Our Stories

Long-term Investment   Words from Longtime Volunteer + Intern.  


For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Olivia Miller and I’ve been working with Lift for the last four years now. I was asked to share a little something with you all since I’m moving on to student teaching this semester and won’t be around daily anymore.

Lift is the first organization I got involved in my freshman year at Taylor, and I’m SO thankful that I found this hidden gem! I have always known that I wanted to work with kids, but Lift gave me a way to come alongside them for more than just an hour a week.

Over the years I’ve worked as a volunteer and intern, seeing one class through from second grade to graduation, and starting over again with second grade this year. For as much time as I’ve spent helping kids sound out words and learn the “school” side of it, the Lift family has given me back more than I ever expected. There are some things you just can’t learn elsewhere, like how to throw a football at age 22 or how to sneak marshmallows away from your science project when your team leader isn’t looking. Lift has been my escape from college many times, and I’m sad that I have to be away from it now!

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who makes Lift possible, from the families who let us hang out with their kids to the volunteers who bring milk and serve snack each day. Lift has been one of my favorite college memories, and I’ll be sad next year when I have to be a real adult and leave Upland and these kids. I’m going to be stopping back in throughout the semester to check in and hang out for some enrichment sessions, so I hope to see you all soon!

Lift Receives a Grant

One aspect of running a non-profit is raising support to fund the various expenses we incur over the year. Most people don’t realize how much it takes to execute everything from tiny details of purchasing the milk each week, to the larger ticket items of salary to compensate four part-time employees. While so much of what makes up Lift is volunteer based, it still takes money to make Lift the successful organization it’s been.

We are blessed to say that over 30 individuals have given monetary gifts to Lift over this past year. This kind of community support is exciting for us because we see how much this town cares about its children and desires to make a difference.

Aside from monetary support this past year we’ve had over 100 individuals give of their time, and energy to contribute to the Lift Impact. We are always saying to each other that it takes a team – or a family – to make this thing work. And we really mean that.

Yet even with all these incredible assets, there’s still been a need for additional funding. Because we expanded this year to include one more grade of students (fulfilling our original vision) our budget has increased. In order to try and fill the gap, we applied for a grant from the Community Foundation. This month we received the exciting news that the Grant County Community Foundation had granted our request with $10,000 for employment growth! Thanks in part to this gift:

“We Can Fulfill Our Vision!”

A Merry Christmas for Lift indeed. Three years ago Lift started with 12 students and one grade, with the vision to reach 36 students across 3 grades. That dream has now been realized. Huge thank you to the Community Foundation and their continued support of Lift!


Why I Choose Lift

In 2014, as I was still a college student I had the opportunity to work with Lift. When I first heard about Lift, I was attracted by this program and the vision behind it. Therefore, when I was approached with the opportunity to become an intern for this program, I immediately jumped right into it.

I remembered how impressed I was when I attended the first staff meeting. It was a brand new non-profit in rural Indiana – yet the meeting and the program was conducted with such professionalism and intentionality as if it had been established for years.  I was a social work major at Taylor and from a best-practice standpoint, Lift had it from the very beginning. I was convinced from my first day that Lift was going to do something big in this community and I wanted to be a part of it. Two years and a college degree later, I am still here in Upland. Why? Because of Lift. The vision, the impact I’m seeing, and the children themselves have all captured my heart.  

Throughout my three years with Lift I have worked with people who have trusted God’s call to this vision, even when the future wasn’t clear. Starting up an organization is no small task. To do so in a way that is not only professional but effective is another feat all together. What is significant about Lift is the community effort to come along side these children and care for their whole person.

