Introducing the Vibrant Communities Co-Chairs

By January 7, 2016Uncategorized

The Steering Committee for the Vibrant Communities initiative is being led by its co-chairs, Gina Leichty and Dallas Bergl. Their special passion for the program and experience in the community make them ideal in this leadership role. Throughout the process the co-chairs will help guide the planning team, lead the conversation of the Steering Committee, and provide a public face for the process.

Miss Gina Leitchy is the co-owner of Eyedart Creative Studio, a communication firm that specializes in community development initiatives.

Gina loves to transform seemingly impossible tasks into reality – one small step at a time. From helping launch Goshen’s successful citywide monthly festival, directing corporate campaigns for multi-million dollar corporations, to championing the renovation of a historic Indiana landmark, Gina has proven her chops in communication, branding, research, strategic planning, public relations, program coordination, and community development.

Gina graduated from Goshen College with a bachelor’s degree in English, which developed her passion for effective communication. This, coupled with her love of design and community, led her to a career developing successful marketing strategies for businesses, municipalities, and individual clients in both the public and private sector.

To her team, Gina is known for seeking inspiration in everything she does — and being an unrelenting believer in “marketing for good.”

Mr. Dallas Bergl is the President and Chief Executive Officer of INOVA Federal Credit Union, a position he has held since 1999. He has worked in the credit union industry for over 25 years. His industry and public service includes being a member of the Lerner Theatre Governing Board, Co-Chair for the Vibrant Communities initiative, the Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority Board, the IUSB Arts Foundation Board, the Indiana Credit Union League (ICUL) Board, The Credit Union National Association Board, the Credit Union Centers Board, CUNA’s World Leadership Development Committee, and he chairs ICUL’s Governmental Affairs Committee.

He has also served on NAFCU’s Governmental Affairs Committee, the Board of Directors of the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, the SOMA sub-committee for downtown revitalization, the Lerner Theatre’s fundraising committee, Elkhart’s 400 Block study group, Downtown Elkhart Inc.’s Board of Directors, and many other boards and committees over his career.  

Dallas worked closely on the region’s submission to the Regional Cities Initiative and is now a member of the Regional Development Authority Board. This group will monitor the implementation of the Development Plan, now funded with $42 million from the state.

Former Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman served as co-chair of Vibrant Communities from the project’s start last fall but stepped down because of the time commitment as he transitions to his new position with the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. Kauffman enthusiastically supports the goals of the Vibrant Communities initiative.

“Our community grows stronger as residents connect with each other, the wonderful amenities in our city and the communities around those places. I believe Vibrant Communities will pave the way to an exciting future for Goshen and all of Elkhart County,” Kauffman said.

The Steering Committee will meet Tuesday, January 12th. Topics on the agenda include continued preparation for the Kickoff event, to be hosted on the 26th in the Crystal Ballroom of the Lerner Theatre, and the initiating plans for the Community Conversations meetings to take place in late February or early March.

One Comment

  • Cyndi Troyer says:

    Dear Ms. Leichty and Mr. Bergl,

    I would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration, what I have shared below is quite lengthy. I would also like to thank you and the steering committee for committing so much of your personal time to the Elkhart Community. I am hopeful that the children and families of Elkhart will see a better tomorrow, in part, due to the Vibrant Communities initiative.
    I did not attend last night’s kick-off meeting because I was unaware it was taking place. I just signed up for your mailing list and am now following you on Facebook so that may assist with keeping me in the loop. I leave our home at 7am in the morning and do not return until after 6pm. I see very little news as my mornings/evenings run around my children’s schedule and work. Therefore, I wanted to share some thoughts about our children who live within Elkhart County and their opportunity to invest in and assist with building up the community which they live. This has clearly been running through my “free” moments of thinking for some time, and I am grateful to finally have an opportunity to put voice to my thoughts. My email is centered around the below statement from the Vibrant Communities website.

    “How will this impact me?
    If you live in Elkhart County, this process could impact you. If you care about the kind of communities your children and/or grandchildren will inherit, this process needs your input. It’s critical that you get involved. Several large and small-scale meetings will be convened during the process where we’ll ask hard questions and form recommendations.”

    Yesterday, I was reading about college admissions at work. When I saw the below information, my thoughts continually returned to the community of Elkhart which I live in and the current Elkhart Community Schools Strategic Planning efforts. I thought this may be of interest to Vibrant Communities since the academic curriculum and additional electives are currently in the process of being updated throughout the ECS system. I thought the below information/links may be of particular value since the released initiative has the support of so many colleges. There are several links below and one of the links is for the January 20, 2016 press release.

