On the Right Path
Ben Trockman doesn’t believe things happen for a reason. The 26-year-old Evansville native says life happens; what’s important is what you choose to do after the unthinkable occurs.
The Harrison High School graduate knows firsthand about life’s curveballs. Trockman was 17 years old in 2006 and on track to attend college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, motocross racing was a hobby Trockman shared with his father, Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Wayne Trockman, and younger brother Josh. In March 2006, the two brothers were competing in a race in Poole, Kentucky, when Trockman was involved in an accident and suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Today, Trockman relies on a motorized, high-tech chair (operated with the “sip-and-puff” method, where Trockman uses a straw to move his chair) to get around and on the help of others to navigate through his day.
“I really think that this injury and having to count on people — nurses, therapists, doctors, friends, and family — has really made me grow up,” says Trockman. “I think I’ve learned how important it is to give back and to help other people when you can.
“And not only is it important, but I’m really passionate about being a part of it,” he says.
Trockman’s resume shows that passion. In 2010, while attending the University of Southern Indiana, he was named the adult representative for Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Evansville — a one-year honor and commitment. Two years later he was asked to be the National Ambassador for the nonprofit. Though he originally dreamed to work in sports management, handling public relations or communications for a team, the years spent with Easter Seals opened his eyes to what he truly wanted to do with his life.
“Because I had the opportunity to travel all across the country to speak about disability, to meet people with disabilities, I noticed the impact that Easter Seals and I could have just by being able to speak and spread the mission,” he says.
Easter Seals Director of Marketing & Community Relations Pam Kirk says she always was impressed with Ben’s positive outlook during his time as an ambassador for the nonprofit organization. His continued involvement with Easter Seals has been just as invaluable, she adds.
“Yes, Ben’s giving people a better understanding of the unique issues faced by our friends and neighbors who happen to have disabling conditions,” she says. “But just as important, he’s encouraging us to look beyond our expectations. He’s helping us realize that we’re all more alike than different.”
As he neared graduation from USI, Trockman says he wasn’t sure where his life was headed. Majoring in public relations and advertising, it was a conversation with his father two weeks before graduation that spurred his next move. With support from his family, Trockman says he decided to email five different CEOs within Evansville, asking to meet.
“I wasn’t asking for a job, just asking for advice,” he says.
One of those emails led to a conversation with the CEO of Old National Bank Bob Jones. What Trockman wasn’t expecting after his meeting with Jones was to hear from ONB’s Talent Acquisition Manager and Senior Vice President Ron Hagy, who wanted to have a chat with the soon-to-be USI graduate.
“After about two hours of a lunch that was supposed to only be about half an hour to an hour, we found common ground in having the desire to help people with disabilities,” says Trockman.
A month after that lunch, Hagy contacted him again, this time with a job opportunity. Hagy says the meeting with Trockman was at the perfect time.
“We created the Community Outreach and Employment specialist role because we needed to move forward faster than we were with a plan in place,” he says. “We have had a focused commitment for many years and are working with individuals with disabilities. It just wasn’t happening at the rate and in the way we all wanted things to.”
Since coming on board, Hagy says Trockman’s presence, his ability to present ideas, and his critical thinking inspires everyone in the company. Trockman is helping change minds at not only Old National, but in the community as well, Hagy adds, and the reputation he has is very valuable.
“He allows us to see the confidence of people with disabilities, so his mere presence is so important,” he says.
Trockman says working for a bank is the last place he thought he would be, but the opportunity was one too big to pass up. The fact he gets to combine his passions of helping those with disabilities find employment and bettering the Evansville community sealed the deal for Trockman when he was offered the job.
“We’re trying to figure out here at Old National ways to not only bring in these talented workers who have disabilities, but also change the mindset from the top down,” says Trockman. “We believe that you can’t push these initiatives from the bottom floor. We’ve got to expose our leaders to these different situations.”
Eleven months after accepting the job, Trockman says he and Hagy have worked on exciting projects that have consumed his life in an extraordinary way. One of the projects he has begun to implement since taking his position with Old National is the Achieve ABILITY program. Centered on the idea of educating the public about disability employment, it is a mentoring program that not only gives those with disabilities a chance to make connections with executives in their community, but also exposes executives to a learning opportunity as well.
“I had the opportunity to easily send out emails to five CEOs within Evansville. I don’t take that for granted,” says Trockman. “But a lot of people with disabilities can’t do that. So starting this mentoring program gives those individuals a chance within our community.”
