After working a blur of seven-day weeks multiplied by more than a decade, it’s no surprise that Sandy Daniels, former CEO of the Johnson County Community Foundation, still hasn’t learned how to leave the office.
“I couldn’t just walk away,” said Daniels, who resides in Center Grove with her husband, John Daniels. “The foundation is not retired out of my heart.”
Daniels and her husband accidentally discovered Hoosier Hospitality while making frequent moves for John’s career. A short stint in Indiana was a love-at-first-sight kind of experience.
So in the 1980s, when the family could finally claim roots, they happily settled in Johnson County.
At the same time thousands of other families had also committed to make the county their new address.
Local government leaders and business owners discovered growing pains but also wonderful opportunities to meet community needs.
To address those needs, the Pride and Progress Foundation of Greater Greenwood was formed in 1989. Daniels’ impressive resume, packed with lots of experience with nonprofit agencies and college-level teaching, won her an invitation to serve on the board.
Two years later the group reorganized to encompass growth and needs of the entire county. That is when Daniels graduated from board member to CEO.
With one word processor and the cost of a fax machine shared with a neighboring business, the Johnson County Community Foundation was born.
Housed in a cramped downtown Franklin office space, Daniels tirelessly worked to raise $1 million and to educate whoever would listen about an exciting way for anyone to take ownership in positive change.
“I just absolutely thrived,” she said. “People knew the foundation was genuine. They knew we had their best concerns at heart.”
Referring to herself as the “policy queen,” Daniels immersed herself in learning about complex policies and ever-changing laws. Along the way the foundation grew into its own entity, building grants and scholarships and countless opportunities for philanthropic people to leave amazing legacies.
To stay on top of the growth, Daniels was living and breathing the foundation’s needs.
“On the weekends I would think, ‘Well somebody needs to go to the office and empty the trash. It might as well be the board president and CEO,” she said with a laugh. “I did it all.”
By 2007, endless demands for the Foundation were not mixing well with the fact that Daniels was also traveling two states away to care for her aging parents.
“I just felt like I was cutting everybody short. I couldn’t do either job well. Obviously, I chose to take care of my parents. But leaving the foundation, oh I cried like a baby. The foundation has been my greatest professional achievement, building something fantastic from nothing.”
Now that both parents are deceased, Daniels makes frequent trips to Washington, D.C., where she serves as a consultant on a national level for community foundations across the country.
Both adult sons and their families enjoy cooking as much as she does, so many memories are being made in the kitchen.
More hours at home also has her “playing like I’m on HGTV,” she said.
Since John Daniels is also retired, the couple have more time together now than they ever did.
“We are two senior citizens with no rules,” Daniels said. “If you want cake at three o’clock in the afternoon, have cake. We’re having a great time.”