Marion County’s Veteran Service Officer, Capt. Matt Hall

By law, each county across the state of Indiana has a dedicated Veteran Service Officer to help veterans navigate the complexities of its benefits system. Once Mayor Joe Hogsett was sworn into office and discovered this position was vacant, he appointed Capt. Matt Hall to the post. “Matt Hall has been a welcome addition to the administration staff,” Hogsett says. “More importantly however, the fact that the county went so long without a Veterans Service Officer means that he has had to work hard to establish a vision and direction for our advocacy and…

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The Art of Hair: Bobby Cooper Turns His Passion for Beauty Into One of the Top Salons in the Country

Bobby Cooper is arguably one of the top stylists in the Midwest, and certainly the most well-known in Indianapolis. His salon, which bears his name, is consistently one of the best in the city and nation, and is regularly featured in Salon Today Magazine as one of the Top 200 Salons in North America. Bobby grew up in Beech Grove on the Southside of Indianapolis. His mom was a hairdresser while his father was in college, but had stopped doing hair by the time Bobby and his sister were born. As a…

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Election Spells Opportunity For Economic Development

Twitter wasn’t around when Truman beat Dewey in 1948, but I’m willing to bet that this year’s election results caused the biggest collective jaw-drop in at least the last century of presidential contests.

But even though the Presidential outcome was a shock, some of the causes aren’t new or surprising – among them, that “Main Street America” feels left behind. County by county, a wave of red spread across the heartland fueled by frustration in areas which have largely been left out of the 21st century economy.

The wounds of this election may take time to heal, but we can’t afford to stop striving – and part of the “work we are in” is extending economic opportunity to more communities across rural and small town Indiana.

Think about this: after the last recession, just twenty counties in the U.S. accounted for the majority of all new business start-ups in the United States. 99 percent of all new (post-recession) jobs have been created in counties with populations in excess of half-million.

Indianapolis has gained tech jobs at a rate 2X faster than our peer cities over the last 5 years. We are ranked in the TOP 20 in life sciences, advanced manufacturing and energy employment, yet this growth is concentrated in a handful of counties.

In general, the trend shows people and businesses are moving to bigger urban areas. The largest hundred metro regions are now home to two-thirds of the U.S. population, and produce more than two-thirds of our economic output.

Indiana has 92 counties. The ones that are part of a metropolitan area are doing ok (metro Indianapolis accounts for 70% of the state’s growth on its own). But what about the others?

This is the challenge facing Governor-elect Holcomb, local elected officials, economic development agencies in those communities – and most urgently, the people and employers who face an uncertain future.

Opportunity exists outside our larger cities. The same study that ranked Indy 20th in ‘advanced industry’ jobs ranks Indiana second in recent job growth in these high-tech sectors.  Smaller communities need a strategy to seize their share of this trend.

A good plan starts with the basics. Desirable neighborhoods, good schools and economic opportunity create a perfect storm for communities. This combination has become more critical, as we have watched the luring of out-of-state businesses to relocate to Indiana to have less impact, given the incentives and tax breaks created to get them here. We need to continue the momentum of focusing upon local innovation, cultivating our own talent. This effort alone will turn heads, attracting companies by our culture and a quality of life that helps them recruit and retain a productive workforce.

But building a workforce that makes growing employers take notice takes its own strategy; this is where storytelling and skill development become critical.

As a storyteller, I coach companies and people on effective pitching. A standard elevator pitch designed to attract or keep young talent may be just what a city or town needs. Suburban and rural areas are indeed desirable places to live, but they need to tell a more compelling story in a more powerful way. Local economic development organizations can’t just appeal to business executives with dry statistics and tax breaks; along with other public and civic groups, they have to cultivate a community brand and help tell a story that explains why they offer a wonderful place to live and do business.

