Meet the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation

By Ben Speggen

Arlington Ohio Community Heart & Soul Team members with Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation banner. Photo credit: Kristie Fox.
Arlington, Ohio Community Heart & Soul Team members with Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation banner during their kickoff community event. Photo credit: Kristie Fox.

Creating lasting impact by leveraging the Community Heart & Soul® process, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation draws outside grant dollars into the communities they serve.

The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for all residents in Hancock County, Ohio. The team’s vision to do that is to see and recognize clearly a lasting community impact.

In 2015, to fulfill this aim, the foundation explored various ways to:

  • Increase community leadership,
  • Serve as a convener for community change,
  • Adopt a new model for identifying prospective donors, engaging more deeply with current donors, and connecting them to causes they care about.

The team also sought to develop a strategy to strengthen relationships with rural communities throughout their service area. They wanted to ensure that, while headquartered in the city of Findlay, the foundation was serving residents in all communities in Hancock County.

So, they turned to Community Heart & Soul® – a resident-driven community development process– and ultimately became the first foundation to partner with Community Heart & Soul.

“Community Heart & Soul has catapulted our countywide engagement strategies,” says Brian Treece, President and CEO of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. “It jumpstarted more grantmaking, programming, partnerships in the county – outside of Findlay – and not only prioritized but supported efforts to cultivate donors throughout the region.”

Brian Treece, President and CEO of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and Certified Community Heart & Soul Coach with Leanne Tingay, Community Heart & Soul Senior Program Associate.

Drawn to what Community Heart & Soul has to offer, Treece became a Certified Heart & Soul Coach to actively participate in the process.

In 2015 the village of McComb was the first community in Ohio to embark on the Heart & Soul journey. McComb residents began the four-phase Community Heart & Soul process to discover and discuss what residents love about their town, what future they wanted for the area, and how to accomplish it together. Shortly after getting started, change was noticeable. Less trash on sidewalks. Tidier lawns. Existing businesses took more pride in their space. New businesses opened. In 2016 alone, McComb celebrated eight ribbon cuttings.

McComb Community Heart & Soul ribbon cutting ceremony, McComb, Ohio.
McComb Community Heart & Soul ribbon cutting ceremony, McComb, Ohio.
McComb Community Heart & Soul volunteer at a community picnic in McComb, Ohio.

Today, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation continues to work with McComb residents as they update their community plan, keeping the Community Heart & Soul principles at the core of their vision for what lies ahead. The foundation team and the residents continue to use data gathered during the Heart & Soul process to identify and secure significant funding for community projects. Having input from residents helps the foundation not only connect donors to causes they care about but shows them the pathway and progress toward achieving results. In McComb, that has resulted in a $10,000 AARP grant for improvement in local parks, as well as county and state dollars – like $75,000 for police department upgrades; $1.24 million for a child-care facility; and $747,000 for neighborhood revitalization.

In 2017, building on McComb’s success, the village of Mt. Blanchard implemented the Community Heart & Soul model to help increase resident involvement in their town. Going through the Heart & Soul process encouraged residents to become more engaged and restored civic pride. Like McComb, Mt. Blanchard used the process and its benefits to attract more investment. The village received additional funding of $130,000 for Hurricane Park – named for the original school mascot and home to many local events and gatherings.

Mt. Blanchard, Ohio Hurricane Park.

In addition to helping communities secure greater investments, adopting the Heart & Soul process has had a transformational impact on how they approach community development together. In Mt. Blanchard, residents have redesigned committees in their Village Council to include more resident membership and voices. Residents now also use a framework developed during the process to gauge and evaluate how an individual idea can become a reality.

By adopting the Heart & Soul model, “communities have deepened relationships, built new ones, and have a playbook for engagement and how to come together to identify and achieve goals collectively,” Treece says.

Since first partnering with Community Heart & Soul, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation has continued to help bring Community Heart & Soul to more communities. In 2022, the village of Arlington, became the third Hancock County Community Heart & Soul community. Most recently, the village of Arcadia began their Heart & Soul journey.

Partnering with Community Heart & Soul has also transformed the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation.

“We reference and utilize the Community Heart & Soul process in much of our community leadership work,” Treece says. In action, that means, to Treece, improving:

  • Engagement strategies,
  • Data collection efforts,
  • Identification of what matters most to all, not just a few,
  • A focus on “playing the long game,” one on the tenets of the Community Heart & Soul model.

For more information about opportunities to partner with Community Heart & Soul please visit our partnership page.