Community Foundation of St. Joseph County

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2019 Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence Goes to SB Symphony

Studebaker National Museum, South Bend Heritage Also Honored

SBSO Music Director Alastair Willis

The Community Foundation of St. Joseph County has named the South Bend Symphony Orchestra winner of its 2019 Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence. The award recognizes the Symphony for its strong leadership, artistic quality, and commitment to broadening its impact on our community. The South Bend Symphony Orchestra was established in 1932. Since then, it has grown into a highly respected professional regional orchestra. During its 2018–2019 season, the Symphony presented 20 orchestral concerts, all conducted by Music Director Alastair Willis, along with 65 small-ensemble Symphony-to-Go performances. Those concerts, in combination with the Symphony’s community engagement work, reached nearly 30,000 residents of Michiana.

The Leighton Award Committee celebrates the Symphony’s willingness to reach beyond the concert hall, as evidenced by its new “Happy Hour with the Symphony” events, its well-established Symphony-to-Go program, and its performance of the National Anthem for the NHL 2019 Winter Classic. Its successful and growing investment in education and community engagement work includes incorporating Carnegie Hall’s “Link Up” program with its annual Shein Family Young People’s Discovery concerts, and the development of an Artist-in-Residence program at Clay High School, the local fine arts magnet. New partnerships are bearing fruit, including a 2020 collaboration with South Bend Civic Theatre to present West Side Story at the Morris Performing Arts Center. Throughout, the Symphony has maintained its commitment to orchestral performance of the highest quality, launching a multiyear cycle of Beethoven symphonies as well as premiering works by living composers.

The Leighton Award Committee was especially impressed with the involvement of the Symphony’s Board and the dedication of its staff during times of transition. The Symphony’s investment in its new five-year strategic plan and its track record of sound financial management show that the organization is well positioned to continue its excellent work in the future.

As the 2019 Leighton Award winner, the Symphony receives a $150,000 endowment challenge grant and must raise $150,000 in matching funds. The resulting $300,000 will be added to the Symphony’s endowed fund with the Community Foundation, providing additional annual resources to support the organization’s mission and purposes. The organization also receives an additional $25,000 to help cover the costs of any fundraising and communications associated with the match.

Also, the Community Foundation named two Special Recognition winners as part of its Leighton Award process, each of which will receive an award of $10,000. Special Recognition awards are intended to encourage organizations that are pursuing higher degrees of excellence, recognizing inspiring examples of service and performance. The Community Foundation’s first 2019 Special Recognition Award goes to Studebaker National Museum, honoring Studebaker’s achievement in going beyond showcasing a unique collection to creating high-impact community connections within the context of that collection. The Foundation’s second 2019 Special Recognition Award goes to the South Bend Heritage Foundation, recognizing the organization’s efforts to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods, with an emphasis on its recent work involving permanent supportive housing.

Established by Judd and Mary Lou Leighton and the Leighton-Oare Foundation in 1999, the Leighton Award encourages all of the community’s nonprofit organizations to pursue excellence at every level of their operations. Previous winners of this award include LOGAN (2000); Center for the Homeless (2001); South Bend Heritage Foundation (2002); REAL Services (2003); St. Joseph Health Center at Chapin Street (2004); Goodwill Industries of Michiana (2005); Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. (2006); South Bend Civic Theatre (2007), the YWCA of St. Joseph County (2008), the St. Joseph County Public Library (2009), the Women’s Care Center (2010), Family & Children’s Center (2011), St. Margaret’s House (2012), the Center for History (2013), the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association (2014), Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County (2015) and the CASIE Center (2017). In 2015, the Leighton Award moved to a biennial process, rather than an annual process, and increased the amount of the award provided. The next Leighton Award process will take place in August 2021.