The time with Easter Seals also exposed Trockman to more of the issues those with disabilities face, which he would like to help change. While serving as national ambassador, he experienced firsthand the difficulties of traveling long distance and the limited options to him.
“This was when I was exposed to the whole airline issue and realized that I had to do something about it,” he says.
For Trockman and others who rely on specialized equipment, airline regulations hamper their ability to use the mode of transportation. To travel by plane, Trockman must be physically lifted from his chair and placed in an airline chair. His customized wheelchair would then have to be stored under the plane. Though the process seems simple, he points out many things could go wrong.
“Let’s just say I’m going to San Diego and I’m flying from Evansville to Chicago, and as I get to Chicago and want to get back in my chair, something is broken,” he explains. “What am I supposed to do? How am I going to get to the next gate, the next terminal? Maybe I have a pressure sore. There’s just so many things that could go wrong that it just scares me. Therefore, I haven’t flown since my injury.”
This led Trockman to attempt to start a change; he created a petition which gathered 8,000 signatures. He then traveled to Indianapolis where a proposed nonbinding resolution was passed in the Indiana House and Senate in favor of making air travel more accessible for those with disabilities.
“We traveled to Washington D.C., met the senators, representatives, and the Department of Transportation representatives,” he says. “You know all the representatives and senators, they were excited about it. Then you get to the Department of Transportation, they start throwing all their rules and regulations.”
Trockman explains when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990 (the ADA celebrates its 25th anniversary this year), it dictated that businesses and modes of public transportation — excluding airlines — had to make changes to help accommodate individuals with disabilities. Through the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, airlines are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities, but they do not have to be accessible.
Though the issue has not been resolved, Trockman remains optimistic about the effort. “It’s going to take some time, you know, but … if we keep talking about it, I think it’s important. It’s definitely not going to happen tomorrow,” he says.
In all his endeavors, Trockman stays realistic, yet optimistic. He works through any obstacle that comes his way with determination and a will to try to make things at least a little better than they were before.
“It’s more than just about me; it’s exactly what I want to do, so being offered this position here, that just makes sense,” says Trockman. “I’m not going to run to a sports organization yet. But maybe in five years from now. We’ve got a lot of work to do here first.”
For more information about Achieve ABILITY at Old National Bank, call 812-468-7898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Good, The Bad, The Old
A friend recently remarked to me that it must be nice to have a “forum” available to write about whatever I choose or to help direct editorial content by assigning stories based often on what I hope others will find as interesting as I do.
Well yes … and no. As most of you in this community know, the city of Evansville is not as cohesive as we should be on moving our collective needle forward. No matter where you stand on some of our upcoming projects and those that are underway, it is undeniable, especially in Downtown Evansville, that we are experiencing business growth and development. Some projects but not all include:
The Lloyd Expressway-Highway 41 interchange is shaping up to be a dramatic improvement. Not only aesthetically pleasing, it also will result in the reduction of two stoplights on the Lloyd as well as a much improved traffic flow.
It does appear the Downtown Evansville hotel project is planned for construction in August or September. Although not what originally anticipated, it still will provide a facility to help bring in conventions and visitors wishing to stay Downtown. The Indiana University School of Medicine - Evansville also anticipates breaking ground soon for the medical education and research partnership, which many feel will be the most transformative project undertaken in Downtown Evansville in decades.
We could soon see Tropicana Evansville (I think likely) build a casino on land adjacent to its hotel and conference complex across from the current “boat.” Manhattan-based Haier America, which produces various home appliances, just renovated the former Coca-Cola distribution building and opened its first U.S. product technical center. Also look for the former McCurdy Hotel on Evansville’s Riverfront to be renovated into 113 apartments. The hotel is on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered places list.
Last but certainly not least is the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative. Our Regional Development Authority is one of 11 regions across the state vying to be one of two selected to receive up to $42 million to improve the quality of life and potential infrastructure. This is expected to be awarded in the fourth quarter. Talk about a game changer!
As I suspect many of us do when returning from an absence from Evansville, I looked at a few things with an objective eye after being out of the country recently. I was quite surprised to see our brand new “Welcome to Evansville” sign and sculpture area near the airport poorly landscaped and weed-choked. C’mon, it’s brand new.
