Equity Agenda for Hamilton County

Equity is economic opportunity.
Equity is justice.
Equity benefits us all.

As we work towards building a stronger community for all, we are guided by our current five-year strategic plan (which ends in 2023).  We are actively engaged in the multiple initiatives featured here. Hamilton County Community Foundation has aligned its funding priorities and grant investments in the community around our shared mission with CICF and our three leadership pillars. Those pillars are:

  • Family and Youth Empowerment
  • Inclusive Economic Growth
  • Mental Health

We believe everyone in Hamilton County should have equal opportunity to access healthy food, high-quality education and safe living environments.

Food Resource Action Plan

In 2021, Hamilton County Community Foundation commissioned a study named Hamilton County Food Resource Community Plan. The study found that nearly 10 percent of our residents are food insecure, and that there are 41 food pantries across the county and 15 percent of youth qualify for free and reduced lunch— with Carmel and Fishers school districts routinely depleting those budgets early in the school year. The plan contains an initial assessment of community needs, resources and gaps as it relates to food insecurity and access. The foundation also convened and facilitated a diverse group of community stakeholders in a series of results-focused sessions to develop strategies to support collaborative efforts to ensure that every resident in Hamilton County has access to healthy food. The Food Resource Plan represents the knowledge and wisdom of myriad partners who have been dedicated to addressing the issue of food insecurity in the county. The plan brings them into alignment with each other in order for resources to be leveraged, gaps addressed and a comprehensive system built across service providers.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Consultant to convene and support the partners implementing strategies in the plan and provide evaluation reports
  • Grant opportunities for the Food Resource Community Partners—doubling the foundation’s grantmaking pool for food insecurity

K-12 Equity

School administrators and faculty constantly consider the educational basics and necessary resources to holistically meet the needs of every child who is under their care. This includes their social and emotional well-being. More than half of Hamilton Southeastern students in grades 3-12 reported that stress interferes with their learning—and that was before COVID-19 disrupted their lives. During the past decade, brain science has confirmed that academic gains are most efficiently realized when children’s intellectual, emotional and physical needs are included in the teaching and learning process. The incorporation of social-emotional learning (SEL), as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout Hamilton County schools, will have a positive, life-long impact on all students. SEL empowers students to become the best version of themselves and ensure they will be capable of adapting, persevering and contributing meaningfully to their local community, as well as the world beyond.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Grant opportunities for SEL Coordinators in each school district
  • Convening of SEL Coordinators and Mental Health Coordinators across the county
  • Collaborative programming provided by Hamilton Boone Madison Special Services Cooperative

We believe every city, town and community in Hamilton County deserves a plan and available resources to foster good mental health.

County-wide Behavioral Health Action Plan

Hamilton County Community Foundation partnered with Aspire Indiana Health and the Hamilton County Council to support a two-phase approach to identify opportunities to increase strategic efforts that ensure equitable access to behavioral health resources and supports. The plan contains an initial assessment of community needs, resources and gaps as it relates to behavioral health and access. Similar to the Food Resource Action Plan that we describe above, the foundation then convened and facilitated a diverse group of community stakeholders in a series of results-focused sessions to develop strategies to support collaborative efforts that ensure every person in Hamilton County has access to behavioral health services. The Behavioral Health Community Action Plan provides recommendations on areas for partners to work together to ensure that all members of our county—regardless of race, place or identity—achieve optimal health in mind, body and spirit.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Consultant to convene and support the partners to implement strategies in the plan and provide evaluation reports
  • Workshops, technical assistance and education for program partners and for the community at-large to know what mental health supports exist and how to access them
  • Convening and coordination of the wellbeing coalitions in the county and support for community-specific projects and plans each community has developed
  • Updating and integrating the paramedicine data tool utilized by each community to mitigate emergency calls and dispatch community resources
  • Investment in Faith in Indiana’s “We Make Hamilton County Safe” initiative, which diverts mental health calls to a mobile crisis team rather than law enforcement and focuses intervention on mental health supports and crisis centers rather than jail

We believe it is imperative to advance county-wise economic growth by supporting attainable housing, pathways to long-term employment, and sustainable connectivity—a “live, work, and connect/play equation

Attainable Housing (Live)