Colleges and universities create attractive communities, yet at least half of Indiana’s science, advanced manufacturing and tech jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree.* While education is a great idea, it’s not the only option and there are plenty of groups who are disrupting this space. Attracting elite talent to fill small towns does not have to be the goal, what is needed is a strategy to upgrade skills to meet employer demand, to inspire innovation, and to create an ecosystem to foster those ideas – rooting them where they can flourish. A local push to become part of Indiana’s automotive or orthopedic supply chain, for example, may depend more on associate’s degrees rather than advanced degrees. Or no degree, as is the case with coding schools such as Eleven Fifty Academy who can prepare someone for a high-paying job in less than six months, including an internship.

The momentum is going in the right direction. We just need a constructive plan to help lift our entire state, especially those counties that are the outliers.

“You were sick, but now you’re well, and there’s work to do.” – Vonnegut, Timequake

*Brookings Institute: Indianapolis has 3 of the top 4 fastest growing Tech occupations that do not require a bachelor’s degree: systems support, network administrator, and coders. These are career paths for anyone.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Cut-a-Thon Benefits Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang hosted a Cut-a-Thon and silent auction on October 9 at their Carmel location along Main Street in the Arts District. All proceeds benefited Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place to support their Christmas Day outreach efforts to feed those in need. All proceeds will go to Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place to support their Christmas Day outreach efforts to feed those in need. Recently named the #2 Best Soul Food Restaurant in the United States, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place has been a famous Indiana soul food institution for over…

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Keller Williams Indy Plus Realty Group

Realtors? Yes. Different? ABSOLUTELY! $250,000 returned to clients over the last 2 years. Yes, $250,000 over 2 years by a handful of agents is what the Indy Plus Realty Group has given back through their Community Contributors program. Dr. Tom Galovic (Dr. Tom has a PhD!) started the Indy Plus Realty Group in 2014 with the intention of giving back to the community in a profound way. He created his own program, Community Contributors, to honor important individuals who truly make a difference in our communities. “We know of no one else…

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Brigadier General Chet Wright

Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Chet Wright recently celebrated his 98th birthday. He is a 1936 graduate of Ben Davis High School. At the time of Wright’s graduation, the school had 400 students. It is now among the largest high schools in the state. “I’ve witnessed a lot of change to this area in my lifetime,” states Wright, who grew up in Avon and has lived here for nearly a century. During the Great Depression, his family was hit hard by the economic circumstances of the time, losing their home. Not able…

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Indiana’s 20th Star

While doing research, I frequently reference one of Mickey Mauer’s books, 19 Stars of Indiana (he has two of these, one focuses on significant Hoosier women, the other, men). Mickey’s story is truly the 20th star…but he’s too humble to include it.

I’ve had the pleasure of personally knowing and writing about several people he has highlighted in each book. Last night I was reading the section devoted to Gene Glick and realized that a couple people I have written about or mentioned in other articles are included in his book.

David Carter is one of them. Last year, he and a group of friends were trekking in Nepal a mile from basecamp when a major earthquake hit, causing devastation to the area he loves dearly yet where he almost died, twice. Climbing Mt. Everest is a gamble. 20% of all climbers do not live to tell the tale, and it’s not on the ascent, it’s after you reach the top. David’s experiences atop Mt. Everest are not ones that evoke envy, I’m just thrilled for he and his family that he survived. In fact, for David it is a chapter of his life that is over. He is so over it, in fact, that he loaned me his only copy of a disc containing photos from his historic trek. (not only did I return it safely, I backed it up for him to the cloud) David had shared with me his experiences in Nepal, but not full disclosure, for he was not the story, the story was focused on those that lost everything during the quake.

climbing-everestAs a result of that earthquake, David and his friends have successfully raised money to build an earthquake-proof school, with other aide projects planned. He has friends “on the ground” in Nepal who circumvent the corrupt politics of that 4th world country to make an impact where it counts, in the lives of children and their families. He spent a chapter of his life defying the odds, now he is increasing the odds of survival for others. If Mickey revises his book, he would certainly include this profound contribution of David and his friends to the Nepalese.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of learning about and reporting on the Erskine Green Academy in Muncie, Indiana – a training academy for adults with special needs owned by Arc of Indiana. I knew the Erskine and Green families have been pivotal advocates for people with special needs and the gratitude toward them for their work in this area cannot be overstated. That’s where my knowledge of Erskine began and ended…until last night.