Two minutes down the road, our “Welcome to Evansville” sign on Highway 41 fared only a little better, but it’s not too welcoming. Later that day, while visiting Wesselman Park Nature Center for the Deaconess Women’s Hospital Classic tennis tournament, I was struck by the mess (yes, mess) that was the garden at the entrance to the park. Why, with so many visitors that week, was it not cleaned up? And anyone who has traveled N. Burkhardt Road knows what the medians look like. We can do better, Evansville.
I struggled with writing the last part of this letter. Aug. 1 is my father William F. “Bill” Tucker Jr.’s 80th birthday. Anyone who knows my father will understand when I simply say he is one-of-a-kind. My father has stood with me every step of my life and I can never give back what he has given me. He is my best man, best friend, and grandfather to my boys (who think grandpa “rules”).
You, sir, are loved and appreciated by many. So I know as I write this what an outpouring of love and affection you will receive at your surprise party. And I want to thank you publicly for giving me the greatest gift you could give a person — believing in me.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker
Answering the Call
Although Evansville natives John and Whitney Spinks didn’t win HGTV’s “Flipping the Block,” which aired last summer, their victories since have been abundant.
The childhood sweethearts who have been in a relationship for the last 13 years (married for the last five) were featured in the August/September 2014 issue of Evansville Business after they were chosen for the eight-week series. Along with four other duos, the Spinkses moved into identical units in a dilapidated condo and executed room-by-room renovations. Filming completed for the show last spring and the finale aired Sept. 7.
Immediately after filming, the couple, both graduates of F.J. Reitz High School, returned home to Jacksonville, Florida, and “we knew it was our calling,” says Whitney, who graduated from the University of Southern Indiana. The duo launched their own business, 27 South Design, in April 2014 and then shortly after, HGTV came calling again. Since then, Whitney became a real estate agent and they have rebranded their company to 27 South Home Group.
HGTV asked to do another home flipping show featuring John and Whitney in their hometown as they go through the process of purchasing, remodeling, and selling a house. The pilot for “Florida Flippers” aired June 21 and received strong ratings, according to the Spinkses. HGTV tested the pilot again on July 25, and could show it as many as seven more times before deciding to make it a series.
“Someone asked me what would I be doing if ‘Florida Flippers’ didn’t exist,” says John, who attended USI for two years. “I said: we would be doing this.”
The pilot is set in San Marco, a neighborhood in Jacksonville and an area that Whitney describes as similar to historic Downtown Evansville. “There are a lot of younger folks moving there and trendy spots going up,” says John. “The house turned out great. It was built in 1944 and stuck in 1944 — we fixed that. We had an open house and over 100 people showed up. We had a full price offer within minutes.”
For more information about “Florida Flippers,” visit HGTV.com.
Attorney Neil Chapman says it is one of the best investments he ever made. Scott Mohler, owner of Mohler Technology, Inc. in Boonville, Indiana, calls it the perfect experience. Both have driven many sports cars but neither believes anything beats a Tesla.
Tesla Motors, Inc., founded in 2003 in San Carlos, California, is a company that designs and manufactures electric cars and other battery products. The cars require no gas and run on lithium-ion 18650 batteries, which usually are found in laptops. Mohler, a Newburgh, Indiana, resident, says he was sold after test-driving the vehicle, and Chapman says he also was quickly convinced.
“I like to be an early adopter,” says Chapman, who compares purchasing a Tesla to picking an iPad, where buyers focus on the design, color, and battery size. “The Tesla appealed to me on many levels. It’s an elegant solution to the problem of gas power. I look at it and see nothing but advantages.”
The Model S, which both Chapman and Mohler drive, contains more than 7,000 batteries in the floor of the vehicle. The battery’s range is 270 miles when completely charged, the most of any electric car. The Model X, an SUV, was released in July, and Tesla currently is developing the Model 3.
Chapman hired an electrician to install a 220-volt charger in his garage at his Newburgh home that puts 30 miles-worth of electricity into the car every hour; from empty, it can be fully charged overnight.
Tesla also operates the Supercharger network, a series of nearly 500 stations where drivers can charge their cars for free on long-distance trips. A half-hour using a Supercharger can provide 170 miles of range. The closest locations are Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Nashville, but many stations will be added in the next couple years, including one in Newburgh.
