IU Health, Irsay gift help mom find strength and resilience

Client Watch

This story originally appeared in IU Health's Thrive newsletter. 

When Rachel Gonzales Pinto was admitted to IU Health West Hospital to give birth to her third child, she was intoxicated. As someone who struggled with alcohol use disorder since she was 14, and who drank during her pregnancy, this moment became her turning point.

Before being discharged, Gonzales Pinto was met by IU Health West Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center Director Trisha Palencer and IU Health Therapist Libby King. They convinced her that she could turn things around.

The next day, Gonzales Pinto went to work on sobriety with King as her primary therapist. She credits her progress to intensive, daily therapy sessions, accountability and being educated about her mental health.

Many of the programs Gonzales Pinto participated in are thanks to Jim Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts—last year gave $1 million to IU Health Foundation in support of increasing access to addiction services for people in need across Indiana.

Because of their gift, the IU Health West program was able to double its staff and add evening classes. Almost 60% of patients who complete the program successfully reach their goals, compared to about 30% for similar programs. It helps people who have lost jobs due to substance use disorder: 51% of people have a job when entering the program, and 70% are employed when they compete it. And the percentage of patients who are sober jumps from 20% at intake to 76% at program completion.

Now part of that 76% is Gonzales Pinto who says the Center made it possible for her to recently celebrate a full year of sobriety.

Having tried a variety of programs over the years—sometimes making progress but inevitably relapsing — Gonzales Pinto lost custody of her two sons, places to live, a relationship with her dad and more because of her addiction.

But now, thanks to the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center, she has restored relationships with her family, is married and is happily raising her daughter alongside her sons.

 “I can tell you now, I have the best life ever,” Gonzales Pinto says. “And I know it’s only going to get better.”

You can help patients like Gonzales Pinto find their strength and resilience by giving to the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at IU Health West Hospital. Once prompted, select IU Health West Hospital as your location. Then select “Other” under “Direct My Gift To.” Type “Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center.”

Indiana Humanities brings Smithsonian exhibit to Madison

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This was featured on Louisville's WDRB on Jan. 8, 2022. To view the video, click here

MADISON, Ind. (WDRB) -- Residents of Madison, Indiana, now have an opportunity to appreciate and learn about some beautiful waterways from around the world.

The grand opening of the Smithsonian Waterways Exhibit was on Saturday. It's being held at the Jefferson County Public Library.

Community members and visitors will get a chance to see what water does for society and Earth as a whole.

There's also an interactive exhibit that dives into where certain waterways are and how powerful they are at home and work.

"Our community, our culture and our history is based on the Ohio River and the watershed here," Jefferson County Public Library Director, Judi Terpening, said. "So, it just seemed like a perfect fit to host here at the library."

The free exhibit will be open during normal library hours. It's also open each Sunday and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The exhibit will be on display until Feb. 20 and then travel to Richmond, which will be the last stop of the Indiana tour.

For more information, click here.

Library Hours:

  • Mon-Fri: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Sat: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Sun: Closed

Special events occurring during the exhibit:

  • Art Show (Jan 8-Feb 20, 2022)
  • Afterhours Film ~ Madison, Miss Madison & Hydroplane History (Jan 11, 2022)
  • Water Wonders ~ Explore with Water (Jan 15, 2022)
  • Water Wonders ~ Build-A-Boat (Jan 22, 2022)
  • Water Resources of Jefferson County; A Geologist’s Perspective (Jan 25, 2022)
  • Crossing Barriers: Uncovering the Amazing Carter Family (Feb 1, 2022)
  • Water Wonders ~ Build-A-Bridge (Feb 5, 2022)
  • The Underground Railroad in Jefferson County, Indiana: An Interracial Partnership Ahead of Its Time (Feb 8, 2022)
  • Explore the Underground Railroad (Feb 12, 2022)
  • 1619 Project (Feb 24, 2022)

Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

Damar Village's unofficial mayor 'brings joy everywhere'

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The following originally appeared in the IndyStar on Dec. 22, 2021. To read it in the Star, click here

By  Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star

Since Damar Village opened on Indianapolis' southwest side this summer, one resident has become the neighborhood's "unofficial mayor."

Most nights around dusk, Robert Burcham walks through the complex, which serves Hoosiers with developmental and intellectual disabilities, checking to make sure everyone's wreaths are lit, ensuring the holiday spirit flows throughout the neighborhood.

It's just one of the roles he's assumed as the complex's unofficial mayor, a title Burcham is quick to laugh off. But this quasi-leadership position came naturally to Burcham, said Jim Dalton, Damar Services president and CEO, who said the 42-year-old has a knack for uniting those around him.

While the title doesn't come with official responsibilities, Burcham can often be found walking through the complex, making sure litter is picked up and checking in with his neighbors.

“He’s such a lovable guy," Dalton said. "We love the way that he uses his skills and influences people positively. He’s always in such a positive mood.