To the credit of those that I interviewed for the articles, no one mentioned Carl Erskine’s background prior to having a son with Down Syndrome. The entire focus and significance of his involvement was fighting for the rights of people with special needs. Never once did it come up that he was a professional baseball player. And not just any pro player, Erskine pitched for the Brooklyn Dodges in the 1953 World Series against the Yankees and broke the record for the most strike outs in a single World Series game (held up for over a decade). Erskine threw two no-hitters in his career, had 981 strike outs and played with Jackie Robinson. He moved with the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LA. Not one word of this was mentioned. Perhaps it was assumed I knew? In truth, I had no clue.

david-summitA super funny story about Erskine: while serving in the Navy during WWII, he was told by the rec officer at the Boston Navy Yard that they had too many pitchers already on the team and that he couldn’t play with them. Years later, at Ebbets Field, a man called to him near the dugout and offering his hand, saying, “Shake hands with the dumbest son-of-a-bitch in the world. I’m the rec officer who wouldn’t let you pitch for the U.S. Navy. With guys like me in charge, I’m surprised we won the war.”

During games, “Back Home Again in Indiana” played when Erskine was called up to pitch and it was also played when Gil Hodges hit a home run, which was frequent (Hodges is from Princeton, Indiana). The loyal Brooklyn fan base would call out, “Hey Oisk, I’m witcha babe, trow it tru his head.” Throughout his life, Erskine was known as “that gentleman from Indiana,” thanks to The New York Times writer Roscoe McGowan.

Carl Erskine
Carl Erskine

I believe Erskine’s biggest contribution to humanity is not the joy he brought to Dodgers fans, but the lives he has impacted through his work with helping those with special needs. He is one of the founders of the Hopewell Center and greatly impacted the Special Olympics in Indiana and beyond. This is why he is honored with the namesake academy in Muncie. He was a champion where it counts, with helping bring dignity and purpose to the lives of people with special needs.

His greatest achievements are not those performed on a mound in a ballpark surrounded by fans, but the accomplishments he made quietly and lives of those he has impacted through his work with helping people with special needs. I love that he is a stronger coach than player.

David Carter was once fearless, dancing with the high probability of death to scale a mountain because it was there. David’s humanitarian efforts to help Nepal are more impressive than reaching any summit on earth. David is enabling others to reach their own peak.

Thanks, Mickey.

Making Waves with Billie Dragoo

Photographer / Amy Unger


RepuCare Founder, President and CEO Billie Dragoo has an office so heavily decorated with awards and accolades that it appears to be a trophy room at a Hall of Fame museum.

Dragoo is honored to have received every award proudly displayed in her office. When asked about her most coveted achievement or award, Dragoo doesn’t hesitate to say “the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame Junior Achievement Award I received alongside fellow Laureates David Simon (SIMON Group), Dave P. Lindsey (Defender Direct) and Michael Smith (Anthem) the same year.”

Make no mistake, Dragoo is a champion. She is a celebrated champion of her efforts to help others, namely women business owners. Dragoo’s story is inspirational of course. As a single mom of two young children, she started a business based in her home providing healthcare staffing which has flourished over the years.

But it’s not the struggles she has experienced or a sad tale that defines Dragoo. The truly compelling nature of why crystal trophies litter her office space is simple. It’s Dragoo’s method and her mindset that has brought her success. She didn’t trip the prom queen and throw the PTO moms under the bus; she has simply lived a life of service by reaching out to help other women around her achieve their dreams.

“You help one woman in business, you help a thousand,” says Dragoo. Her friend, Deborah Collins Stephens, best-selling author and former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, adds. “The ripple effect of helping just one woman cascades to others. The outreach is profound.”

There is still a long way to go with measurable statistics supporting why companies should support diversity in business. Studies show that women-led teams in large companies outperform those led by men. Women-owned businesses give back more to their communities and are found to be more efficient.

