Lippert’s Acts of Service moves to Community Foundation of Elkhart

MISHAWAKA, Ind (inside Indiana Business) -Elkhart-based Lippert Components Inc. is handing off its Acts of Kindness Program to the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. The company says the move is to ensure the program’s ongoing growth.

The Community Foundation of Elkhart County will handle all coordination and programming of Acts of Kindness. 

Lippert started Acts of Service in 2017 as part of LCI’s philanthropic initiatives. LCI is a  manufacturer of highly-engineered components for the mobile and leisure transportation industries.

The company says more than 500,000 hours have been given back to local communities through Acts of Service since its initial launch.

“We’re extremely proud of the initiative we’ve started for our community, and the fact that we’ve inspired so many other companies to start their own service hours initiatives to help the community is amazing, and is one of our biggest accomplishments as a company, to date,” said Jason Lippert, president and chief executive officer of LCI. “At the end of the day, I get most excited about leaving lasting marks that will improve our communities for generations to come, and Acts of Service is certainly one of them. We know the service is in great hands, and we’re excited to see it continue to flourish through the support of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.”

Community Foundation President Pete McCown said he and his team are honored to take on managing the project.

“During the holiday season, people think a lot about giving. Acts of Service has made giving back to our community a year-round activity as people give of their time,” he said. “As we try to inspire generosity and open doors for people and agencies in our community, we are thrilled that Lippert Components is entrusting us with sustaining this great program.”


Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

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