools have trouble keeping the stores stocked because the items are rarely returned. Goals include possibly creating a district “clothing bank”; working with organizations to sponsor clothing drives; and appealing to area businesses for donations. Team members: Maria Bond, Mt. Vernon schools; Stephanie Haines, the Daily Reporter; Linda Thakrar, Hancock County Public Library; Stephanie Wilson, Hancock Physician Network.

Create a Hancock County Debate Commission, which will be a nonpartisan entity that will organize and oversee political debates in key local and regional elections. The Leadership Hancock County team will write by-laws; recruit a board; and hand off responsibility for the debates before the primary election next May. Team members: Nick Riedman, city of Greenfield; Staci Starcher, town of McCordsville; Diana Trautmann, Elanco Animal Health; Greg Woods, Greenfield Banking Co.

Create a garden with native plants outside the window of the Nature Nook area of the Children’s Department of the Hancock County Public Library’s main branch. The garden will be designed to attract wildlife such as birds, bees and butterflies. The Nature Nook of the library was designed in 2015 to bring the outdoors inside with a view finder and interactive displays. A large swath of unused library property nearby also could be developed to attract pollinators and wildlife that would be visible from the children’s area. Team members: Kelly Leddy, MainSource Bank; Jena Mattix, Hancock County Public Library; Courtney Miller, Jane Pauley Community Health Center; Renee Oldham, Mt. Vernon Education Foundation.

Start the “5210” program in county public schools. The 5210 program is an educational effort that strives to assist children in making healthier choices. The program educates children to aim for eating 5 fruit or vegetable servings every day; keep recreational screen time to 2 hours or fewer each day; include at least 1 hour or more of physical activity each day; and consume 0 sugar-sweetened beverages while drinking more water every day. The Leadership team will work on rolling out a pilot program to one age level — likely younger students — in one of the school systems. A school will first have to be identified and stakeholders engaged. Team members: Angela Flench, Indiana Department of Transportation; Christy Harpold, Greenfield-Central schools; Dr. Jason Hua, Jane Pauley Community Health Center; Adam Wilhelm, Hancock Regional Hospital.

Revamping the Leadership Hancock County Scavenger Hunt, which is a key part of the organization’s team-building retreat each fall. The team will be tasked with incorporating technology and social media into the activity to make it more interactive for participants. Possible upgrades also include using geo-caching or some sort of GPS component to highlight teams’ progress during the hunt. The group also will write a brand-new trivia test. Team members: Diane Petry, Life Choices Care Center; George Plisinski, NineStar Connect; Jason Wells, Hancock Regional Hospital; Stacey Wixson, Greenfield Banking Co.

Send us your ideas for community projects!

Members of the 2016-17 class (from left) Kate Brown, Teresa Smith, Kimberly Sombke and Matt Davis discuss their group project at the end of Community Issues Day. The team established a "sensory" garden at J.B. Stephens Elementary School, where Davis is principal. This year's projects will be unveiled on Community Issues Day on Dec. 6.

Members of the 2016-17 class (from left) Kate Brown, Teresa Smith, Kimberly Sombke and Matt Davis discuss their group project at the end of Community Issues Day. The team established a “sensory” garden at J.B. Stephens Elementary School, where Davis is principal. This year’s projects will be unveiled on Community Issues Day on Dec. 6.

A key aspect of the Leadership Hancock County experience is the class members’ community projects. From designing the county flag to launching a campaign to build a “bark park,” class members over the years have honed their leadership and collaboration skills by working together on community issues.

Leadership Hancock County is now seeking proposals from alumni, nonprofits and other civic groups for the community projects. Time is growing short for submissions: The deadline is Nov 17.

Each year, members of the LHC class form small groups and study a community issue or challenge. They make recommendations and submit reports as part of a public presentation at the class graduation in May.

Projects from last year’s class included creation of a “sensory garden” at J.B. Stephens Elementary School; development of a website for The Landing Place, which helps people deal with destructive behaviors; and creation of a 5K run/walk for Alternatives Inc., an agency that advocates for victims of  domestic violence and sexual assault. Since its inception in 1996, students have completed more than 60 community projects.

A form to submit a community project idea is under the “Applications” tab in the menu at the top of our home page. Emails also can be sent to the LHC coordinator, Dave Hill, at

Leadership Hancock County’s latest class, which has 24 members, is meeting monthly. Projects will be unveiled on Community Issues Day on Dec. 6.

Class steps back in time

Leadership Hancock County

Christy Harpold examines an exhibit of World War I items in the museum at the Chapel in the Park.

Beulah Driffel isn’t a well-known figure in Hancock County history. But the story of her short life adds a lot to understanding what life was like in Hancock County in the early years of the 20th century.

The Class of 2017-18 heard the tragic story of Beulah’s life and times as part of its tour of historic sites for History Day on Oct. 4. The class visited several key sites throughout the day as part of its study of important people, places and things on the county time line.

The story of Beulah was particularly poignant. An exhibit about her is a cornerstone of the collection maintained by the Hancock County Historical Society in the basement museum at the Chapel in the Park in Riley Park in Greenfield.

