Longtime Foundation for Focus House scholarships honor Adams couple, Judge Lenz 

Applications now open for 2024 scholarship cycle

By Jeff Helfrich, Managing Editor
Posted 2/23/24

Foundation for Focus House has opened the application for its 2024 scholarships, Executive Director Jeni Hardin said. 

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Longtime Foundation for Focus House scholarships honor Adams couple, Judge Lenz 

Applications now open for 2024 scholarship cycle


ROCHELLE — Foundation for Focus House has opened the application for its 2024 scholarships, Executive Director Jeni Hardin said. 

The organization gives out two $1,000 scholarships each year to Ogle County residents or past/current Focus House residents pursuing post-secondary or vocational education that have made a positive change in themselves or their community. 

The first Foundation for Focus House scholarship is supported by the LaVerne & Margaret Franklin Adams Scholarship Fund. It was established in May 2002 following Mr. Adams’ death. A longtime resident of Ogle County, Mr. Adams sat on the Ogle County Board from 1972 until 2002. At the time Focus House was established in 1975, Mr. Adams was appointed and served as the chairperson of the county committee that oversaw the operation of the program. Mrs. Margaret Franklin Adams was also very dedicated to the community and the youth at Focus House. Their family added to the scholarship in LaVerne's name when Margaret passed away in 2020, to honor her commitment to the youth of Ogle County and the Focus House program.

The second Foundation for Focus House scholarship is supported by the F. Lawrence Lenz Scholarship Fund, established in April 2003 by his family following his death. As an Ogle County Circuit Judge, Judge Lenz elected to be the juvenile court judge. In this capacity he was one of the instrumental supporters of the opening of Focus House in 1975. From the bench he believed in the value of having community-based programs and was an advocate of Focus House until his death.

Foundation for Focus House Board Vice President Russ Crull is the grandson of LaVerne & Margaret Franklin Adams and is the president of the Ogle County Bar Association. Two sides of his life have a lasting commitment and investment to students in Ogle County. 

“It's great to see the amount that has been given back to students over the years,” Crull said. “It's great to know that a little farmer from Holcomb like my grandfather can still be making a difference in the world. And I like to see that our judges and our Bar Association have always taken this seriously and made a lasting commitment to the kids here. We've had judges that have given back and been supportive of things like Focus House. You don't see that in other counties. Judge Lenz didn't have to do that.”

LaVerne Adams grew up in Holcomb as one of 11 children. He made it to ninth grade, before his brothers went off to war and he had to start working, before ultimately buying a farm in Byron in the early 1960s.  

“He served on the Ogle County Board and did great things for our community, but he never got to go to high school, and he was always embarrassed by that,” Crull said. “His thought with Focus House was, 'These kids are in trouble and maybe had a tough upbringing. How do we get them to a place where they can at the very least finish high school?' To him, that was a really big thing. My grandfather built the Focus House program with a lot of other people. His thought with the scholarship would be that those kids would get through the program and have some assistance moving forward.”

The Foundation for Focus House scholarship program strives to see applications from current or former Focus House students and works to give preference to them, but those applications aren’t common and sometimes those students are already having their future education supported by the foundation itself. The scholarships are open to students in the county that have not spent time at Focus House.

“We're blessed as a board to be able to have money to support our students,” Crull said. “A lot of times if they're not applying for the scholarships, it's because we have the money to give them otherwise. This is a nice way for kids that maybe weren't in enough trouble to need to come live here, for them to have a chance. And sometimes it's just really good kids that need a little help financially to move forward. Every kid deserves to go to college.”

Crull never practiced law in front of Judge Lenz, but is well versed in his legacy of involvement in the juvenile justice system and bringing it to Ogle County. Focus House is juvenile justice system-based and caters to adolescents to divert them away from juvenile detention centers, which can be rougher environments than Focus House.

Crull has practiced law in 24 counties, and has not seen a program like Focus House in any others besides Ogle County. 

“With the Judge Lenz scholarship, just to have judges that actually care about it and want to do these things, we're tremendously blessed in this county,” Crull said. “We currently have Judge Roe and Judge Peska. Judge Roe and his family have been advocates of Focus House and he works in the juvenile criminal aspect of it. We're so fortunate to have something like this. Focus House is so far ahead of its time, to think that we had something like this in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Hardin said she enjoys going through the scholarship process each year and reviewing the applications with the board and presenting checks to the recipients and notifying colleges. Each year, it reminds Crull of his grandparents.

“Every year when we go through it, I like to think about my grandparents' legacy and being from here,” Crull said. “My grandfather died 22 years ago, and he's still making a difference here where he's from.”

The deadline for the application is March 22. If you have any questions about the application, please email Hardin at jhardin@oglecountyil.gov or call (815) 562-5881 ext 3433. The scholarship application can be found online at https://www.oglecountyil.gov/departments/focus_house_2/scholarship.php?fbclid=IwAR1PLZgN3cgjKKxrMyCOg33yF6SMaxUOMf8mVpt3kcr7Oqi39D3IoVXXaGA