By Sara McAninch // Photos by Tony Vasquez
For insurance principal Eric Leugers, Franklin is more than a place to operate his business. His family has been in the area since the 1950s, so he has deep-seated roots here.
“This is home to us,” he says. “I have three brothers who all live locally, so the whole family is here.”
Leaving Franklin long enough to get a business management degree from Indiana University and then working for more than a decade in nearby parts of Indiana, he opened Leugers Insurance Group five years ago in his hometown. With one of his brothers, he co-owns The Elevator event space downtown. When he’s not managing his two businesses, he spends as much time as he can with his family — his wife, Jamie, son, Griffin, and daughter, Eva.
“Any free time we do have, we love to travel and have new adventures with the family,” he says.
For Leugers, his presence in Johnson County is more than running his businesses. It’s also about community. He’s a board member of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and a local bank, and he coaches youth baseball, football and basketball year-round. In addition, he’s part of the Franklin Rotary Club, where he’s community service chairman and the Jim Rhoades Memorial Hog Roast chairman.
What is the Franklin Rotary Club about? Why is being involved in it important to you?
The motto of the Rotary Club is “service above self.” It’s a philanthropic organization geared toward community service. It’s not a networking group; it’s about the service side — that’s the goal.
This community is where I was raised. It’s given me so much in life. Giving back should be part of what we’re all doing in communities that are giving so much.
You currently lead the Rotary Club’s annual Jim Rhoades Memorial Hog Roast. Who was Rhoades and why is he significant to the community?
The hog roast was started by Jim in 1996. At the time, he owned Rhoades True Value Hardware Store, which sat where JP Parker Flowers and BoJak’s Bar & Grille are now located. As a county commissioner and a Rotary Club member, he wanted to do something that would bring the community together and raise money for local charities. He put up a tent in the parking lot outside the store and roasted ― I believe — eight hogs that year. It was purely donation-based, and it brought the community out.
When Jim passed in 2005, fellow Rotary Club members John Auld and Doug Lechner took it upon themselves to be the hosts to keep the event going. In 2020, they passed the reins to me; 2021 was my first year running it.
A few weeks before the event, I got a call from a state trooper who lives up in Gary. He helped Jim with the first hog roast, and he volunteered to help with this one. He served food and ran the food truck. That’s cool that it meant so much to him from 25 years ago that he would drive three hours and volunteer his time.
What does leadership of an annual community event look like? What do you do in that role?
I’m a very process-oriented person, and I make sure I have everything documented. All our food is donated by Malone’s Catering and Indian Creek FFA, so I coordinate with the vendors. I help secure the Johnson County Fairgrounds, which is the annual site for the event, and recruit over 60 volunteers, including the Interact Club, which is a junior Rotary through the high school. I also work with Nimble Thimbles, the local quilting club; they sell their quilts at the event and donate all proceeds to it.
Another role I have is business planning with the Department of Health. For 2021 we had a drive-thru and dine-in event. With COVID-19, I had to ensure a safety plan was in place that followed protocol. It was an amazing event and record year. We raised just over $51,000, and we still have some late checks coming in.
In addition to chairing the overall event, I’m also the fundraising committee chairperson. Me and my 13 committee members divvy up a list of potential donors and make fundraising calls.
Why is the hog roast important to the community?
Since all the food for the event is donated, and it is volunteer-run, all proceeds are split 50/50 and go to our two recipient organizations: the Johnson County Good Cheer Fund and the Interchurch Food Pantry. The goal of the hog roast is to fight food insecurity, and these two organizations do that very thing. There’s no expectation put on us by the organizations regarding how much we give them, but I put a goal out there in 2021 that I wanted the event to raise at least $50,000.
The Good Cheer Fund is a program that happens around Christmas every year where applicants can apply for food assistance. Baskets of food — enough to last a few days — are assembled by community volunteers so that local families in need can enjoy spending time with their loved ones instead of worrying about their kids going hungry. About 900 baskets of food were delivered in 2021. Packing the baskets has turned into a family tradition. Although I’m not directly involved with this event, I know a lot of the same families and companies come back year after year to volunteer.
The Interchurch Food Pantry provides assistance to about 150 families in the community per day. If you take 150 families per day that need assistance and multiply that by one month, that’s a lot of families.
The hog roast is an event where people enjoy coming together as much as they do giving. I really believe this event kicks off everyone’s holidays every year; it kicks off mine. We gather in Scott Hall, and the Franklin Community Band plays Christmas carols. You see people hugging who haven’t seen each other since the previous year’s hog roast. It brings together the community and supports local causes; that’s two reasons why it’s so successful and still around today.
I want to thank Malone’s Catering and Indian Creek FFA because they donate 100% of the food. Without them this event wouldn’t be possible. Dan Malone is amazing. His business is catering, and in a time of COVID when catering is down, he still donates 100% of the food, even when he was asked to increase service from 500 to 800. Indian Creek FFA donates pork chops, and they increased from 350 in 2020 to 600 in 2021. I also want to thank the Johnson County Fair Board because it allows access to its grounds and facilities for the event.
What do you love about living and working on the southside?
Working in my community allows me to be involved in it. My kids can come to my office after school. I like that I can help fellow community members and businesses make sure they have the correct coverage at the lowest cost possible.
This is home to me. I love being in my hometown and seeing it flourish. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s a great time to live, work and play in Franklin, Indiana.