"He just brings joy everywhere."

Creating a community for Hoosiers with disabilities

Damar Village is one of the 54-year-old organization's latest efforts to expand services to Hoosiers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Each unit includes four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and shared living space, and adjustments like grab bars and reinforced walls can be made to meet an individual's needs.

The 13-acre complex, adjacent to the agency's main campus on the city's southwest side, will eventually provide housing to 120 adults with disabilities. The current capacity is 51, Dalton said, and all existing units have already been spoken for.

Dalton said the organization hopes to break ground on the next phase of the project in 2022, which would create 100 additional opportunities for housing.

The goal is to create a space where residents can feel safe, valued and respected. They want to build a community for Hoosiers who may not have found that elsewhere.

“A lot of the people that we serve come from bad situations, bad places," Dalton said. "Even though they’re living in the community, they’re really ostracized in the community."

Burcham said, in his experience, the complex has succeeded in creating that feeling of community. One distinction he wanted to make for those otherwise unfamiliar with the complex is that it doesn't have a clinical, institutional feeling, where residents are isolated from each other.

“It’s not like that,” he said. “That’s what I like, is the freedom to be able to walk outside, interact with people, interact with the staff.”

'We all need to be more like Robert'

When he's not working — Burcham just celebrated his 25th work anniversary at Burger King — or strolling through his neighborhood, Burcham can sometimes be found in his apartment's spare bedroom, where he keeps his train sets.

It's a hobby his father had as a child, and one Burcham said he's come to love over time, too.

His current set-up includes at least two locomotives, including a scale model he says may be his favorite. Because the scale pieces are larger, they often include more detail, he said: "I get more joy out of (it)."


"I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis,” he said, “and it’s much harder for me to put a smaller train (on the track) than it is a bigger train.”

So, it's no coincidence that when volunteers set up the neighborhood light display, the piece placed nearest to Burcham's apartment, visible just outside his living room windows, was a train.

"There was a little strategy," in the placement of that particular piece, Dalton admitted.

When asked what he was most thankful for this holiday season, Burcham said he's excited for the first Christmas in his new apartment.

“I’m grateful for what I have," he said, "and where I’m living.”

There are some people you meet, Dalton said, that can offer you valuable lessons in life — if you're open to learning from them. Burcham, he said, is one of those people. He sets an example for others just by engaging with and appreciating the world around him. 

"We all need to be more like Robert,” Dalton said.

Learn more about Damar Services and Damar Village

To learn more about Damar Village, visit damar.org/damarvillage.To learn more about all the services Damar offers, visit damar.org.

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at holly.hays@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

Conexus: No quick-fix for supply chain issues

Client Watch

The following originally appeared in the IBJ on Jan. 7, 2022. To read it in the IBJ, click here.

By Andrew Ball and Mark DeFabis

Imagine you hire a contractor to repair a crack in your wall, but the contractor discovers the crack is a symptom of a bigger problem. Your foundation is crumbling, maybe, or termites are eating your floor joists.

Would you want the contractor to slap some plaster and paint on your wall and ignore the bigger problem? Of course not. Your home could literally fall apart.

So, why are we accepting that approach with our supply chain problems?

Over the past two years, as the global pandemic has upended our daily processes, functions and routines, we’ve heard a lot about the toll it has taken on the supply chain.

But we’ve got news for you: The pandemic didn’t cause supply chain problems. It exposed problems that can’t be solved by short-term remedies.

You’ve heard the supply chain horror stories. In ports where ships carrying shipping containers usually steam directly to the docks, dozens sit anchored. Containers that do get offloaded often end up sitting in shipyards, languishing for lack of trucks and truck drivers to carry them to their destination. Labor shortages have limited the hours warehouses can operate to unload containers, so some shipping containers are left on truck chassis until they can be unloaded, which takes those chassis out of the supply chain, which means there aren’t enough chassis to move goods out of shipyards, which means … well, it’s a vicious cycle.

Lawmakers and policymakers have offered several solutions—from running ports 24-7 to calling out the National Guard to drive trucks—but those are only short-term fixes. We need long-term solutions.

So, what should we do?

First, we need to capitalize on the attention of lawmakers and policymakers to educate them about the flaws in our supply chain, helping them see that the current crisis is a symptom of a systemic problem.

Then we need to examine the supply chain holistically, not addressing flashpoints, but recognizing that the supply chain is about velocity—the speed at which goods move efficiently through the system—and that the whole will only function well if all of its components are strong and aligned.

We also must recognize that no individual company, industry or geographic area can solve this problem alone, and that some current policies and regulations actually decrease supply chain velocity.

As we craft our solutions, we need to see this as a long game. We need to adopt national policies addressing commercial freight movement, and we must be willing to make supply chain investments that won’t generate immediate returns but will, over time, strengthen the overall system. We must assess policies and regulations to ensure they don’t impede supply chain velocity.