The cars are purchased online, and they can be picked up in certain cities or delivered right to buyers’ homes. Chapman, who is on his second Model S, says he has seen about a dozen Teslas in the Evansville area and hopes that number increases, but he realizes there are restrictions.
“Number one, people know they’re expensive,” says Chapman. Teslas start at about $60,000 and can cost more than $100,000 with upgrades. “The biggest limitation of electric cars is the price. Tesla is working day and night to change that (the Model 3 is rumored to be around $30,000). And number two, it’s fear of the unknown — where to charge it.”
Another aspect Teslas have in their advantage is safety. The placement of the batteries gives the car a low center of gravity, making rollover unlikely. There also is no engine, leaving a large crumple zone to absorb more energy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Model S a five-star rating in every category.
“I have never seen an advertisement for Tesla, which is amazing,” says Mohler. “As far as the quality and experience of the car, the Tesla, by far, is the best car I’ve ever driven.”
With the age of digital photography making it easier for us to capture moments of our families and loved ones, it may seem like the days of painted portraits are behind us. However, one local business is thriving on creating such works of art for its customers.
Memory Portraits, and its secondary company Galleria, located at 600 N. Weinbach Ave. Ste. 810, specializes in making art out of family pictures. Owner Dave Morris started the venture in 2000, according to President David Dunigan and General Manager Pam Bates. The original business worked solely with funeral homes locally and around the country to create customized portraits on matte paper for grieving families.
“He’s really the one who knew that it was something that was needed, especially with cremation being popular,” says Bates. “The family needs something they can bring home.”
Dunigan says the business’ first portraits were in a Rembrandt style, using strong lights and heavy shadows — which they still do today. However, he adds with the popularity of digital cameras, the company’s orders now include more touch-ups or enhancements of personal photos of loved ones to look as if they were painted.
Memory Portraits also does work with the Patriot Guard Riders to provide portraits of fallen soldiers to their families at no cost. “Those are probably the most powerful, the most meaningful,” says Dunigan.
“And (The Patriot Guard) will send us pictures of the family and it’s just neat how the families embrace these portraits,” says Bates. “It’s not expected (by them).”
The work the business does with the Patriot Guard is something both Bates and Dunigan take pride in. “We feel those families have paid a very high price for allowing us here at Memory Portraits to enjoy our freedom, so we appreciate that,” says Dunigan.
With the success of Memory Portraits came a demand to do more than just portraits for funerals. That was when the business expanded and started Galleria, which Dunigan says is more for the Evansville public and consumers.
“It is picking up in popularity. I think nationwide, it’s become more of a popular trend to hang canvas on your wall, especially personalized canvas,” he adds. “It’s neat. It’s personalized customized art.”
The business employs eight in-house artists, who are on hand to talk with customers and work together to bring a superior product to clients. The artists are very hands-on with the entire process, and working together builds camaraderie, says Dunigan.
He says the most rewarding aspect about the business for him is helping people. “It’s helping people deal with grief on the funeral home side and it’s helping people decorate their homes in a positive manner on the Galleria side,” he says. “I just like that we’re helping people and making their lives better.”
For Bates, the reactions from clients are what she enjoys. “Just people’s expressions once they see the finished product in hand (is rewarding),” she says. “They find comfort in them.”
For more information about Memory Portraits, call 812-423-6389 or visit memoryportraits.com.
In the 2011 February/March issue of Evansville Business, Mark Schroeder, a fifth-generation Dubois County native who serves as chairman and CEO of German American, said local talent is vital to the bank’s operations. Because of this, he says supporting the community is engrained in the company’s DNA. In July, the organization announced a $100,000 unrestricted donation to 10 community foundations throughout Southern Indiana, meaning the funds could be used however those groups deem necessary.
The Community Foundation Alliance, located at 5000 E. Virginia St., received $90,000 to spread to its nine foundations in Daviess, Gibson, Knox, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties, and the remaining $10,000 was given directly to the Dubois County Community Foundation. The Lilly Endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) program also matched the donation, doubling its total to $200,000.
The alliance helps the foundations establish funds and reinvest into nonprofit organizations. By pooling local resources, the Community Foundation Alliance provides financial, administrative, marketing, and other expertise to create an efficient system so the individual foundations can focus their time and resources on their communities.
“This investment will be used as that local board decides where the greatest needs are,” says Schroeder. “There are unique needs and opportunities in each county. This allows them to target those needs the best. It’s a local solution to local challenges.”