    My thoughts are coming from the perspective of a current Elkhart resident who attended North Side Middle School and graduated from Elkhart Memorial HS in 1987. Graduated with a B.S. from Purdue Unversity – West Lafayette in 1992 and a B.S. from IUSB in 1998. After graduating from Purdue, I went on to live in communities such as Akron/Cleveland, OH; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis/Fishers, IN; Osceola, IN; and 2 years ago we returned to what I consider to be my home-town of Elkhart. I have seen many initiatives filter through communities – some have succeeded and some have fallen short. My wheels have been turning ever since our return – my thoughts are mostly surrounded by heartbreak for my hometown and from my view, I see that very little has evolved or improved since our family moved here in the 1980’s and much has declined. Although I see progress in a small stretch of downtown on Main Street and I see some prospering RV industries, I mostly see a community that is struggling to take a step forward. One of the Bachelor degrees I have is Elementary Education and I have been on the educational staffs for Chicago Public Schools, Hamilton Southeastern Schools, and Penn Harris Madison. I currently work at Notre Dame. I am a widow with boys in an Elkhart High School. My husband passed away unexpectedly from a heart aneurysm 13 years ago when he was 31 years old. I have always had a passion for children in poverty and when my husband passed I became keenly aware that had it not been for my college education and a bit of life insurance that our sons and I could be a family living as part of those statistics.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014, Elkhart Community Schools had an estimated 24.9% of their families with students ages 5 to 17 living in poverty. Concord Community Schools had approximately 18.5% of their families with students ages 5 to 17 living in poverty. I did not pull the numbers for Goshen as I live on the North Side of town. I am in agreement with Bill Stanczkiewicz, president and CEO of Indiana Youth Institute, and their belief that placing priority on raising educational outcomes will lead to improved economic results. As the Vibrant Communities initiative moves forward, I am asking for you to please partner with our school corporations, as well as businesses, when you create your focus groups. Possibly even host some focus groups at neighborhood schools across the county inviting students/parents to share where there needs are being met within the community, how they are personally contributing to their communities or how they would like to, and where they see a need for improvement. Transportation is a real barrier for many of our Elkhart families, focus groups must be brought to them. We have strong leaders and educators in our school systems that have a strong pulse on the needs of our students and their families – especially the large numbers of children who are living in poverty in Elkhart County and the middle working class. Our children are our community’s future – they need to see themselves in the Vibrant Communities plans and know that our community and our businesses are willing to come to them, where they are, and invest in them and assist them with their education, job training, and the improvement of their streets, homes and the community at large. Starting in Kindergarten all through High School.

    When I taught 3rd grade in Chicago, my class was adopted by a small department of a larger business. After clearing background checks, one or two employees from that company would visit our class a few times a month for a short visit and just be present to work with students on academics, have lunch with them, play a board game, or just have a small chat with them. They would talk about work, home, education, motivation, dreams/goals, etc. My students were 80% Puerto Rican and English was not their first language, however, the language barrier was overshadowed by the recognition they were receiving from someone from the outside who took interest in them & their families, and encouraged them. The department went one step further & adopted our class for Christmas and even supported us on a bus trip around Chicago for our city Social Studies unit. Many students had never been within 3-5 blocks of their home. I taught in Humboldt Park – Chicago. If you know Humboldt Park – this will connect with you. I see similarities with many of our Elkhart students.

    One of the top barriers I have heard from some parents is the lack of transportation services in Elkhart County. They are unable to find affordable transportation to places of employment during the hours they need and the places they need. There have also been comments about not having their child continue on with a high ability educational program when it is no longer offered at their neighborhood school because they do not have transportation to get across town should their child become ill or for parent/teacher/school meetings or from after-school childcare should they work. There is no money for a cab or car payment/insurance. These are only a few insights that our educators could provide during focus group discussions that may be overlooked by someone with a business perspective.

    I am wondering if the content of the below links could be something Vibrant Communities should be thoughtfully considering for our students no matter what their age & academic/career path? If so, how do we build in more opportunities for our ECS students to meaningfully engage themselves in our Elkhart community? We currently have a few opportunities for our students through our schools, but not many. In addition, where is that time pulled from? What obstacles are the students facing to participate – transportation, business partnerships, non-profit connections, etc? Is this something that could be built in to the downtown Elkhart Fitness & Aquatics proposal with Beacon Health systems within the community space and also as an elective in High School during the day since so many of our students are dependent on bus transportation to get to & from home or are involved with work/sports after school? Or, possibly an opportunity over Fall Break, Spring Break, 3-4 day weekends or Summer similar to the ND Center for Social Concerns initiatives and their SSLP and Fall/Spring Seminars but keep it local for ECS students? ND students receive course credit (not pay) for the SSLP and the Fall and Spring Break seminars. The programs are a combination of classroom during the year and then putting that in to practice over the Summer, Spring, or Fall with ND faculty and volunteers. They truly are wonderful programs.

    I thought you might enjoy reading the Making Caring Common Project since it’s about building community – if you have not seen it already. I believe there is a great deal of opportunity within our Elkhart Community that ECS students and their families could tap in to – but I do understand everything would take resources (probably grant applications, etc) & manpower from the schools and community. Perhaps our new mayor, the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, and the Vibrant Communities Steering Committee would see the benefits of such programs and assist if ECS wanted to explore the possibilities. I believe academics are crucial to the development of our children, but I also see a great deal of value in the MCC project and their mission for our students, our families and our community.

    If there is anything you would like me to further research around the above, I’m willing to volunteer my time – should you need it.
    I would also be grateful to have the opportunity to join a focus group should you see a fit for me going forward.
    Again, thank you for your time and enjoy your afternoon.
    Cyndi Troyer
    (574) 361-3691

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