According to Brigette Jones of the historical society, who led a tour of the museum for the class, Beulah was a 6-year-old who contracted diphtheria, a highly contagious illness that often was fatal in her times, the 1920s. The exhibit features items that turned up decades later in a box belonging to the child, including crayons and toys she enjoyed during her short life. The exhibit also focuses on the isolation victims of the infection suffered in that era.

The exhibit was a small window into what life was like in the county nearly 100 years ago. The day was filled with similar revelations in the class’s travels. Other highlights included:

A survey of historic structures along U.S. 40, also known as the National Road. The route was the first national highway, and historian Rosalie Richardson, with the assistance of day chair Jeff Butts, took the class of a visual tour of historic buildings along the road. Many of them have fallen into disrepair and cannot be saved, Richardson told the class, which makes this photographic record all the more important.

Leadership Hancock County

Helen Roney of Tuttle Orchards leads the class on a tour of the family farm. Tuttle’s grows more than 30 varieties of apples.

A  visit to Tuttle Orchards, one of the oldest — and most well-known — family farms in the county. Helen Roney and her daughter, Ruth Ann Roney, who are principals in the farm’s operations, took the class on a tour of the farm, which began modestly a century ago and has grown into a large regional attraction on the agritourism circuit. Class members had the chance to shop in the farm’s store for apples and cider before leaving.

A visit to the Riley Home and Museum in Greenfield, which is a staple of any historical tour of the county. Docents Frieda Pettijohn and Phyllis Arthur took the class on a delightful trip into the life and times of James Whitcomb Riley and his family in the mid-19th century.

Leadership Hancock County

Rosalie Richardson leads a tour of the Hancock County Courthouse.

A tour of the Hancock County Courthouse, led by Rosalie Richardson, that wound up in the majestic century-old chambers of Hancock Circuit Court. Judge Terry Snow of Hancock County Superior Court 1, who had wrapped up his day on the bench, joined the class for a discussion about the courts and their historical origins.

The class traveled throughout the day via motorcoach. County historian Joe Skvarenina rode with the class and provided rolling commentary about sites the group passed along the way.


Lineup set for History Day

Docent Frieda Pettijohn leads a tour of the Riley Home for the 2016-17 Leadership Hancock County Class. The class of 2017-18 also will visit the boyhood home of the Hoosier Poet for History Day.

Docent Frieda Pettijohn leads a tour of the Riley Home for the 2016-17 Leadership Hancock County Class. The class of 2017-18 also will visit the boyhood home of the Hoosier Poet for History Day.

Hancock County’s top historians will lead the Class of 2017-18 on a tour through the county’s history during its class day on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

History Day is the first class day following the two-day team-building retreat, which was Sept. 14-15. Its purpose is to provide an overview of the county’s history. The class covers some well-known topics but also explores some more obscure ones.

Leading those discussions will be three historians who are considered the most knowledgeable experts in the county on the area’s history:

History Day speakers Rosalie Richardson (left), Brigette Cook Jones and Joe Skvarenina

History Day speakers Rosalie Richardson (left), Brigette Cook Jones and Joe Skvarenina

Rosalie Richardson, a former member of the Hancock County Council who has studied the county’s history for decades. She will guide the class through a discussion about the National Road and will lead a tour of the Hancock County Courthouse.

Brigette Cook Jones, the director of county tourism, who has long been active in the Hancock County Historical Society. She will lead a tour of the Old Log Jail Museum and the Chapel in the Park. The two museums, located in Riley Park, house hundreds of artifacts from the county’s early history.

Joe Skvarenina, the county historian, who has written more than a dozen books on county history. (Copies of one of them, “Also Great,” an examination of famous and near-famous people from Hancock County, will be given to class members.) Joe will ride with the class during its tour of sites and will provide rolling commentary on points of interest along the way.

Here is a complete itinerary of History Day:

2017 History Day Schedule

Getting to know you: Class bonds during 2-day retreat


Staci Starcher interviews Alex Bush as part of the introductory exercise on Day 1 of the retreat.

Maria Bond (left) and Adam Wilhelm listen to Bobby Campbell, past president and member of the LHC board.

Maria Bond (left) and Adam Wilhelm listen to Bobby Campbell, past president and member of the LHC board.

The Class of 2017-18 got off to a strong start during its retreat, getting insights about their management styles, studying leadership challenges and engaging in fun — if a bit curious — exercises.

From the first moments of the retreat, which was held Sept. 14-15 at the Hancock County Public Library, the focus was on making new connections. Board members Donnie Munden, Justine Jones, Bobby Campbell and Brad Burkhart offered insights on what the class can expect and tips on getting the most out of their experience.

Then, the class members broke up into groups of two to interview and then introduce each other to the rest of the class. After an in-depth presentation on the class members’ leadership styles using the DiSC assessment, the class spent the rest of Day 1 on their Scavenger Hunt, a longtime fixture of LHC that pits groups of four class members against each other as they travel throughout the county looking for clues and gathering materials listed on a manifest. Class members were encouraged to post pictures on social media along the way. (You can view some of those photos as part of the slide show at the top of the page.)