Finally, we have to recognize that nothing less than global competitiveness hangs in the balance. Addressing supply chain problems as we have over the past decade—with creative workarounds and short-term fixes—created new challenges: rising domestic shipping charges and increased manpower costs, for example, that put the United States and Indiana at a disadvantage internationally. We must offset those disadvantages with increased supply chain efficiencies, innovative approaches and collaboration.

The bottom line is this: We can’t make small repairs to our system and expect a meaningful impact. That’s the approach that put us where we are today. Instead, solve today’s problems while also building a national supply chain that allows us to compete and affirms our role as a leader in the global economy.•

Ball, co-CEO of Henriott Group, chairs the Conexus Indiana Advanced Manufacturing Council. DeFabis, CEO of IDS, chairs the Conexus Logistics Council.

Conexus: Collaboration, networking boost South Bend-Elkhart region

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The following originally appeared in the South Bend Tribune on Jan. 8, 2022. To read it in the Tribune, click here

By Mitch Landess

As a company CEO, if you notice that 5% of your sales team is bringing in 16% of your business, you no doubt would want to share your top sellers’ best practices with the rest of your team.

I feel the same way. And since my role is to help Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics companies invest in new technologies, I am sharing how some companies have had great success with Indiana’s Manufacturing Readiness Grants program. 

In the past 18 months, Conexus Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation have awarded $13.4 million in Manufacturing Readiness Grants to help Indiana companies invest in smart, innovative and emerging Industry 4.0 technologies. 

While these grants have been awarded to companies located in 54 Indiana counties, 16% of all awards and 13% of award dollars have gone to three counties: Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties. Companies in those counties secured an outsized share of the grants despite representing only 5% of Indiana counties receiving funding.

Which certainly begs the question, what’s their secret and how do they continue to punch above their weight?

From watching and talking with leaders in that region, it’s clear much of their success comes from executing some of the basics: Collaborate strategically, network purposefully, attack problems logically and tap into the resources around you.

Admittedly, these three counties have impressive resources to tap into, including enFocus, a nonprofit that attracts and engages emerging talent for Northern Indiana communities, and the University of Notre Dame. With generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc., Notre Dame launched iNDustry Labs to help regional businesses connect with university resources so that those companies could adapt to the increasingly “digital age of manufacturing.”

It’s important to note that the mere presence of resources doesn’t make things happen. To succeed, the businesses and communities in the South Bend-Elkhart area leveraged available expertise and took advantage of objective perspectives on challenges and opportunities that those on the inside of a business might miss.

For example, iNDustry Labs leaders say that, while many communities or regions might assume that the only way to increase their economic prospects is to attract new businesses, greater success might be found by balancing business attraction with investments that help to make existing industry more productive and resilient. Similarly, the iNDustry Labs team notes, individual businesses should avoid arriving at solutions — “We need robots,” for example, or “We need new software” — before analyzing all of their available opportunities.

Another key component of the region’s success has been its willingness to make the most of networks within its communities and industries. enFocus and iNDustry Labs supported this effort by helping businesses in the South Bend-Elkhart region identify and tap into solutions found just down the road rather than on the other side of the country or overseas.

A third piece of the puzzle has been an emphasis on allowing talent to contribute meaningfully. By connecting with emerging talent at the region’s higher education institutions and beyond, and leveraging the resources of the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation Network, businesses in the South Bend-Elkhart region have created a place where young people feel they can make a difference and build careers.

Not every community, county or even region has the same resources offered by enFocus or iNDustry Labs. But ambitious communities, counties and regions will reach out to comparable opportunities — colleges or universities, nonprofits, business groups, resident experts, and so on — in their areas. They will connect more strategically with their neighbors and peers across town. And they will create opportunities for emerging talent to engage, contribute and find a home.

If more areas of the state follow the model offered by the South Bend-Elkhart region, we could see Manufacturing Readiness Grants awards going to new concentrations of opportunity. But, even more important, we would see bursts of creative energy in new areas of Indiana — bursts that can fire up the economic engine for the entire state and benefit all Hoosiers for years to come.

Mitch Landess is vice president of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Conexus Indiana.




CILTI Leader: 'Let Them Build Dikes' no way to fix climate change

Client Watch

The following originally ran in The Indianapolis Star on Nov. 19, 2021. To read it on the Star, click here.  


By Cliff Chapman

Executive Director of the Central Indiana Land Trust

Apparently, George Will’s attitude about climate change can be summed up in four words: “Let them build dikes.”

That seems to be where Will landed with his Nov. 14 Washington Post column, which took readers on a convoluted and nonsensical tour of data and pontifications that betray two things clearly: his willingness to dismiss the realities of climate change and his almost imperial disconnection from the real world and the people who live in it.