When Dragoo was looking for funding to expand one of her business, Verve Health LLC, she was rejected. “I had a solid pitch deck, and there was not a single institution wanting to invest in my service-based company,” says Dragoo, “until Carol Curran stepped in and put up her own money.”

Carol Curran, CEO of Phoenix Data Corp, created a ripple with her investment in Verve Health, LLC, for the money enabled Verve Health to expand and subsequently purchase another woman-owned business. The ripple turned into a wave.

This experience propelled Dragoo to facilitate profound policy change in regards to venture money for women. Most service-driven companies are owned by women. Finding capital for service-based businesses has been nearly impossible. Dragoo takes credit for the start of the Indiana Diversity Investment Fund as she should.

“I believe that if you are in a position to extend your hand and bring someone forward, you do it,” says Curran. “My investment in Billie’s company enabled her to help someone else directly. We are all proud of that.”

Collins Stephens adds, “Billie has opened doors for so many women in this state. I wish others could operate as she does from a ‘perspective of abundance’ instead of a ‘what’s in it for me?’ mentality. Billie is the real deal, and I am blessed to have her as a friend!”

Dragoo’s value of other female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. Mentoring is very important to her, and she feels it is a duty, rather than a choice, for women to assist other women for business success. The wave is gaining momentum.

For more on Billie Dragoo and her company, visit or

Indiana Artist Dorothy Kandrac

DorothyDorothy Evans Kandrac is living proof that you are never too old to figure out what you want to do with your life. At the age of 80, Kandrac took a painting class and has become a popular Hoosier painter over the last nearly two decades.

Kandrac grew up on a family farm in Montgomery County. She was born on her family’s homestead. The Evans family settled in Indiana in 1823. Dorothy belongs to the Indiana Pioneers and is a proud member of DAR: Daughters of the American Revolution.

Growing up, Dorothy participated in 4H, showing calves alongside her brothers at the county and State Fair. She grew up with all boys as the only girl in her generation of cousins.

“It has been my experience with people who grew up on a farm that they have a different work ethic. It’s part of their life,” she said.

Graduating from Indiana State University in 1940, Dorothy earned her teacher’s license and insurance license. While she was teaching, she would create art with her students. “We always had artwork and hand crafts hanging from the ceiling in my classroom when I taught,” recalls Dorothy. “I recall always being interested in creative projects as a child.”

One weekend, a former college roommate came to visit. This was during WWII. The roommate was Margaret O’Neal whose father was the Chief of Police for Indianapolis at that time. The two ladies went to the Claypool bar downtown for a drink. Some GIs were flirting with them from the bar. Dorothy and Margaret were talking among themselves as to which man they found particularly attractive. Dorothy says, “I said, ‘I like that one,’ and he was Michael Kandrac, the man I would marry.”

Michael and Dorothy would marry in 1944, then Michael was deployed to a POW Camp in Linz, Austria. Michael was first generation American and spoke fluent Slavic. After his service, the couple stayed in Indianapolis where they raised their three children.

After teaching for 26 years, she joined her husband in their insurance agency. “I just received a commission check last week for a policy I wrote almost 30 years ago,” shares Dorothy.

It wasn’t until Dorothy retired that she began to paint. She took a class at the Indianapolis Art Center and loved it.

“You don’t have to travel to paint. We have beautiful opportunities right here,” says Dorothy, speaking of her specialty of featuring Indianapolis and Indiana landscapes in her art.

While most of her work is painted from a photo she has taken, she did paint one En-plein-air of the West Baden resort in French Lick.

One of the art projects Dorothy taught her students early on in her teaching career were 3D stars. These stars were structural in nature with the detailed folding involved in their form. A thread of creativity and interest in architecture is clearly present in her art today.

“I love teaching kids art,” says Dorothy. “When I was younger, I wanted to be an interior designer, but at the time, it was hard to make a living doing that. My parents advised me to get a teaching license, so I would always have a way to make a living.”

