MICHIGAN CITY — For the 35th year, a group of La Porte County citizens have spent the past 9 months engaging in leadership skill-building, gaining information about La Porte County, and networking with local leaders.

That was some of the information released when Leadership La Porte County honored its Adult Class at a recent luncheon held at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, attended by 75 community members.

“The annual graduation celebrates and recognizes the leadership class as they prepare to use their knowledge and information to make a positive change in the community,” said Monica Komasinski, executive director of Leadership La Porte County. “We are proud of the commitment this group has made to developing leadership skills and getting involved in their community. Many thanks to Jim Jessup, who once again volunteered his time to serve as facilitator of the class. ”

Thirty individuals from throughout La Porte County successfully completed this year’s course.

According to a press release from Leadership La Porte County, the class completed a capstone project to support La Porte County Parks. A Nelson’s Chicken fundraiser coordinated by the class raised $5,000 for La Porte County Parks.

La Porte County Parks Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki said, “The donation from the 35th class couldn’t have come at a better time for the Park Department. We are in the middle of a large grant at Luhr County Park to construct new trails, parking lots and a picnic shelter among other things. This $5,000 instantly turned into $10,000 because the DNR Land & Water Conservation Fund essentially doubles the local money put toward this project. This $5,000 helps us get closer to reaching our total local match of $200,000.”

Class members also participated in several day of service projects to clean up beaches, work on park renovations and more. The class named this initiative “Leaders Loving Community”

At the event, the Outstanding Leadership Alumni Award was also presented. Each year the board of directors of Leadership La Porte County chooses a past graduate of the program to receive the Robert J. Hiler, Jr. Outstanding Alumni Award. The award recognizes one alumnus, who has demonstrated ongoing commitment to his/her profession and to the La Porte County community. The award is named in honor of Robert J. Hiler, Jr. (now deceased) who served as a board member, benefactor, and was an inspiration for many in the community.

“Bob Hiler was a true community leader who gave time, talent, and treasure to our organization and many others,” stated Komasinski. “We are proud to honor Bob’s spirit in recognizing outstanding community leadership. We are pleased to announce this year’s award recipient, Ed Merrion.”

According to the release, Merrion, a member of the 17th Leadership class, 2001, received the award in recognition of his outstanding service to the community. Merrion has facilitated the Self-Sufficiency Workshop for community members vulnerable to homelessness, organized and facilitated the Interfaith Emergency Men’s Overnight Shelter for dozens of years, is helping to secure and develop a new permanent overnight shelter on 8th street in Michigan City.

Most recently, Merrion has been instrumental in helping to organize the new Citizens Concerned for the Homeless (CCH) Food Rescue Initiative. He has served on countless boards through the years, including: president of the Board of Directors of Michigan City Housing Development, Inc., board member of Homeward Bound, Inc., La Porte County Park Foundation member, member of the Peace and Justice Committee and former board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Michigan City, Interfaith Community PADS Inc. board, and president of the Board of Directors of CCH.

Upon receiving his award, Merrion thanked his mother (who was in attendance) for leading by example so that he learned the importance of giving back to the community. He also thanked his wife Fran for supporting him in so many ways.

“It was a true honor to recognize Ed’s commitment to community service. His actions are truly reflective of good community leadership. He gives of his time in a significant fashion in support of so many good causes,” stated Komasinski.

The luncheon program concluded with the formal recognition of the 35th class members for completing the program, which included monthly sessions on a variety of community leadership topics, a county bus tour, a trip to the State Legislature, and team projects.

Board President Dace Cunningham and Vice President Tera Grinnell distributed commemorative plaques to each graduate. Monica Komasinski challenged class members to stay connected to each other, to find their passions, and to continue giving back to the community. She also recognized several class members for outstanding achievement. Beth Pishkur was recognized for outstanding extra-curricular activity. Jennifer Piotrowski and Kurtis Iseminger were selected as the 35th class representatives to serve on the Leadership Board of Directors. The event concluded with remarks by class member Chris Lyle, and a video highlighting the work of the class on their fundraiser and their Day of Caring initiative.

Leadership La Porte County, Inc. a non-profit organization has a mission to inspire, develop, cultivate and connect emerging and existing leaders to serve their diverse communities. With programs for adults, as well as middle school and high school students, Leadership La Porte County is committed to providing a forum for the development of community leaders. For more information on Leadership La Porte County, or to nominate an individual for the 36th Adult Program beginning in September, contact Leadership La Porte County at 325-8223, or email: info@leadershiplaportecounty.com.

Leadership La Porte County 35th class

• Amber Badillo, Store Manager, Kabelin Ace Hardware

• Jennifer Barker, Assistant Branch Manager, Horizon Bank

• Mike Bober AVP- Branch Mgr & Business Dev. of Centier Bank

• Sarah Dubbs, Physician Recruiter, La Porte Hospital

• Andrew Hahn, Deputy, La Porte Co. Sheriff Dept.

• Jennifer Hunt, Asst. Principal, K12 Counseling-La Porte High School

• Michele Hyland, Office Administrator, Economic Development Corp. MC

• Kurtis Iseminger, Financial Representative, Modern Woodmen of America

• Eric Jones, Rental/Service Mgr., Kabelin Ace Hardware

• Amanda Jost, Care Coordinator, Paladin

• Charmian Kalk, Finance & Office Mgr., La Porte County Parks

• Christopher Lyle, Sr. Prod. Planning Lead, Arconic

• Lorna McCoole, Center Twp. Clerk, Center Township

• Gayle O’Connor, 4-H Youth Dev. Educator, Purdue Extension La Porte County

• Al Ott, Captain, Jail Commander, La Porte County Sheriff Dept.

• Adam Parkhouse, Public Info. Officer, INDOT

• Shannon Parks, Staff Accountant, Angela Smoker, CPA

• Laura Peo, Practice Manager, Franciscan Physician Network

• Jennifer Piotrowski, Consumer Communications Specialist, American Licorice

• Beth Pishkur, MCAS School Board Trustee/Retired RN

• Thomas Powley, Branch Manager, 1st Source Bank

• Greg Radiger, Detective/Corporal, Michigan City Police Dept.

• Elizabeth Sawaya, Clinic Manager, La Porte Hospital

• Robert Schaffer, Captain, Michigan City Fire Dept.

• Michael Sheehan, Technical Services Mgr., La Porte County Public Library

• Theodore Stevens, Superintendent, South Central Community School Corp.

• Lisa Stojanovich, Marketing Coordinator, Unity Foundation

• Jenica Sutherland, Direct Practice Management, La Porte Physician Network

• Roberta Tuft, Director of Professional Outreach, La Porte Hospital

• Jennifer Wright, Site Manager, HealthLinc

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