Sometimes heading out of town provides perspective. In January 2007 a team of volunteers from the small community of Ligonier, Indiana, went to the Gulf Coast to assist with the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
The problem was — Ligonier needed some help too. For the past 30 years Ligonier had been in decline. Like many small towns Ligonier’s population was dwindling, historic buildings in downtown were crumbling and cultural rifts were dividing the community of 5,000.
“If we can send a whole team of people to Mississippi to help out, what is stopping us from helping out in our own backyard?” wondered Christopher Fought. With that thought, Operation Foundation was born.
Operation Foundation is a weeklong cleanup and revitalization effort focused on restoring Ligonier’s depressed downtown. Projects range from painting, demolition and construction to sweeping and picking up litter.
The efforts are designed to address not only the physical needs of Ligonier, but also the cultural and spiritual needs of the community. With a budget of just under $8,000 Operation Foundation was able to complete $250,000 worth of work in 2009. Under Christopher’s leadership as the President of Operation Foundation, four burned-out homes and storage buildings from an old lumber yard were demolished at no cost to the city or taxpayers.
Homes were painted and crumbling downtown buildings were cleaned, repaired and painted. More than 600 volunteers or 12% of the town’s total population showed up to help. Ligonier gained statewide recognition for its revitalization efforts and was named the first Good Works City in Indiana by the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives.
Noticeable physical improvements abound in Ligonier, but relationships have been mended as well, with the strengthening of cultural bridges among the town’s diverse populations.
“As a lifelong resident of Ligonier with strong family and social ties to the area, I care about its long term well-being,” says Christopher.