At the NICF, we are proud of the team that we have assembled. Each of us has a unique journey that has led us to serve our communities through the Community Foundation. Some of us are native to the area, and some of us have moved here and have come to love northwest Indiana. Each of us, though, has a passion for our communities and has a unique background and skill set to contribute. When we put all of that together, and when we have such strong and generous support from all of you, we can do amazing things.
The Northern Indiana Community Foundation is governed by a volunteer board. Each of our three counties has its own service committee, and several of these county board members also volunteer on the NICF board. Additionally, we have a finance committee and an executive committee.
We are the Northern Indiana Community Foundation (NICF), consisting of Starke, Fulton, and Miami County Community Foundations—three of ninety-four throughout Indiana. This incredible network is inspiring the formation of other community foundations across the country. Indiana is at the forefront of the community foundation world and is setting the stage by exemplifying the incredible work that these organizations do.
Jay Albright joined the NICF as Executive Director in February of 2013 with more than thirty years of experience in local finance, management, and non-profit work. He had experience with the Community Foundation as well—he served on the Fulton County Community Foundation board from 2008 until 2012 and on the NICF board for three of those years.
Prior to joining the NICF, he was the Executive Director at the Compassionate Healthcare Center in Rochester. He also has worked at institutions such as Dukes Memorial Hospital in Peru and Rochester Homes. Jay holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University and a master’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University. He and his wife raised their two children in Rochester, and his son received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship in 2003. Jay likes spending time traveling, boating, hiking, and gardening with his wife, Dawn.
Corinne Becknell Lucas was the very first employee of the Starke County Community Foundation. Previously, she had worked as the Office Manager at Lucas Law Office, Media Producer for Becknell and Lucas Media, and other positions in music and management.
Since joining the Community Foundation, she has served many roles—Administrative Assistant, Program/Scholarship Coordinator, Program/Communication Director, and finally the Associate Director of the NICF. She has experience in both the local and the administrative levels of the Community Foundation. She and her husband, Marty Lucas, are professional musicians and make up the group “Return to Normal.” Corinne enjoys entertaining guests at her home, knitting, playing and discussing music and art, and celebrating life with her family.
Jessica Mikel, the NICF’s Office Manager, came to the Community Foundation after working at Grace College as a Database Assistant in the Advancement Office for 7 ½ years and Ambassador Enterprises in Fort Wayne as an Administrative Assistant for 1 ½ years.
Jessica also earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Grace College. As the NICF’s Office Manager, Jessica implements her organizational and administrative skills by managing gifts, running reports, updating the database, and a myriad of other tasks. Jessica is a huge fan of books, and she also likes to do random craft projects like cross stitching and quilting. The NICF takes advantage of her creative skills as well! She also likes to travel, which she plans to do more of if she ever becomes rich and famous.
Alison Heyde joined the NICF as Scholarship Coordinator in 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from DePauw University. Before serving at the NICF, she worked at Delco Electronics in Kokomo as a Purchasing Manager for sixteen years, and she was the Executive Director of the Rochester/Lake Manitou Chamber of Commerce for nearly fourteen years.
As Scholarship Coordinator, Alison is in charge of administering the scholarship funds within our three counties. She coordinates the entire scholarship process, including all communications with applicants, recipients, local school systems, and universities. Outside of work, Alison can be found gardening, playing racquetball or pickleball, or spending time with her husband, children, and granddaughter.
Jessica (Jessi) Martinović was the 2011 Starke County Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient and a former NICF Management Intern. Jessica returned to the NICF as Communications Specialist after graduating from Valparaiso University and working in education.
She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in English studies and communication, with a concentration in creative writing from Valpo. At the NICF, Jessi does quite a bit of writing, editing, and marketing, as well as managing our Internship Program. When she isn’t at the Community Foundation, you can usually find her outside with a cup of coffee and a good book or journal, or spending time with her husband and their families.
Brian Johnson joined the Community Foundation in 2007 as the Director of Development in Fulton County. Brian holds his associate degree in automotive technology from Indian Hills Community College, and he completed the business management program through Indiana Wesleyan University.
Before joining the NICF, Brian worked as the Department Supervisor/Machinist at Gaerte Engines. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, gardening, and hunting. He is also involved with music and youth programs at First Baptist Church in Rochester, and he coaches youth baseball. He and his wife, Rhonda, have two sons, Aaron and Levi.
Connie Cutler, a lifelong resident of Miami County, graduated from Maconaquah High School and Purdue University and also holds an associate degree from Fashion Institute of Technology. Connie’s previous work experience includes banking, art, and education.
She was instrumental in helping to establish the Peru Fine Art Gallery with the G. David Thompson Art Collection at Peru High School and was its first Curator. Connie served on the Miami County Community Foundation Board prior to becoming the Director of Development at Miami County. She and her husband, Park Cutler, have three children and two grandchildren. Having always volunteered in various organizations, Connie enjoys working at MCCF and working with all the non-profit organizations as well as with current and new fund founders. Connie loves sewing for her grandchildren, watercolor painting, reading, and traveling.
Sarah Origer, originally from Nebraska, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Political Science. She then accepted a fellowship at the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law, which led to a position as Strategic Operations Coordinator at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
After meeting her husband, Nathan, she moved to Indiana, where they are now fourth-generation occupants of the Origer family farm near English Lake. She accepted a position as the Director of Development at the Starke County Community Foundation in 2011. Sarah is a lover of classical music and Indiana sunsets, an aspiring Purdue Master Gardener, an audio book addict, and a self-described wrangler of a loveable canine terror.