Many of Will’s words in the column focus on arguments about whether the planet has reached peak oil production – and he includes a great deal of data to support his claim that it has not – and on the comparative economics of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

Certainly, those are matters worthy of debate, but, to me, they have little bearing on discussions about what we should do to address climate change. That we might have a virtually endless supply of fossil fuels and that there are economic incentives to continuing on our destructive path offer no excuse for plunging blindly forward. That short-term, damn-the-consequences thinking has played a large role in getting us where we are today.

And where are we? In a world where our reliance on fossil fuels is having a substantial impact – an impact that has become increasingly obvious as the planet faces increasing episodes of extreme weather and inhospitable conditions. Although The Washington Post syndicates Will’s column nationally, it readily contradicts his “What, Me Worry?” attitude about climate change by noting a study that shows that 85% of the world’s population now lives in areas affected by climate change.

If Will likes loftier perspectives, perhaps he’ll appreciate NASA’s recent observation that “… there’s increasing confidence that human-induced climate change is making extreme [weather] events statistically much more likely.” And, finally, if GDP, ROI and other economic metrics are indeed where Will is  focused, then perhaps the global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will hit him where it hurts when it notes, “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”

Then again, Will seems ultimately to put aside data and facts to address what he sees as the real threats in this debate. He argues that supporters of climate action simply thirst for government intrusion, and that, even if the seas are slowly rising, so what? Citing economist John Cochrane, Will says, “Suppose, implausibly, that Miami might be six feet below sea level in 2100. Amsterdam has been such for centuries. It built dikes. By hand.”

The absurdity of Will’s argument reminds me of the end of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, when as the world is being destroyed by a nuclear doomsday machine, a Russian ambassador is snapping spy photos and an American general is ranting about a “mineshaft gap.” In this context, I could see Mr. Will pacing up and down a line of workers building dikes around the perimeter of Florida, reassuring them that we still have oil to burn and, therefore, all will be well with our GDP.

Apparently, Will believes that the ivory tower from which he views the world will keep him above rising sea levels and that his lofty belief in the power of GDPs over the power of renewable energy will somehow waft him above toxic air. And he seems quite comfortable in the notion that, should those waters begin to lap nearer and nearer his window, and should that smog make breathing a bit uncomfortable, so what? The cost-benefit analysis will justify it all, and, besides, he’ll be long gone before the impact of action is really felt across the planet.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of humans live in the real world, one where poisons are still poisonous, even if they fuel great economic engines, and where increasing temperatures are changing the very nature of the planet now.

In that real world, Will’s virtual pronouncement of “Let them build dikes” simply doesn’t help.

Indiana Humanities awards more than $800,000+ to state nonprofits

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(OCTOBER 20, 2021) Indiana Humanities has awarded more than $800,000 in federal pandemic-relief grants to humanities organizations across the state. 

With funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, Indiana Humanities has provided grants totaling $833,517 to humanities-focused nonprofit organizations in 45 Indiana communities. 

“In supporting this funding, the U.S. Congress has sent the message that the humanities are essential to our recovery from the impact of COVID-19,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “These funds allow us to put much-needed resources into Indiana communities, where they can be used to strengthen humanities organizations and the programming they provide to Hoosiers.” 

To distribute the ARP funds, Indiana Humanities invited nonprofits to apply for two types of grants: Operating Support Grants and Programming and Capacity-Building Grants. Seventy-eight organizations have been awarded grants. The organizations receiving grants provide Hoosiers with programs and activities focused on subjects such as history, literature, languages, linguistics, archaeology, philosophy, ethics, jurisprudence and comparative religion.

“During the past 18 months, we have had limited engagement opportunities with our constituents, and this grant allows us to reengage with those we serve,” said Troy Fears, executive director of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute. “As we all continue navigating these challenging times, sharing our message of hope, healing, respect and responsibility is more important than ever.”

Added Ted Rita, director of the Hesston Steam Museum in La Porte, “This grant validates our work and acknowledges that cultural centers like ours are valuable and essential to the quality of life and economic impact to the communities that we call home.”

Last year, Indiana Humanities provided more than $500,000 in similar grants to humanities organizations as part of CARES Act funding. 

For a full list of organizations receiving grants, click here

CILTI exec lauds leaders for investing in state's natural legacy

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The following originally ran in Inside Indiana Business on Sept. 27, 2021.To read it on the Inside Indiana Business website, click here.  


By Cliff Chapman

Executive Director of the Central Indiana Land Trust

This fall, as Hoosiers get out and enjoy the beauty of Indiana’s natural landscape, we urge them to take a moment to celebrate, because more of that landscape is going to be preserved for future generations. Thanks to the biannual budget signed this spring by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana has $25 million set aside for the acquisition of conservation land.

