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Rusty Martinez – Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams – Kosciusko By Choice

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Kosciusko County – A Place of Belonging

“Kosciusko County means community. It means finding a place where you can belong, and people will support you no matter what you’re going through,” Rusty Martinez, Assistant Director of Marketing at the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, began his story as he sat in the conference room of the Lilly Center.

Rusty was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he got a taste of multiple cultures.

“I was originally born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and I am what I would call a third culture kid. My mom is from Ohio and my dad is from Mexico. So, we kind of grew up in a combination of both cultures.”

Originally, he came to Kosciusko County to attend Grace College and get his degree in photography and graphic design. After graduation, he decided to stay because of the strong community he had built here, both through the local church he is a member of and the jobs he has held.

“I decided to stay in Kosciusko County because I really love the community that I had built here. Everybody is very friendly and welcoming, and so it was really hard to even think about moving away,” he explained.

Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams Team

Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams

His first job in the community was at MudLOVE, and he worked there for six years. Last year, he transitioned into working at the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams. The Lilly Center is located on Grace College’s campus and is a research and education center focused on keeping Kosciusko County’s lakes and streams clean, healthy, safe, and beautiful. With over 100 lakes in the county, the impact they have is extensive and vitally important. According to the Lilly Center’s research, the lakes bring in over $300 million in revenue every year and provide not only water-related recreation, but also cutting-edge research and education opportunities.

“What I see for the future of Kosciusko County is the opportunity for research to take place that is going to help communities and solve problems that right now there are no answers for. We have the opportunity to research big issues like blue-green algae that can be toxic to humans,” Rusty explained about what he sees for the future of the Lilly Center and Kosciusko County.

Tacos from Mi Lindo Acapulcho Mexican Restaurant

Kosciusko Mexican Restaurants & Cultural Opportunities

From his perspective, there are many cultural opportunities in Kosciusko County, such as Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts and the wide variety of restaurants. To Rusty, the hidden gem of the community is definitely the Mexican restaurants in the area.

“I grew up in Mexico and I consider Kosciusko County a hidden gem as far as Mexican restaurants are concerned. The food here is very, very good and going into some of these places is like going home for me.”

Rusty Martinez, Assistant Director of Marketing at Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, Winona Lake, IN

Advice for Young Adults

In closing, Rusty gave some advice to any young adult looking to make Kosciusko County their home.

“Kosciusko County is a place of belonging. Something I would recommend to young adults who are considering moving to Kosciusko County is getting connected to a group or a community that has similar interests. Although Kosciusko County is made up of a lot of small towns, there’s a lot of big opportunities. Whether you want to join YAP, which is for young adult professionals, or a bowling league, or you want to play volleyball, or you want to play games at Chimp’s Comix, there’s literally something for everybody.”

Kosciusko By Choice

Kosciusko by Choice is an on-going video series highlighting the stories of individuals who have chosen to make their home in Kosciusko County. Stay tuned for the next video in the series!