The class ended the first day of the retreat with a dinner at Griggsby’s Station in downtown Greenfield.

The second day featured thoughtful presentations from Ed Freije, appearing for the 23rd time before a Leadership class; and Barb Roark, assistant director of the Hancock County Public Library.


Ed Freije, retired principal at New Palestine High School, used his years as a school administrator to present a scenario on consensus building: How to build agreement on school expansion.

Freije’s workshop focused on consensus building, and he walked the class through a scenario as he introduced tools they can use to forge replica patek phillipe consensus on contentious issues.

Roark talked about problem solving, using past class projects as object lessons to guide the class through discussion of techniques to solve problems.

A common thread running through both Day 2 presentations is that hard decisions should not be made in a vaccum: Indeed, the more voices that are heard in an organization, the more solid the decisions.

…And what’s with those odd exercises?

Adam Wilhelm (partially obscured at left), George Plisinski, Tracy Sweet and Diana Trautmann put the finishing -- and futile, it turns out -- touches on their spaghetti tower.

Adam Wilhelm (partially obscured at left), George Plisinski, Tracy Sweet and Diana Trautmann put the finishing — and futile, it turns out — touches on their spaghetti tower.


Stephanie Wilson (left) and Angela Flench gingerly step back from their finished tower, which stayed upright long enough to win the exercise.

Jesse Keljo and Cody Flood, who work as day chairs for the Leadership Hancock County team-building retreat, have seen those looks before: befuddlement, amusement and, for some, perhaps, a little worry.

Jesse and Cody were facilitators for two important team-building exercises for the retreat. Both involved taking risks and depending on others for success. Which, when you think about it, is the very definition of successful teamwork.

The setup for Jesse’s exercise was this: Six teams of four class members were given four items: a length of string, several strands of uncooked spaghetti, some masking tape and a marshmallow. The assignment: build a free-standing tower of spaghetti with the marshmallow sitting on top. The teams could use the string for guy wire or to construct struts made of spaghetti. Same with the tape. But the tower had to be capable of standing by itself by the time the clock expired.

Jason Hua, Stephanie Wilson and Angela Flench dove right in to the challenge, but first, they discussed the problem as they tentatively worked to engineer a structure that would stand. Not all the teams did that, Jesse would note at the end of the exercise: Some chaotically started taping spaghetti strands together, and their members didn’t always communicate effectively. The result was that some team members stayed on the sidelines and didn’t offer much help, or that team members worked against each other.

Sometimes, it was both.

Jesse noted after the exercise the importance of overcoming the fear of failure. It’s OK to try things that don’t work; the key is knowing when to move on to the next idea.

Cody’s exercise was even more vexing. Unfolding a large tarp — gray on one side and blue of the other — he invited all 24 class members to stand on it. It was a tight fit, and for those around the perimeter, one tiny step backward would put them off the tarp and foul the whole exercise. The goal: While standing on the tarp, the team had to flip the gray side to blue. No one could step off it. And to make it even more challenging, half of the class couldn’t speak, and the other half couldn’t touch the tarp with their hands.

As one group articulated strategy, the other group tugged on corners of the tarp, slowly repositioning each person. Twice they had to start over when someone stepped off the tarp. But on the third try, everyone was zeroed in on the task. One by one, tiptoe by tiptoe, the class members made it onto part of an expanding blue surface. When the last person stepped from gray to blue and the final corner of the tarp was turned, the group erupted in cheers.

The class certainly learned teamwork, even as they violated each other’s personal space and risked their colleagues’ ire by absent-mindedly stepping off. One group with which Cody was associated needed a second day to complete the exercise. Fortunately, the Class of 2017-18 needed only about 40 minutes.


Class members contemplate the uncomfortably small perimeter of the tarp.


Angela Flench tugs on a section of the tarp as classmates toe the edges trying to move from one section to another.


Greg Woods, Jason Hua and Courtney Miller realize they have to stick together — literally, it turns out — to compete the exercise.

DiSC assessment: A roadmap to your management style

The DiSC assessment measures a person's traits according to Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.

The DiSC assessment measures a person’s traits according to Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.

One of the highlights of the two-day Leadership Hancock County retreat, which begins Sept. 14, is the DiSC profile discussion. DiSC is a well-known system of analyzing a person’s personality and leadership style. Organizations use DiSC to gain insights into their team members’ strengths. At the team-building retreat, the Class of 2017-18 will use the assessment as a tool in identifying their own key attributes.

The students recently answered a series of questions in an online survey. DiSC plugs those answers into a matrix of characterizations to determine where the person sits on DiSC spectrum: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. They will receive their assessments during a seminar on Sept. 14. The LHC project was supervised by Pam Kinslow, a talent management director at Community Health Network. Chad Chalos, a Community Health consultant, will present the results during the seminar.

Chad’s presentation will focus on the insights behind the results. For example, what does it mean to be a “high D”? Through the presentation, students will learn how team members’ varied strengths can be used to achieve success. Every successful organization features strong performers of all four types, and such diversity of style makes for a vibrant workplace.

The DiSC assessment has been a cornerstone of the Leadership Hancock County retreat since its founding in 1996.