Lift focuses on the mind, body, and the soul of our kids because we recognize that a problem is never just one thing.  When academics are hard, it pours into other areas of your life. When relationships are difficult, it affects more than just your social life. When money is tight, it impacts more than simply the food on the table. Lift tries to step in relationally, academically, and spiritually in the lives of our kids and we see the impact it’s making. What makes Lift stand out from other program’s I’ve seen is the fact that it’s not just a program. Lift walks side by side, doing life with the students and families that come our way. We show up. Day after day after day – committed to these kids, this community, and a God who calls us into relationship with our neighbor.  

Sarah McLeester

Program Coordinator

Why Focus on Literacy?

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

This is simple but profound wisdom from Dr. Seuss, and it is the foundational reason why Lift focuses on literacy. We are convinced that when we give children a boost in their ability and enjoyment of reading, we are handing them keys to unlock their imaginations and the doors to understanding.

The connection between literacy and learning used to be inherent.  But now we are in a literacy crisis.  When I started teaching High School English some 30 years ago, I noticed that most of my students did not enjoy reading.  The ones who were hoping to attend college forced themselves to read because they knew it would build their vocabulary and knowledge base.   But persuading them that it was fun was an uphill battle.  As someone who had grown up loving the experience of getting “lost” in a book, I couldn’t understand, until I realized that the entertainment of stories in print had been replaced with the much more accessible visual entertainment.  There was no way that black and white words on a page could compete with moving, colorful images for delivering “stories.”  Without the draw of stories, reading became flat, and without the enjoyment of reading, there just wasn’t much of it.  On that trajectory, we have become a culture that is increasingly less literate.  

According to the website for Reading is Foundational:

  • 65% of 4th graders read below grade level, contributing to 8,000 students dropping out of high school every day.
  • 43% percent of American adults are functionally illiterate.

In addition to addressing the educational crisis, Lift’s focus on literacy has a relational component.    If we can add words to the vocabulary bank in each child’s mind, we can help them emotionally and interpersonally as well.   The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is appropriate when we see something that is so significant it takes our breath away.  But in our media saturated culture, visuals have almost eclipsed our ability to find or even know very many words to describe what we see and think and feel to the extent that we are almost crippled in our communication.  This effects our skill at explaining pain, communicating joy or even handling anger.  If words are the building blocks on which information is placed, the more complicated the concept, the more it depends on words for explanation.  Everyone needs the ability to understand concepts like: “trustworthy,” “hopelessness,” or “self-control.”   Try teaching those concepts to children without the foundation of other words to explain them.   As children have more words to describe what they are feeling, they can use the words as bridges to connect them to the people in their lives.   

There are many little ways to enlarge your world.  Love of books is the best of all.”                        – Jacqueline Kennedy

Dianne Biehl

Lift Director

A Welcomed Sight 


Feeling Back at Home with the Lift Family

The bus rolled to a stop by the church doors. Excitement built within me as I squinted against the sun, hoping to get a glance of the kids waving from their seats. It was the first day of Lift and I was giddy to see their smiles, receive their hugs, and just love them all. The yellow door swung open and kids scrambled out.

Hellooooooooooo!” I called out to them. I smiled big as the kids came running up. They seemed just as happy as me to be back.
“Miss Sarahhhh!!!!”
“Hey, I saw you yesterday!!””
“I could give you like 3 hugs” 

They chatted excitedly and I gave them hugs and high 5’s as they came running through the door.

As I followed them in, gearing up to begin the first day, I took a moment to watch them from afar. A few of them were putting their backpacks away, showing each other something they got from school. A large bunch were making their way through the gym to the snack tables, sharing summer stories with the volunteers walking by them. And even beyond them was the swarm of volunteers setting out the snack…ready to share in the gift of food. Wow this is beautiful, I said under my breath. I glanced at the Upland Community Church sign hanging on the wall near the gym. A thought then occurred to me. It may be more appropriate if next year we hung a sign over the existing one that says, “Welcome Home”.

For Enrichment one week the 4th graders were able to make rockets. Being their third and final go-around, we saw a huge improvment in their rocket making ability! Or maybe they were too good….click to see a clip from launch day.