Think about that as you trek beneath the stunning orange, yellow and red foliage of protected Indiana woodlands this fall, or as you clamber over knobs, knolls, cliffs or other features that define the Hoosier landscape. And consider that as you appreciate the rich diversity of vegetation and wildlife in a southern Indiana forest, or as you hike some of the state’s ancient marshes, sandy beaches, high ridges or deep gullies.

In other words, any time this fall that you enjoy Indiana’s natural heritage at a state park, nature preserve, conservation easement or other protected lands, consider how it is possible that those lands remain in their natural state: Someone, at some point, identified a special place and gathered the resources necessary to protect it forever. 

Now we have more resources to use in such efforts.

While it’s not yet been determined exactly how those funds will be deployed, they are expected to be offered as matching funds to support the purchase of lands. Fortunately, Indiana is home to a network of nonprofit land trusts that cover every county. Together, these land trusts have protected more than 120,000 acres of land through philanthropic support. Land trusts work daily to maintain that land, ensuring that it is cared for and that it reflects the best of Indiana.  

Land trusts, local parks departments and the DNR are on equal standing when applying to use land conservation dollars from environmental license plate funds, which require at least a one-to-one match. This collaboration demonstrates national leadership in public-private partnerships.

Land trusts not only make it possible for future generations to experience the Indiana we love today, but they also help to improve air and water quality, create spaces for recreation and education, and provide places where the wildlife native to Indiana can thrive. All of this without using any tax dollars.

These new resources will allow Indiana to increase the acreage of its protected lands, acreage that is dwarfed by other states’ protected lands and that has not been added to significantly for years. And it will help to offset the thousands of acres of land that are lost to development every year. We applaud our state leaders for recognizing the importance of our natural assets and for investing in their long-term protection. Indiana has a long history of collaborating to protect the best natural resources in the state for future generations, and we look forward to continuing this legacy by working with the state, our peer land trusts and others in putting those funds to work for the benefit of Hoosiers today and into the future.

Conexus to Indiana Workers: Robots aren't coming for your jobs

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The following originally ran in Inside Indiana Business on Sept. 13, 2021.To read it on the Inside Indiana Business website, click here.


By Mitch Landess

Vice President of Innovation and Digital Transformation, Conexus

While it might sound like a line from a science fiction movie, I am here to deliver a message to the employers and employees of Indiana: The robots are not coming to take away jobs.

Don’t misunderstand me. Automation is here. But rather than eliminate jobs, automation and smart factories promise to help us make and move products more efficiently and create more rewarding and better-paying career opportunities.  

The reality is that today there are close to 100,000 open positions in advanced manufacturing and logistics in Indiana alone and that number will continue to climb as record numbers of Baby Boomers retire. We need people to fill those jobs today and be prepared to succeed in careers that evolve as new technologies are introduced.

The good news is that Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics sector is a national leader. We have a greater concentration of manufacturing jobs than any other state, and we are positioned to continue as the nation’s logistics leader. Those strengths are a big reason why Indiana has recovered jobs lost to COVID-19 faster than the national average.

But we can’t let good news obscure our challenges. As a recent Brookings Institution study concluded, if Indiana is going to remain strong, we need to “shoot for enhancement, not just recovery.”

What does that mean? For one thing, it means reimagining workforce education, preparing workers not for specific jobs but for a high-tech workplace where adaptability is key. After all, research suggests that one out of 10 of the jobs that industries will be hiring for in 2030 do not even exist today.

It also means investing in smart factories – known as Industry 4.0 – marked by the integration of advanced technologies, automation and data to increase competitiveness, productivity and profitability. According to Brookings, Indiana, once a national productivity leader, has seen key industries such as agricultural chemicals, adhesives and medical equipment fall behind national peers in productivity. Why? Brookings suggests it’s because Indiana lags in terms of investment in technology, ranking 37th among states for per-employee tech spending. Our own research published in 2020 confirms this.

Finally, it means no longer fearing the robot. For years, we’ve heard concerns about automation displacing workers, but a recent study of French manufacturing firms reported by Brookings suggests the opposite is true: Companies that added robots added jobs, and firms that didn’t increase automation lost jobs.

Indiana firms are investing in automation, some at a greater pace than others. But we are seeing an uptick as companies take advantage of the Manufacturing Readiness Grants administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Conexus Indiana, allowing companies to invest in and implement new technologies. Those companies are already seeing results on and beyond the balance sheet. At PWR North America, for example, they report that employee morale is up because workers see the investment in technology as a commitment to growth.

Advanced manufacturing and logistics have been essential to Indiana’s economic health, and those industries will continue to power us into the future if we commit to investing in and preparing our workforce for the high-tech landscape.

At Conexus, we’re supporting this effort with workforce-development programs. For example, Catapult Indiana not only helps people get jobs in today’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries, but also prepares them to evolve and grow with the changing workplace, not just keeping their jobs when their jobs change but progressing through careers with higher wages and greater security.