Dorothy’s paintings, prints, giclees and greeting cards are for sale around the city, including the Indiana Historical Society gift shop, the Indiana State Museum gift shop, The Blue Door in Broad Ripple, Sullivan’s Hardware on Keystone and The Empty Vase to name a few. One of her most popular was her first painting she titled, “Indy in Red.”

“If I were to live to be in my 90s, I would want to have Dorothy’s mind which is still quick and witty, yet has the wisdom of her age in knowing what the important things are. I would want to have her talent and vision to see the world around her as an artist does. But mostly, I would want to have her heart that loves and sees God in all life. Dorothy simply brings out the best in everyone and everything she touches. I am so proud to call her friend,” says fellow DAR member and friend Brigitt Caito.

“You’re never too old to be creative,” says Dorothy Kandrac. “I challenge my contemporaries to use their time and talent.”

Alissa Moody: Campaigning for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Photographer / Stephanie Duncan


Honoring her passion for helping those with leukemia and lymphoma, Alissa Moody is running for LLS Woman of the Year.

Working with children under ideal circumstances can be challenging, but choosing to work with kids coping with extreme medical adversity is another thing entirely.

Alissa Cobb Moody grew up hearing about an uncle she had never met. Her mom’s brother, Randy, had died at the age of 19 before Moody was born. “I have always felt a passion for helping children with cancer. It’s my way of honoring my uncle,” shares Moody. Each year, her family plants a tree in Randy’s honor. The tree line has grown to be quite impressive.

Moody became a physical therapist focused on pediatrics. In her career, she has only worked with kids. For 10 years, she worked at Riley Hospital for Children. Luke Canterbury, who is nominated for the LLS Boy of the Year, was one of Moody’s patients.

“She was simply amazing,” shares Angie Canterbury, Luke’s mom. “Luke went through such an extremely painful healing process, and Alissa cried along with us.” Luke, who has recovered from Burkitt’s Lymphoma, Stage 4, is now 6 years old and thriving.

Alissa was also the PT for another young man, Michael Treinen. Michael passed away in 2008, just six days prior to his 20th birthday. Michael had an incredible spirit. He played three sports and insisted that a stationary bike be placed in his room at Riley Hospital for Children during his treatment. Alissa was able to get Michael a bike, but it was rather shabby and had taped handles. Michael didn’t care; he rode it daily anyway. He’d vomit from his chemo treatments and get back on the bike to stay in shape. Alissa credits his devotion to exercise as his stress management, which kept Michael mentally tough through treatment.

While on the bike, Michael was inspired to help ensure that every patient on the oncology and stem cell transplant units have access to an exercise bike. His mom, Kelly, is the Principal of Promise Road Elementary School in Noblesville and started a weekly fundraising campaign where students and faculty would pay a dollar to wear jeans to school on Friday. These dollars allowed the Treinen family to help outfit Riley Hospital for Children with a slew of new bikes that were used on the oncology unit and throughout the inpatient hospital at large. Michael’s full name is Michael Thomas Treinen, his initials MTT. Each stationery bike was given a license plate with “Moving Through Treatment,” MTT, to honor Michael.

Moody2Alissa’s mom has repeatedly said how if her brother, Randy, had been around today, she thinks the treatments available now would have saved his life. But unfortunately, even with today’s treatments, young children are lost in great numbers to leukemia and lymphoma.

Alissa now has two young children and has taken a hiatus from work to be with her kids. She is honored to be able to give back to the LLS through her Woman of the Year campaign. She was nominated by Kelly Treinen. Alissa didn’t hesitate to say “Yes!”

As part of her campaign to raise funds for the LLS, Moody has set several “fun”-raising events, including renting out the Vogue April 16 where her brother’s band, Yacht Rock Revue, will perform. Other events include:

  • April 24: Dog Trot and Family Fun Day at Forest Park in Noblesville at 11 a.m.
  • April 30: Bourbon Tasting Event at the Moody’s Home at 7 p.m.
  • May 1: Purse Bingo at Harbour Trees Golf and Beach Club in Noblesville at 2 p.m. with Derby Theme

For more information, please visit or

Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky