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LHDC Head Start building renamed for long-time supporter

November 19, 2008
On the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 10, a parking lot packed full of cars from friends and family of Joan Ritchie could be seen at the Lincoln Hills Development Corp. Head Start Center in English as the community came out to support and congratulate Ritchie for a lifetime of service and witness the ribbon cutting on the newly dubbed Joan Ritchie Center for Community Services and Head Start.

Ritchie has been a resident of Crawford County for nearly 50 years. For about 35 of those years, she has volunteered as a member of the LHDC Board of Directors, including serving as its president for 27 years.

"To honor her service, the Lincoln Hills Board has done two things," LHDC Executive Director Larry Kleeman said. "Number one is, we had an endowment fund with the Community Foundation of Crawford County and we have renamed that fund and kicked off a fundraising campaign."

He said more than $5,000 has been raised to date, with the CFCC providing a $2,500 match, bringing the total to over $7,500.

The second thing, Kleeman said, was to rename this center in Ritchie's honor.

Ritchie, who helped find the land for the Head Start Center, also received much credit and praise for pushing for subsidized housing for the elderly. Before 1982, there were no subsidized housing units available, but under Ritchie's guidance as LHDC board president, the corporation established housing projects in English and Milltown and in Marengo a year later.

As of 2008, LHDC has opened 171 units of affordable housing for low-income elderly, disabled persons and families in Crawford County. In addition, the Head Start Center has expanded and a second facility has opened south of Marengo.

"Joan was instrumental in all those projects, and her love of her community and compassion for people and leadership as president of the board has been an inspiration to all of us, and that's why we attempt to honor her today in a small way with the renaming of this building and the rededication of this building the Joan Ritchie Center for Community Services and Head Start," Kleeman said.

Despite devoting years to LHDC, Ritchie was not content to give her time and energy to just one cause at a time. She has served on several other boards, including the Crawford County Public Welfare Board, the board of directors of Marengo State Bank, the Cawford County Emergency Food and Shelter Board and the board of directors of Southern Hills Counseling Center.

Ritchie has also been heavily involved in her church, serving as a lay pastor at times and holding the president title for the United Methodist Women's group.

Ritchie is no stranger to accolades for her various volunteer jobs. In 1993, she was given the Governor's Voluntary Action Community Service Award. In 2000, she received the Sagamore of the Wabash from Gov. Frank O'Bannon. In 2007, she was named Woman Philanthropist of the Year by the Community Foundation of Crawford County and received the Senior Spotlight award from Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.

Following the indoor reception, which included a special cake with the LHDC logo and Ritchie's name on it, Ritchie, joined by several of the Head Start students whom she has cared deeply for over the years, cut the ribbon, officially rededicating the center.

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