But Conexus can’t do this alone, and it will take more than employers and state agencies to ensure Indiana’s economic strength and stability. We all must support companies that invest in automation, and we must encourage the next generation of workers to join a sector where they can be a part of building something new and exciting. And, last but not least, we must stop fearing robots. They free up the humans to do human work.

Women4Change: Public meetings essential to redistricting process

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The following appeared in a number of news outlets in August of 2021. To read it on the Statehouse File website, click here


By Rima Shahid

Executive Director, Women4Change

Women4Change applauds the decision of the Indiana General Assembly to host public redistricting meetings. But the meetings held recently are only a first step in a more transparent process.Opportunities for Hoosiers to continue to be involved in the process that determines new boundaries for state legislative and federal congressional districts is essential, especially since the maps that emerge from this process will define Indiana’s voting districts for the next 10 years. Only through this process can we root out the state’s entrenched gerrymandering, the practice of divvying up districts so that the party in power stays in power.

Because fair voting rights is one of Women4Change’s four primary focus areas, we see the redistricting process as a pivotal moment in a state that is among the worst in the nation for gerrymandering: According to an independent study we commissioned in 2021, Indiana’s current maps are more gerrymandered than 95% of all plans nationwide going back 50 years.

This condition contributes to the harmful polarization gripping our nation. With today’s maps, one party’s primary voters (a small portion of eligible voters) are apt to choose the candidate with the most extremely partisan profile and, in the process, virtually determine the election’s outcome. In the 2020 election, 40 out of 120 Indiana seats were uncontested because districts are so uncompetitive.

As a result, moderates are squeezed out, our legislature can and often does ignore the views of over 40% of voters, public confidence suffers, and Indiana’s rank in voter turnout among states continues to languish in the bottom ten.

Clearly, Indiana needs a more transparent approach. The public meetings were a good first step. But the transparency cannot end.

Now that a consultant has been hired and Census data is imminent, the new maps will soon be drawn. Once there’s a draft, we insist on another series of meetings to review them, and then at least two weeks for the public to weigh in on them before legislators vote on them and the new maps are cemented for the next decade. If the transparency doesn’t happen, then the series of public meetings we just experienced will be a complete farce, meant only as public relations ploy. And rather than having the opportunity to choose their elected representatives, Hoosiers will get elected officials who get to choose their constituents, choices that will be based not on what is best for the state, but on what will get them re-elected.

Women4Change: Women must prepare to run for office

Client Watch

The following appeared in newspapers across the state in May of 2021. To read it on the South Bend Tribute website, click here

By Rima Shahid, Executive Director of Women4Change Indiana


With the campaigns of 2020 barely behind us, it might seem too soon to think about the next round of elections, but it’s not. A handful of candidates and incumbents for everything from country sheriff to U.S. Congress already has announced plans to run in 2022, and you can be sure countless others are drafting announcements.

And that means it’s the perfect time to prepare more women to step into the political arena. After all, is a representative democracy truly representative if half the population can claim only about 20% to 30% representation?

The nation has definitely made progress on gender equity in politics, with 2020 seeing record numbers of women in all 50 states running for a variety of offices. But progress is not success, and improvement is not parity. We have a long way to go, not just for the good of women, but for the good of the nation.

Granted, more women from both major parties are participating in politics, but gaps remain. For example, data from the Center for American Women and Politics shows us that women made up only 29% of candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, and 24% of candidates running for the U.S. Senate.

As for women who have been elected, the numbers look even worse: Women hold only 27% of U.S. House seats and 24% of U.S. Senate seats. Only 31% of all state legislators are women, and only 23% of mayors of cities with populations of more than 30,000 people. Here in Indiana, although women from both parties gained seats in the newest General Assembly, the state still ranks 30th for gender parity in politics.

And lest someone should think this is an issue only Democrats care about, consider this: The Republican Party ran 89% more women for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020; however, the fact remains that only 31 of the 335 House seats are filled by Republican women.

Why does this all matter? If women want the issues that matter to them to be addressed, they need to be at the table. We saw this vividly in Indiana’s recent legislative season, when several bills advocating for women’s rights died in the Statehouse: House Bill 1011 would have made it illegal to pay wages that discriminate based on sex. House Bill 1245 would have prevented the discrimination against pregnant employees. House Bill 1273 would have allowed menstrual products to be exempt from the state gross retail tax.

But this is not just about legislation specific to women. Everyone benefits when women are in office, as studies have shown that women are more likely to propose legislation that benefits families and children, and they’re more inclined to emphasize education reform and health care. Furthermore, as Women Deliver notes, global studies show that women are more likely to work with members of other parties, to be available to their communities and to increase constituent confidence in a democracy.

So, how do we get more women involved? By training, encouraging and preparing them to run. To this end, on May 22, Women4Change Indiana is hosting its annual Ready to Run program, a nonpartisan training initiative designed to help women run for office. With virtual presentations from experts who will talk about their experiences in politics and government, the event is open to anyone interested in supporting efforts to get more women in office in Indiana.

