The year was 1964 and brothers Walter and Donald Best had relocated their young families from Seattle to Indianapolis. The men played key roles in the Best Lock Corporation, a lock manufacturing company founded by their father, Frank Best.
The organization sought to expand its operations on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Interstate 465 construction was underway and a large, undeveloped parcel of land at State Road 37 and 75th Street was a prime location. Frank Best acquired the acreage and it became the location for Best Lock’s headquarters. Through his generous donation, a portion of the land also would one day become the home for Heritage Christian School.
Meanwhile, the Best brothers searched the Indianapolis area for a non-denominational Christian school for their families. Their children had attended Christian schools in Seattle, where a vibrant Christian school movement was gaining momentum. The Bests prayerfully considered their options and decided that, with God’s help, they would start an interdenominational school that delivered excellent education from a biblical point of view. They determined that if God would bring in fifty-nine students, they could make it work.
Laying the Groundwork
As a first step, they recruited Kye Harris, a Seattle acquaintance with significant experience in starting and helping to run Christian schools. Harris and his family relocated to Indianapolis in 1965 and launched a mail campaign to area pastors, inviting them to informational meetings over coffee, in supporters’ homes. Interest quickly grew and within four months, the school had enrolled more than one hundred students.
Harris recruited William Vimont, another seasoned Christian school pioneer, for the role of principal. He moved his family from Arizona to Indianapolis on faith, since there was no up-front guarantee of receiving his salary.
A Board of Directors was created to provide leadership for the school. The original group included: Leonard Hunt, long-time director of Wheeler Mission; Indianapolis businessman, Dale Malcomson; Robert Porter, president of Lifegate, Inc.; and Walter and Donald Best.
The next challenge was to tackle student transportation. Harris proposed the purchase of six 1-ton panel trucks that could be converted to passenger vans. An ingenious idea, really, in a generation that far pre-dated current-day minivans. Finance companies, however, were less than excited about lending money to a school that had not yet even been incorporated.
Undeterred, the Heritage men approached the owner of Johnson Chevrolet. He was polite, but uninterested in assuming risk for a $24,000 purchase from an unestablished legal entity. In a last attempt to persuade the man, Harris pulled out a sheet of the school’s newly printed letterhead. On it were the names of Christian school experts and advisors from across the nation and a handful of Indianapolis businessmen.
The dealership owner casually glanced at the list and pointed to one of the names on it. He excused himself to make a quick phone call. When he returned, he announced, “Gentlemen, if this man is interested in your project, I will do it. He is my best friend.” He sealed the deal with no down payment and personally financed a year of insurance and the cost to convert the vehicles to special purpose buses. Through providential circumstances and a generous $30,000 gift from Lilly Endowment Inc, God enabled the school to pay the debt in full.
Prayers Answered and Dreams Realized
The school moved forward, receiving its official articles of incorporation as Heritage Christian Schools, Inc. on June 14, 1965. With Harris as administrator, the school hired necessary faculty and staff. Victory Baptist Church stepped up to house classes.
Heritage Christian School officially opened its doors to one hundred fifty-nine pre-kindergarten through ninth grade students on Sept. 8, 1965. It seemed no small coincidence that the number of students God had provided was exactly one hundred beyond the fifty-nine students that the school’s founders had originally prayed for.
Throughout the school day, students occupied virtually every inch of space at Victory Baptist Church. The pastor gave Harris and Vimont use of his office. In the mornings, teachers moved the church pews aside to make room for tumbling mats, creating a makeshift gymnasium down the center aisle. In the afternoon, pre-kindergarteners used the pews for their daily naptime.
Even the baptistry served dual purposes. Students auditioned there for the choir, with curtains drawn for anonymity.
Within a year, enrollment had increased to nearly three hundred fifty students, and it was clear that the school needed more space to grow. God ordained two key events during the summer of 1966. First, Devington Baptist Church offered its larger facility as a temporary location, enabling the school to expand enrollment and to include grades ten through twelve. Secondly, Frank Best generously donated an additional fifteen acres of land to the growing institution and pledged 25 acres more for future development. Don Best reportedly drove by the land frequently, saying, “I see it, Lord, I see it.” Heritage Christian School broke ground for its new building.
A Permanent Home
By year’s end in 1966, construction was complete and faculty and staff moved in to the new facility over Christmas break. When classes resumed in January of 1967, they welcomed four hundred and fifty students into an initial nineteen brand-new classrooms. Word spread and enrollment continued to climb. With another 5-acre donation from the Best Foundation, additional classrooms were added in 1973.
The school’s footprint expanded over the following decades to accommodate the needs of a growing student body and to offer a full range of academic and extracurricular programs. The construction of the current high school and Commons area was completed in 2007.
Today, the 38.5-acre campus houses separate elementary, intermediate, middle school, and high school buildings; a fine arts building; and athletic facilities that include an elementary gym, a 1,250-seat high school gymnasium complex, a football/soccer/lacrosse stadium, track, softball and baseball diamonds, and tennis courts.
At the Heart of the Heritage Story
The Heritage story has God’s fingerprints all over it; from the very beginning to its future. God instilled the school’s founding parents’ desire for their children to receive an excellent education that reinforced the faith and values they were teaching them at home. He brought just the right people at just the right times and built their faith as they saw Him provide resources and answer prayers. He created an environment where thousands of students have received valuable training for work and life as Christ- followers.
The story of Heritage Christian School really is one of the God who continues to bless this institution with His favor. It’s an ongoing narrative that He’s writing in the hearts and lives of our students, families, alumni, faculty and staff. May the telling of it bring Him much honor.