The Munster Times. April 13, 2020

Consider local impact when donating in COVID-19 pandemic

There is no shortage of well-publicized need in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unemployment is soaring, families are directly affected by sick guardians and breadwinners and hospitality businesses, among so many others, are shuttered or hanging on by a thread through carryout and delivery.

There also is no shortage of outstretched hands from agencies soliciting funds in the name of the affected and afflicted.

If you’re able to give to such agencies, we encourage you to do so.

But think carefully about the ones seeking to do the most good among your neighbors before committing contributions to larger national groups that aren’t necessarily prioritizing Northwest Indiana. Be leery of any groups not actually funneling quantifiable aid to real neighbors in need.

Lake Area United Way or equivalent United Way chapters in Porter and LaPorte counties are good places to start.

Lake Area United Way has refocused its funding priorities in recent years, harnessing most of its fundraising power to benefit the working poor — families whose heads of household work hard but struggle to make ends meet.

This focus aligns well with the economic and social ills being spread by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s no mystery why Region grocery store chain, Strack & Van Til, chose Region United Way agencies recently when looking to aid in the coronavirus crisis.

The Highland-based chain, which has 20 stores throughout the Region, made a $50,000 corporate donation to the United Ways in Lake and Porter County to help feed people affected by the public health crisis. That big gift stayed local and was placed in the hands of agencies with a proven track record for helping Northwest Indiana residents.

Stracks also raised $46,000 from customers rounding up their grocery bills for a “Check-Out Challenge” for The Salvation Army, whose food pantries are serving five times as many people during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Salvation Army also is a worthy local entity to which donations can and should flow from Region benefactors who are able to give.

It’s important to remember non-COVID-19-related charities and nonprofits, which still seek to do good works but struggle to do so when fundraising events have been shut down in the coronavirus shelter-in-place wake.

Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation, a Region nonprofit that provides financial support and other aid to families whose children suffer through cancer treatment, is watching its funds dwindle as annual fundraising events are shut down.

Region internet radio personality Ron Harlow sponsored a fundraising event over the weekend, livestreaming stand-up comedians, musicians and other artists in a benefit for the NICK Foundation.

The need to battle childhood cancers hasn’t changed, and the available funds for that fight are taking a major hit right now.

There are so many other worthy local causes and charities to consider as well. But if you’re able to give, be wise and go with a proven entity that can elicit a real local impact.

All aid must be amplified by choosing responsible agents of delivery if we’re to find a way through this crisis and get Northwest Indiana back on its feet, both literally and economically.


The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. April 17, 2020

Creative commerce

Support local economy, even from shelter

As we shelter in place and limit trips to work or the grocery store, there still are milestones to mark and encouragement to offer friends and family. And there are ways to do so while helping northeast Indiana weather the COVID-19 storm. Shopping local has never been so important.

Need to send a gift? Local stores aren’t necessarily closed, even if they aren’t operating as an essential business. Maureen Madden and Theresa Kacmarik, the sister/business partner team behind Cookie Cottage, have 27 employees at their new location on West Washington Center Road. Sales are down by half since the shutdown, but Madden said no one has been furloughed. The business has been taking orders online and by phone, with customers picking them up curbside. Cookies can also be ordered for shipping.

“There were a few people who were, ‘You’re not essential – you’re just cookies,’ ” Madden said. “But people get the cookies and they take them to other people to thank them for what they’re doing. We’ve sent them to the hospitals; to the fire department and the police and other people that are working. It’s a nice gift and kind of keeps some normalcy to what’s going on.”

Madden said she and Kacmarik are continuing to work because they don’t want their employees to have to go on unemployment.

“We figured as long as we can stay open, we’ll absorb whatever we have to as long as we can,” she said.

Creative Women of the World, a nonprofit established to help women in developing countries build sustainable businesses, normally sells artisan wares at its boutique on West Wayne Street in downtown Fort Wayne. While the storefront operation is closed, shoppers can still order gifts and gift cards online, for shipping or delivery. Lynne Gilmore, the non-profit’s board chair and interim executive director, said she spent four or five hours last Friday making pre-Easter deliveries.

“Every item has a unique story,” she said of the merchandise available at Creative Women. “You lose some of that store experience, but we know gift-giving continues – birthdays still continue, anniversary celebrations, graduations. There’s still going to be a need regardless of what happens around us. We’ve also discovered that some of the headbands we have, the scarves, can be used for face masks. So we try to find parallels to help people navigate their way through not only the products we have, but also how they can use them today.”

Local arts organizations and venues could also use your support. Consider buying tickets now for events later this year, such as the Embassy Theatre’s Summer Nights series, which begins May 20. What sounds better right now than live music, food from local vendors and the view from the Embassy’s rooftop patio?

And while the Downtown Improvement District’s Mother’s Day trolley shopping event won’t happen this year, the district has plenty of ideas for marking the occasion with gifts that also support local businesses: an arrangement from Cottage Flowers, a basket of treats from Snickle & Fritz Candy Emporium, spring decor from Smiley’s Joy and more. Those ideas can be extended to merchants throughout northeast Indiana.

Even Etsy, the online marketplace for artists and crafters, allows you to shop local. You can search for a jewelry maker in Fort Wayne, a leather-goods crafter in Auburn or a sign maker in Bluffton. The money stays in this region.

Amazon and other mega-retailers make it easy to click and buy. Those online purchases support the U.S. economy overall, but a little more initiative keeps your dollars close to home while helping your neighbors and the state and regional economy. Shop small and shop local.


South Bend Tribune. April 14, 2020

Coming together to support first responders, doctors and nurses in face of pandemic

Many in the South Bend area have been coming up with ways to support and thank those who have been working hard to protect and care for people in the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

From front porch musicians spreading cheer to neighbors caring for neighbors, people are doing everything they can to help and support each other.

Recently, there were two instances where people in the community thanked those on the front lines.

On Thursday, Knights of Columbus #553 and representatives of Downtown South Bend Inc. combined to serve meals to firefighters at stations across the city.

K of C prepared the meals — Polish sausage, macaroni and cheese and potato salad — and volunteers from DTSB helped deliver the meals to every fire station across the city. “Charity is the first duty of the Knights of Columbus,” said Steve Sommers, special events coordinator for K of C #553. “We want to give back to those that are on the front lines of the COVID-19 situation.”

Typically, this time of year K of C’s are busy preparing food for their Friday fish fries. When those were cut short due to social distancing protocols, they were looking at an alternative project, and were drawn to one that would help serve the community.

Today the K of C will deliver meals to officers and civilians working at the city police station on Sample Street.

Sommers said they would like to do another project soon for local hospital staff to show their appreciation for all the work doctors, nurses and staff have been doing.

Last week, area police and fire departments showed their appreciation to local hospital staff by conducting a lights and siren parade outside Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Beacon Hospital in Granger.

First responders from across the area, including St. Joseph County, South Bend and Mishawaka police and fire departments and smaller township departments, took part in the parade.

Videos posted on Facebook showed doctors and nurses gathered at the entrances to acknowledge the procession and thank first responders for their support.

These acts of appreciation show the ways members of the community are supporting one another to make it through these difficult times.