Wellspring’s roots began in 1968 when five downtown congregations (Emmanuel Lutheran, First Presbyterian, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Trinity English Lutheran and Wayne Street Methodist) plus the YWCA joined together to bring it to life. At its inception, the main purpose was providing summer programs for youth who lived in Fort Wayne’s West Central neighborhood. Pastors Bill Moody of First Presbyterian and Arnold Pierson of Trinity English Lutheran played key roles in the formation of the program. In fact, Reverend Moody was hired as the first executive director and served in that position until 1989. Andrea Thomas became the second executive director, serving in her position until she retired at the end of 2004. Francis M. Zirille served as executive director from 2005-2017. Initially, the agency was called West Central Neighborhood Summer Program but was later changed to West Central Neighborhood Committee. In 1989, members of the board voted to change the name to West Central Neighborhood Ministry. In June 2004, the name was changed to Wellspring. One reason for the modification was that the organization was serving a much broader population base than just the West Central area. Over 80% of those who take part in Wellspring programs live within a 2.5 mile radius of the downtown area. From the early years, the organization quickly expanded to offer a variety of programs that focus on the educational, social, physical and recreational needs of adults and youth. In 2016, Wellspring directly impacted the lives of 6,377 individuals through its direct service programs. A high percentage of those were involved with Wellspring on an ongoing basis.
Since graduating from IPFW in 2012, I have been privileged to be part of the Wellspring team. To me, Wellspring is a place of joy where individuals can gather, young and old, and be part of something special – a family. I find joy in my work every day reaching out to the community and sharing about Wellspring and the amazing people who come through our doors.
I didn’t know I wanted to work with children until after I volunteered for the Wellspring After School Program. For the past 16 years, I’ve been working with the children at Wellspring – I love coming to work each day and being with kids. I love to see the excitement they get from the activities – I like that every day brings something new.
When I was offered the chance to work at Wellspring I was beyond thrilled. I attended the summer program as a child and it was an experience that helped to form the person that I am today. The staff invested their time and energy into me and my future, and inspired me to give back to my community in the same way. I look forward to being able to help others to reach their potential during my time with this organization.
To me, Wellspring means a haven and safe place for many, many people. It means a place for people to laugh, enjoy life, have their needs met, and find a group of volunteers and staff in whom they can put their trust. For over 25 years, working with the older adults has shown me that aging brings many grief and loss situations and yet people work through difficulties and fight the good fight. I find that admirable.
I hope than in my 28 years of work at Wellspring that I have touched the life of at least one person in a positive way and have helped that person have a brighter day. I enjoy nonprofit work because each day is different and each client I come in contact with has value in this world. Wellspring may not be everything to everyone but to someone it may be everything.
For over 18 years I have served Wellspring as the Office Manager/Bookkeeper. It has been a joy to see all of the help we give to the people we serve. I am proud to be part of a team that provides excellent services needed by our neighbors. I am thankful for the opportunity Wellspring provides.
I feel honored to work with the wonderful people at Wellspring. Since December of 2014, I have been the Coordinator of the Wellspring Shoppe and I am committed to providing quality free clothing in a caring, respectful environment to all that come through our doors. My heart is filled with the generosity and sense of community at Wellspring and every day brings new faces and new adventures.
I love working at the Wellspring Shoppe because I love serving people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s how I live out my faith. My goal is to help each client recognize how beautiful and special they already are on the inside and the outside.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to work at a place that does so much to serve its community. It has been a joy to meet those who attend our programs and receive our services.
2017 Board Members
Officers Michelle Hipskind (President), Chris Nusbaum (Vice President, Internal Affairs), Faith Van Gilder (Vice President, Community Relations), Jerry Wood (Treasurer) & John Maxson (Secretary)
Directors Abigail Kopen, Apexa Patel, Geoff King, Cindi Odle, Dan Michael, Dennis Robinson, John Reimbold
Advisory Committee Bill Becker, Bruce Boxberger, Marcia Crawford, Scott Denning, Tim Haffner, Melanie Hall, Diane Humphrey, Pat Roller, John Ruble & Ken Yahne