“German American is an organization that is present in many of our counties,” adds Jill Tullar, the alliance’s executive director. “We appreciate their commitment to our communities. This gift will be maximized by the Lilly match to serve more people.”
The GIFT initiative serves 94 community foundations in Indiana and encourages the aid of those foundations to improve the quality of life in the state. Headquartered in Jasper, Indiana, German American currently has 37 offices in 13 counties and offers banking, insurance, investments, and trust products and services. Schroeder says it is important to support the community because of the company’s presence in the area. By serving other organizations, it will help German American grow and continue to give back.
Other organizations German American has served include United Way and the YMCA, as well as many others. John Lamb, the bank’s south region president, says they pay attention to what organizations their customers are involved with to see if there are additional donation opportunities. The Community Foundation Alliance provided the perfect partner.
“We live and work right here in Southern Indiana,” says Jane Balsmeyer, vice president and director of marketing at German American. “It was a really good fit for us because we are committed to helping community members now and in the future.”
From the attorneys to the witnesses, there are several important players in court cases. But one critical person often is overlooked — the courtroom reporter.
Lara Goldey, owner of Farris Reporting, 2514 Waterbridge Way, has chronicled depositions and arbitrations for local attorneys for more than 30 years. An Evansville native and North High School graduate, she says her job as a freelance court reporter is about more than pushing buttons.
“For every hour you’re in taking testimony of any kind, to get it to the final product takes about four hours,” says Goldey. “Of course you’re writing, but otherwise you’re translating, editing, proofreading, and binding. You’re doing all that.”
Her team of freelance reporters are called in by attorneys to take down records for civil litigation, criminal litigation, divorces, custody cases, wills, medical cases, and more, which means they never actually go into a courtroom. Goldey has spent her career as a court reporter, but it was not her first thought when she considered her future. In fact, she says if it weren’t for her father, she might not have studied court reporting at all.
“My dad picked the career for me,” says Goldey with a laugh. “He knew I took short hand — which this is short hand on a machine. He did not know I hated it.”
She picked a school — Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois — and began to study courtroom stenography. In 1986, she joined the firm, formerly owned by Judy Farris, and then in 1995, Goldey became the owner. Through the years, she says what she has enjoyed most is the relationships with the people she’s worked with.
“I always tell people — because they have these opinions of lawyers and jokes about them — the thing I have always enjoyed is the attorneys I have worked for,” she says. “The people who I work with, they’re wonderful people.”
Though there have been times when Goldey says she has dealt with horrific cases and felt overwhelmed by the stories she hears, she continues on because she feels it is important to keep the records of the witnesses and victims of cases.
“Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember something a lady in my Bible study told me. She said, ‘You’re the only opportunity where they get to tell their side.’ And I have to remember that,” she says.
For more information about Farris Reporting, call 812-425-6283 or visit farrisreporting.com.
Sometimes all it takes for an organization to achieve greatness is the perfect facility. The University of Evansville’s baseball team experienced success in 2014 but lacked the right space for consistent results.
The Purple Aces won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship in the 2014 season and saw a top 10 selection in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft in Kyle Freeland. It was the perfect time to “strike while the iron was hot,” says Head Coach Wes Carroll.
Located in Arad McCutchan Stadium, the university’s soccer facility, which sits next to Charles H. Braun Stadium, the baseball field, the university broke ground on the $55,000 new locker room in October 2014 after a four-month fundraising campaign. The previous locker room was demolished and rebuilt from scratch by adding custom-made double-sided oak lockers as well as new flooring, tiling, showers, and lights.
Completed in January, the new facility also contains statistics, a list of past All-Americans, and eye-catching graphics that highlight the program’s history. The lockers, which Carroll compares to those in a Major League Baseball locker room, are three times larger than the original versions, a necessity because of the amount of gear baseball players use.
“The new lockers keep everything off the floor,” says Carroll, who completed his seventh year as head coach this past season. “The players have access to a brand new shower to use in between classes, workouts, and practices.”
Carroll says the new space allows the program to compete with other schools in the best conferences across the country. The main goal is focusing on the student-athletes by providing premium facilities, which already is producing results. The past two recruiting classes, on paper, are among the best the program has ever signed.
“You always need to have a crane on campus to show you’re moving forward,” says Carroll. “This is step one. We have a lot of other things planned for the future.”