Our state and nation will be better with more women in office. You can help. 

Damar Foundation's Ken File: Philanthropy building on unsustainable model

Client Watch

The following originally ran in Inside Indiana Business on April 20, 2021.To read it on the Inside Indiana Business website, click here.  


By Ken File

President, Damar Foundation 

At first glance, the state of philanthropy in the United States looks good. Total charitable giving has trended upward, and in 2019 it hit its second-highest level ever: Americans gave nearly $450 billion to nonprofits. But when I look past that one big number, I see troubling trends … trends that, if not addressed, could weaken the nonprofits we depend on to feed the poor, research cures, advocate for justice, support the arts, and much more.

Because I’m a fundraising professional, some people might think I’m complaining about these trends because they’re making my job harder. That isn’t the case. In a few weeks, I’ll retire after working for four decades for nonprofit organizations, with the last 25 of those years being in fundraising. My concern is not for my future; it’s for the future of the people who rely on nonprofits every day.

Don’t take that last sentence lightly. Nonprofits do remarkable things. They address real needs. I’ve witnessed this throughout my career, but never more vividly than at Damar Services, where each day children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities enjoy opportunities they would not find without Damar.

That’s why I am troubled when I see the nonprofit sector pursuing an unsustainable business model: relying on fewer and fewer people to give bigger and bigger gifts. Yes, overall giving is up, but it’s from a smaller and smaller group of donors, with millions fewer households making any charitable gifts at all.

A lot of factors are driving these shifts, but one that troubles me most is an increasing emphasis on transactions and decreasing attention to lasting connections. Fundraising should be measured and monitored like any business, but the profession seems to be obsessing on metrics at the expense of relationships.

Giving is all about relationships. People give to organizations they believe in, where they are confident the organization knows what it’s doing. They need to trust the leadership and the integrity of the mission. That kind of understanding comes from relationships, not fundraising appeals. You’re saying to a donor, “Come on a journey with us,” not “Give us money.”

Relationships deliver other rewards. For example, it’s much more expensive to acquire a donor than to keep a donor, and the yield from existing relationships is typically higher than from new ones. A good friend and colleague, Penelope Burk, has research showing that a nonprofit that increases its donor-retention rate by 5% could increase its revenue by as much as 50%. Nonetheless, donor retention rates remain low, as many fundraising campaigns are judged more on the number of asks they make than on the long-term prospects of the relationships they create.

Don’t get me wrong. I see a lot of encouraging signs in fundraising. The opportunities presented by new technology is exciting, and emerging generations are engaging in interesting ways. Peer-to-peer campaigns are opening new doors and, remarkably, direct mail seems to be finding a new audience with younger donors.

But new technology, fresh campaigns and rejuvenated approaches won’t sustain the nonprofit sector. And it can’t rely forever on big gifts from billionaires. The sector needs to return to the model that built it into a vital part of our communities and economy. It needs to build relationships.

As I wind down my career over the next couple of months, I’ll make a lot of phone calls and – soon, I hope – make a few face-to-face visits, connecting with friends to share Damar’s vision for the future. My team and I will endeavor to put more resources to work on behalf of children and adults with intellectual and behavioral disabilities. And, yes, we’ll measure part of our success by the number of dollars we raise.

But I’ll hang up that phone or look in the rear-view mirror after that last donor connection knowing that I didn’t just raise money for Damar – or for Goodwill Industries of Central and Southern Indiana or Delta Tau Delta, the other nonprofits I was privileged to serve. I created relationships that will help to support those organizations long after I’m gone. That’s a sustainable model that I hope finds new life in the nonprofit sector. Because, if it doesn’t, I worry about how well the sector will continue to do what we need it to do.

CILTI chief: Everyone should be able to enjoy nature with serenity

Client Watch

The following appeared in the July 17 issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal. To read it on the IBJ website, go to https://www.ibj.com/articles/everyone-should-be-able-to-enjoy-nature-with-serenity.


By Cliff Chapman

Executive Director of the Central Indiana Land Trust

The summer between high school and college, a buddy and I took a road trip from Indianapolis to Bloomington. About halfway there, I noticed the gas gauge approaching “E,” so I asked him if he wanted a snack since I needed to pull off and fill up.

He tensed up. He grabbed the handle on the passenger-side door. “Are you sure we can’t make it to Bloomington?” he asked. I said no. He followed with, “Can we just get a gallon or two and then fill up down there?”

I didn’t understand. As long as we’d been friends, I had never seen him act like this. He rubbed his hands on his pants legs. I said something like, “What the hell, man?” After a long pause, he said, “Cliff, I’m Black. It’s not safe for me to stop here.”

