As with all nonprofits, the Highland Community Foundation struggled to navigate the upheaval caused by COVID-19 through much of 2020. During the first half of last year, HCF moved forward with some of its ongoing projects, before making the pivot in the Spring toward COVID-related relief. Now, after putting fundraising and other Foundation activities on hold for the second half of 2020, HCF is looking ahead to the new year.

The organization began 2020 by becoming a Partner in the Town of Highland’s Census efforts, assisting the Town of Highland’s Complete Count Committee in its community outreach efforts through social media posts to spread the word on the importance responding to the Census.

HCF also concluded two “Highland Has Art” grant projects approved in 2019. In February, HCF Board Members Lance Ryskamp and Robert Plantz presented a grant check to South Shore Arts’ Director of Administration and Education, Micah Bornstein, concluding a very successful partnership with South Shore Arts to fund a literacy-based book-to-project workshop for all second-grade classes of the School Town of Highland, Our Lady of Grace School and Highland Christian School.

(L-R) HCF President Lance Ryskamp, South Shore Arts’ Micah Bornstein & HCF Board Member Robert Plantz.

The second completed project was a grant to Highland High School for funding of three murals, as part of the school’s Highland High School Mural Project. The funds were used to pay artist stipends to Highland artists Sara Sjoquist and Jessica Haug, who painted the three murals in the high school during the spring and summer.


Highland artist Sara Sjoquist at work on her mural for the Highland High School Mural Project.


Mural by Highland artist Sara Sjoquist on display at Highland High School

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, HCF made a decision to suspend its other planned 2020 activities and reallocate funds to assist with COVID relief in the community. The relief included donations, totaling $3,000, to the following organizations:

• $1000 to Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to fund a Mobile Market event at Warren School on April 29th.
• $1000 to the Food Pantry of Highland’s St James the Less Catholic Church.
• $750 to Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana to assist in covering expenses related to meals provided to Highland residents.
• $250 to TradeWinds Services for their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Program.

After these donations, leaving a small working cash reserve on hand, HCF suspended all fundraising activities and programs for the balance of the year. “The need for funding vital, large local nonprofits, such as the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, was so great that HCF did not want to divert would-be donors away from providing funding to those organizations on the frontline,” HCF President Lance Ryskamp said. “These frontline organizations were, and still are, doing such great and necessary work that it did not make sense for a smaller organization such as ours to try and compete for scarce donations.”

Looking at the new year, HCF will assess the landscape related to the ongoing COVID crisis, and look to move forward on new projects where it can. Ryskamp noted that when the Board meets for the first time in the new year, they will look to flesh out their 2021 action plan. Recruitment of additional Board members will also be a major priority, with several Board members stepping down during the last 13 months. For anyone interested in becoming a Board member, you can contact HCF at