Housing production has failed to keep pace, creating an imbalance between supply and demand. Results include rapidly rising home values, lack of supply and unaffordable conditions for many of our county’s employees to live in the same county in which they work. Diverse housing is a resilient economic development strategy. Hamilton County Community Foundation is focusing on diversity in housing types and prices so having a high-quality place to live in Hamilton County is attainable for anyone during any stage of their lives. The foundation’s primary partners in this work are Hamilton County Housing Collaborative and Noblesville-based HAND (Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development Corp). This partnership is working hard to create a robust continuum of housing options in the county. A housing study, completed by the partner organizations, has determined that diversified housing options is an essential economic development strategy. The stark reality is that it will be increasingly difficult to find and retain employees as housing becomes less affordable to more county residents.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Consultant to convene and support the housing collaborative partners implementing strategies from the 2021 housing study
  • Sponsorship of an annual housing conference
  • New grantmaking initiatives available to more than 40 not-for-profit organizations in the county focused on housing that can fulfill community-based projects that are outlined in the housing study

Pathways to Long-term Employment (Work)

Healthy economic growth requires the creation of a dynamic community that fosters economic mobility and inclusive growth. Our municipalities have become workforce hubs—attracting, developing and retaining multiple sector job growth. In order to bring about an inclusive economy, the foundation and our educational partners are investing in career pathways that lead to living-wage jobs for young people and those re-entering the job market or re-inventing themselves. The foundation is working with a broad, county-wide coalition that includes every school district and chamber of commerce, Ivy Tech and Invest Hamilton County, to launch the Hamilton County Career Center. The first phase in our multi-step approach is defining the vision for the Center and working with the school districts and Ivy Tech to support the development of a curriculum and aligning resources to make the vision of the Center a reality. Other partnerships with Invest Hamilton County and all the chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in the county include expanded programming through workforce innovation series and the advancement of minority, women and veteran-owned businesses throughout the county. This will greatly improve these companies’ access to procurement opportunities through locally sourced contracts.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Expanded grantmaking to education-to-workforce partner organizations, including school systems and community-based organizations
  • Support to a variety of workforce development training programs including the Hamilton County Workforce Innovation series
  • Engagement with school districts, Ivy Tech and Invest Hamilton County to further develop the Hamilton County Career Center
  • Organizing, investing in and sustaining programs and services to further engage and advance the county’s minority, women and veteran-owned businesses (XBE Initiatives) with all the chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in the county

Sustainable Connectivity (Connect)

Hamilton County is leading the state in population growth. With this rapid growth comes the challenge of achieving and ensuring livability and sustainability for all. The foundation is focusing the connecting/playing portion of the “live, work, play equation” around celebrating our history as a county and making sure that access and opportunity exist for everyone in our county—regardless of race, place or identity. With the 200th anniversary of the county being celebrated in 2023, Hamilton County Community Foundation is partnering with the Bicentennial Commission to produce programs, events and historical content and storytelling. Another renewed storytelling project the foundation is excited about is expanding the Legacy Walk at Roberts Settlement, one of very few Black settlements that remain intact. A linear walkway of interpretive story panels will act as a virtual docent tour for interpreting the Roberts’s family settlement and Black pioneer history in our county. Programming sponsored by the foundation to further its commitment to racial equity includes continued training for municipality leaders, school staffs and the general public; expanded grantmaking to grassroots organizations leading racial equity and diversity work in the county; and a new fellowship program to increase racial diversity on not-for-profit boards so they work better—not just look different. Finally, the foundation is taking the lead in investigating the interest, cost and potential installation of bikeshare stations along the Monon Trail from the county line at 96th St. in Carmel through Carmel, Westfield and all the way to Sheridan. This is not only a popular recreational project; expanded bicycle infrastructure will enhance the limited public transportation system and provide significant and easily accessible connectivity from one end of the county to the other.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Hamilton County Bicentennial projects
  • Capital investment in the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk
  • Racial equity training costs for “Interrupting Racism for Children” and “Groundwater Analysis”
  • The Mosaic Fellowship program which recruits, trains and places people of color on not-for-profit boards, as well as provides not-for-profit organizations diversity and inclusion training
  • New and expanded grassroots grantmaking initiatives for racial equity community-based organizations
  • Funding of a feasibility study for a bikeshare program along the Monon Trail from Carmel to Sheridan
  • Reimagining Pleasant Street in Noblesville as a placemaking project along the White River

The Time is Now

Become our partner in creating a stronger and more equitable Hamilton County community for all. The time is now.

We are committed to the work, but we cannot do it alone.

The initiatives and projects outlined here are already underway. We invite you to join us and others in a partnership to make a community-wide investment toward our collective goal. We are stronger when we work together.

For more information about our work in any of these initiatives or to learn about how you can be a partner, please reach out to:

Tom Kilian Jr.
President of Hamilton County Community Foundation
317.843.2479 x301