Of course, I knew he was Black. We’d been friends since seventh grade. We made fun of each other all the time, often poking fun at ethnic differences. But our difference never affected me until that moment. I was embarrassed by my naivete … my ignorance. The memory still makes me sad, and it returned with greater poignancy when I heard about the racist incident near Monroe Reservoir over the July Fourth weekend.

Unfortunately, that memory visits me often. You see, during the 23 years I’ve worked in nature conservation, I’ve never seen a Black family by themselves enjoying a stand-alone nature preserve, one that wasn’t part of a state or local park. I’ve read countless essays and blog posts about engaging people of color in nature preserves, and I’ve participated in national conversations on the issue. Every time, I remember my friend panicking over a gas stop.

For me, getting out of the city to visit natural places is a refuge from my troubles. It pains me to know that the natural world doesn’t always feel like a refuge for people who, like my buddy, fear for their safety when they leave the city.

Protecting natural areas in central Indiana benefits everyone. I mean everyone, globally. Planting trees in Indiana helps people in Norway, Zimbabwe and India. Protecting nature in rural Indiana benefits people in Carmel as well as in Martindale-Brightwood. From cleaner air and water to climate-change mitigation, we can clearly point to these impacts.

I imagine every not-for-profit leader has similar feelings about how their work benefits everyone. But that assumes everyone has access to those benefits. Despite the universal positive impact of our work, there is still a piece missing.

Here’s the thing: The Central Indiana Land Trust is not changing its mission. The charitable organization exists to benefit plants and animals and protect the natural areas they call home. But we’re also committed to connecting Hoosiers to nature. Our challenge is to do that for all Hoosiers. How? I don’t know. Neither does our board. Essentially, we’ve been driving that car to Bloomington without thinking about filling up before we set off.

We’re committed to changing that story, starting with our board leadership, working toward a board that is more representative of our community. It’s a first step, to be followed by others.

I challenge other organizations to pursue similar measures. Let’s make sure our work truly benefits everyone. Otherwise, we’ll drive into the future in ignorance, missing the realities sitting right next to us.•

Depicting an evolution

Inside JTPR

Sometimes marketing types talk about brands and identity like they’re talking about alchemy. Or top-secret missile codes. Or Col. Sanders’ seven herbs and spices.

We tend to think of it more plainly than that. A brand should simply be a reflection of an organization or product. And as that organization or product evolves, that brand and the way it is communicated – through a graphic identity, a tagline or whatever – should evolve, too.

That’s why you’re seeing a new logo for JTPR. We’ve evolved, and it’s time for the way we present ourselves to evolve, too.

Of course, we started out as Jen Thomas PR, a one-woman show that quite simply got the job done.

We grew into JTPR, a two-JT firm that offered solid, clear-cut skills and expertise.

And now we think of ourselves a little differently. We still offer those same services, but we put an increasing emphasis on the power of the well-chosen word, straightforward counsel and the right action at the right time. It’s what our clients say they expect from us … what we do best.

So now we describe ourselves like this: JTPR gets people talking about things worth talking about in order to move people to action. With expert counsel, the right words and hands-on execution, we help organizations reach the right audiences, say the right things and get the results they want.

This fits nicely with our business plan, which we sum up by saying, “Work with nice people, and have fun doing it.”

When we discussed this vision of our business with our friend (and designer extraordinaire) Lindsey Hadley, she brought back a new logo for JTPR that we think captures wonderfully who we aspire to be: It’s sturdy and solid, with a dash of color and whimsy. It gets the job done with a bit of flair and fun.

That might not be as impressive as alchemy, or as intriguing as missile codes, or as “spicy” as a secret chicken recipe. But it’s who we are. 


We are Doers

Inside JTPR

During our firm’s recent rebrand, we spent a lot of time pondering the right words to describe what we do best.

We settled on Advisors. Writers. Doers.

Since the core of our work involves writing, Writers was a no-brainer.

Advisors was pretty easy, too. At this stage of our careers, we’re confident in our recommendations and the advice we provide clients.

The last word, though, was harder. We ended up with Doers.

We hesitated about that at first, worried that it sounded too tactical, too elementary, too lightweight. “Doers” are often seen as the “lowest rung” on the ladder, and we didn’t want people to think of us as a “low-rung” organization.

On the other hand, one of the reasons we opened our shop is that we wanted to provide advice to our clients and then actually see it through to fruition. To DO the work. We like what we do, and we plan to stay small – just the two of us – so we are, by design, the doers.

Of course, we also believe that serves our clients well. When they choose us, they get veterans doing the work. We’re not cooking up big ideas and handing them off to junior staffers. We’re not promising expertise and delivering rookie execution. We’re following through. Putting our experience to work. Making sure the job gets done.

And when we do need help? We reach out to the best partners and subcontractors in the business – people who we know value good work as much as we do – and continue to be engaged so that the job is done right.

Yep: We’re doers. And we feel good about that.

John and Jen

© JTPR, INC. 2022