“This is a cornerstone for us to build on,” adds Director of Athletics Mark Spencer. “We won a championship in 2014 and that is something to be very proud of. We are looking forward to having many, many of those. It is with these kinds of facilities and these kinds of gifts that really help us take the next step forward. Everyone wants to have the best pieces out there and having something like this is a great foundation to build on.”
For more information about UE’s baseball program, visit gopurpleaces.com.
Few business owners trace their company beginnings to a party. The Bauerhaus first was used more than 135 years ago as a venue for church summer socials, known then as Bauer’s Grove. Today, the historic property has defined its place in Southern Indiana by serving parties and celebrations.
Started in 1880 by Michael Bauer, the great-great-grandfather of current owner Jim Bauer, the Bauerhaus hosted potlucks between the Methodist and Lutheran churches in the Darmstadt, Indiana, area. Michael and his family had come to America from Darmstadt, Germany, and were a part of the original settlers to the Southern Indiana area of the same name. Many changes and expansions happened over the next century to make the business what it is today, according to Jim Bauer, who is the fifth-generation Bauer to head the venue.
He attributes his staff’s ability to transform with trends — the Bauerhaus once sported square dance halls before updating to the current European-inspired building of today — and their level of service as reasons why the business continues to grow.
“I truly do believe, and I say humbly, because we are concentrated on our customer service … that’s why we get the recognition. I’ve got a wonderful team that works for me,” he says.
The Central High School and University of Evansville alumnus returned to take over the family business in 1994. Along with the expansion of Bauerhaus Catering and the addition of Bauerhaus Pastry, Bauer says he also is proud of the company’s move to become a full-service wedding destination spot.
The site has become just as popular with wedding parties as it has with corporate event planners.
Bauer says his staff’s ability to stay up-to-date with wedding trends is what helps the historic business stay current. “We do definitely keep track of the web, just like our client might,” he says. “We also attend conferences, just being aware of things.”
There is a lot of pride in the family’s history with the business and what they continue to accomplish, Bauer says.
“I don’t think in his wildest dreams, (my great-great-grandfather) would have thought that we would be who we are,” he says. “I have three generations in heaven above me; I hope we put a smile on their faces.”
For more information about the Bauerhaus, call 812-759-9000 or visit thebauerhaus.com.
Safe and Secure
When families come to Lampion Center, it’s often on the day they would consider the worst of their lives. Their child may have been sexually molested or abused — one in 10 children nationwide are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Someone may have had an addiction problem or undergone trauma, and the family sought the nonprofit counseling agency for help.
In an attempt to encourage this healing process with young children, who often struggle communicating what they’ve gone through, Lampion, which specializes in counseling children and families with a sub-specialty in treating young children, introduced something to help in addition to their highly-skilled therapists. Roary the Lampion Lion, a stuffed animal lion and unconditional friend, is given to children upon arrival at the center. Lisa Tanner and Sue Anne Mullen conceived the idea of Lampion’s mascot around eight years ago.
“We were looking for a way to have (the children) immediately connect security and safety to Lampion,” says Scott Wylie, Lampion board member and executive director at the Vanderburgh Community Foundation.
Children at Lampion, located at 655 S. Hebron Ave., receive a Roary stuffed animal when community members donate $20 — $10 pays for the lion and $10 goes to providing the child therapy. A therapist gives the lion to the child upon arrival at the agency the first time and it becomes his or her connection with the therapist, says Lampion Development Director Jennifer Childress. The therapist then explains how lions are courageous and protective.
“We want children to know at Lampion that we are all about family. We want them to be courageous so we can help them,” says Childress, who has worked at the center for three years. “Roary comes back to a lot of therapy appointments. The stories I hear in the hallways absolutely make you cry. The kiddos say, ‘I brought Roary today and I’m going to tell you what happened.’
“For that to happen, it sometimes takes months for a child to tell what happened. Roary will come and if Roary is on the table they can talk, but if Roary leaves the room, they can’t. Roary has gone to court and all kinds of places. Roary is this stuffed thing that gives them courage to talk about this awful stuff that has happened. He also comes back in more lighthearted ways with haircuts and clothes. It really is a huge way we do therapy here — through a stuffed animal we buy in bulk.”
