Circle of Ivy Impact with Susan Findlay and Vicky Decker

A Dynamic Duo: Warsaw Women Leading Circle of Ivy’s Success

Impact on Indiana: Ivy Tech and Our Communities is a series of profiles demonstrating how Ivy Tech impacts communities across the state. The following profile spotlights the impact of Circle of Ivy – the women’s philanthropy circle – and the work of Susan Findlay and Vicky Decker, Warsaw residents who co-chair the program.

Impact on Indiana: While couples often make household giving decisions together, recent trends indicate more individuals are making philanthropic choices on behalf of their homes. When that happens, women are more likely to drive giving decisions than men.

And right on cue, hundreds of women all over Indiana are using philanthropy to pave a successful pathway for students who attend Ivy Tech Community College.

Circle of Ivy – the College’s philanthropy circle made up entirely of women – offers resources and raises funds to diminish barriers to higher education for students across 19 Indiana campuses. With more than 1,000 members, the circle both empowers and celebrates women who make an impact in their communities. The organization has raised more than $1 million in five years to support innovative campus projects for students.

The funds create opportunities and solve problems alike. The program has sent students abroad for learning opportunities, provided instructional materials and textbooks, helped students with emergency needs, and provided a food pantry, vision care, and a lending library to those who need resources.

And the list of women volunteering their time continues to grow under co-chairs Vicky Decker and Susan Findlay. Both live in Warsaw and have been friends for about 20 years. They spend much of their time finding problems that require solutions.

“We’ve had so many students – including during the pandemic – who have had trouble paying rent and needed help with basic needs,” Decker said. “Some have home situations where they are taking care of younger siblings. The goal is always to keep them in school and moving toward their degrees.”

Impact on Communities: Neither Decker nor Findlay attended Ivy Tech (in fact, both moved to Warsaw from Illinois as adults before becoming friends in Northern Indiana). But they embrace the value Ivy Tech delivers to students and communities across Indiana. Eight of ten students who graduate from Ivy Tech do so without student debt. High school students can get a start on their college careers through dual enrollment classes and Ivy Tech credits typically transfer to other Indiana colleges.

Ivy Tech graduates more nurses with 2-year degrees than any college in the nation, with most staying in Indiana to pursue their careers. Ivy Tech contributes to 1 of every 70 jobs across Indiana, and the College awards more than 20,000 degrees and certificates each year. Nearly all who graduate – 93 percent – stay in the Hoosier State.

“There’s no greater value in the state than Ivy Tech,” Decker said. “Your credits are accepted at the major universities, and it’s a great jump start for students in high school or early college.”

Findlay was an important fundraiser whose work led to expanding the Fort Wayne/Warsaw campus – giving students in Kosciusko County more local options. She was attracted to Circle of Ivy from the time she learned of it. Now, she’s a champion and a recruiter.

“When we see women who want to help, it touches your heart. It’s the nature of women,” Findlay said. “The more members we have, the more money we raise. It’s been a snowball effect. Our pie-in-the-sky numbers were $1 million and 1,000 members, and we’ve reached both. But we don’t have to be a gigantic organization … we just need to have committed women. And that’s what we have.”

Impact on People: Women’s History Month has been an important moment for Findlay and Decker to reflect on their work and the importance of Circle of Ivy to students across Indiana.

In November, Circle of Ivy announced nearly $264,000 in funding for 84 projects in Indiana. Among them: funding for IvyCares (Student Emergency Aid Assistance), the Dress for Success initiative, Dual Enrolled Scholarships, and Thanksgiving Meal-in-a-Box in Warsaw, a program driven by Findlay and Decker that helps students who may not otherwise celebrate the holiday.

“The role of women has increased over the last two decades and will only increase more over time,” Decker said. “We are seeing what the power of women working together can mean. It’s not just about the work of isolated leaders but the power of women working together.”

“Women are natural caretakers,” Findlay added. “The majority of teachers are women – it’s in our nature. We are a small group getting larger and doing the best we can for students. Hopefully, history will look back years from now at the women who started this movement.”

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