Lampion, formerly Family and Children’s Service, offers counseling services to people of all ages in Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Posey counties for affordable rates based on their income. The type of counseling offered can range from marriage and family counseling, grief and loss, depression and anxiety, and others. Lampion also provides psychological testing to all age groups for issues such as ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. The nonprofit operates with help from local United Way support and through program service fees, grants, contracts, and donor gifts. The agency’s history in Evansville can be traced back to Aug. 6, 1885, when a group of women formed an organization to help meet the needs of Civil War veterans and their families in Evansville.
The organization has several partnerships in the community including sharing services and therapists and offering support groups. Lampion works with groups such as Albion Fellows Bacon Center, Holly’s House, House of Bread and Peace, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., and others. Lampion also works with the court system and offers mandatory parenting divorce classes, which both parents are required to attend if they have a child under 18.
“By forming these partnerships, we help them help their clients,” says Childress. “It’s a community response that can hopefully heal that whole circumstance. Those collaborations are vital not only to community health but to keeping people out of the system so we don’t see them again in 10 to 15 years.”
These collaborations potentially can help prevent a harmful cycle. Another way Lampion works to prevent child sexual abuse is through a free class called Stewards of Children. This program has trained 4,000 people in the last five years and helps educate adults on the proactive steps to protect children.
“These are hard services to find. These are areas that are very challenging to talk about even,” says Childress. “When you talk about child sexual abuse, people say, ‘Well there’s only one or two cases in Evansville.’ You’re only getting it when it’s in the newspaper. We have eight therapists who are fulltime. We are booked for months. It’s heartbreaking. Our therapists are seeing significant issues, not only in dealing with child sexual abuse, but also other issues that impact the lives of families and our community.”
“Every time one of these kids is able to stay in school or a family is able to function more effectively, it doesn’t just benefit them. It benefits everybody,” says Wylie.
For more information about the Lampion Center, call 812-471-1776 or visit lampioncenter.com.
Lampion launches first-ever capital campaign to help repair facility
By Emily Patton • Photos by Heather Gray
Battling a leaky and stained ceiling, broken desks, water and structural concrete damage, and aged phone and computer technology, the Lampion Center had to work to convince its clients that the agency was a place of safety and healing.
“If you are bringing in your 6 year old for counseling, something concerning has happened,” says Jennifer Childress, development director at Lampion Center. “If that worst day in your family’s life has occurred and you’re sitting in our lobby and I have duct-taped the ceiling tiles, it doesn’t feel like you are at the right place. That specialty wasn’t aligning with the impression our building was making. Clients started to feel like they weren’t worth anything.”
Two years ago, the agency sought help from Bob Jones, CEO of Old National Bank, “because the building was aging dramatically,” says Childress. Lampion had lost a furnace and an air conditioner, and the need for a capital campaign became a reality. After the initial meeting to gauge whether a campaign was feasible, Lampion left with not only a plan to start raising money, but also with co-chairs of Jones and Jim Muehlbauer, who is vice president of Koch Enterprises.
“When the head of your capital campaign are co-chairs of Bob and Jim, it shows the belief the community has in the work we are doing,” says Scott Wylie, Lampion board member and executive director at the Vanderburgh Community Foundation. “You need leaders of that group who can get in the door and ask for the resources to make it happen. Every nonprofit dreams of having people like Bob and Jim.
“There’s a reason why everyone knows their names. It’s not just because they lead large corporate entities.Having people who are regarded for their community service is a game changer.”
Three weeks after meeting with Jones, Lampion’s first-ever capital campaign was launched. The agency asked for $1.4 million and in the last two years it has raised $1 million. Childress says she hopes to obtain the remaining deficit by the end of the year.
“The only issue we have to overcome is that Lampion is one of Evansville’s best kept secrets,” says Jones. “The staff is so dedicated to serving their clients and they are reticent about promoting themselves and the challenges they faced in their building — we often times need to tell the story.”
A portion of the $1 million raised has gone to the much-needed interior and exterior repairs to the building. In June 2014, the agency began working with CORE Contractors Inc. in an 11-month renovation project. The improvements included new flooring, new paint, new roofing, new furniture, new HVAC, and allowed the agency to gain 2,000 square feet of previously unusable space and transform it into a meeting space for 40 to 60 people.
“What this transformation of the facility has done is allow us to immediately show that our clients deserve the same environment for their healing that anyone has,” says Wylie.
“The hole in the community without Lampion Center would be huge,” says CORE owner Jeff Hatfield. “It is deserving of everyone’s support to keep it going and keep it vibrant.”