A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: John ‘Jack’ Halton

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: John ‘Jack’ Halton

John “Jack” Halton, a 92-year-old man, volunteers at the Catholic Charities Food Pantry and Hunger Relief Services in East Chicago, Indiana. He has been honored as the Volunteer of the Year by Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA).

When Halton first began volunteering at Catholic Charities, it was distributing 50 bags of food each week. Now, that number has increased to 500 bags weekly.

One of the best aspects of the charity is that they frequently go door-to-door to ask communities what they need.

“I love seeing the reactions from people we help,” said Halton. “Most of the people we help do not have the items we give them, so being able to help them makes me happy.” 

Tina Gunnum, the food pantry manager, is a testament to Halton's dedication and frequently praises his hard work and commitment to the pantry.

“When I first met him, we had 87 people show up and never had that,” said Gunnum. “He was exhausted and leaned up against the table, and he said, ‘I don't know if you're a blessing or a curse.’ He was so tired but so willing to volunteer and give away as much as he could.”

Halton does not let his age stop him from continuing his work, inspiring everyone around him.

“He doesn't realize his hard work ethic makes everyone else around him work equally as hard and joyfully,” said Gunnum. “He never has a bad word about anybody, and he just encourages everybody so much. When you see a 92-year-old lifting up the box or a bag and continually doing it, it makes sitting down not an option for the rest of us workers.”

Catholic Charities has previously undertaken projects like building garden beds for low-income elderly individuals and veterans. Last year, Halton was actively involved in lifting timbers and hauling bags of dirt.

“I started picking dirt and planting the garden,” said Halton. “This project is huge to elders like myself because it’s something they can do. The use of wheelchairs helps them plant the dirt more easily and gives them access to maneuver more easily.”

In September, Halton and Gunnum will be heading to Oklahoma City, where CCUSA will honor Halton with the Volunteer of the Year award at its convention.

“I was trying to think of the last time I won an award as it has been a long time,” said Halton. “I won it in school, and it was the Citizenship Award. I received it from the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

Outside of the pantry, Halton enjoys getting his rest. Every month, he meets with his classmates from Bishop Noll Institute. He is also the father of six children, grandfather to eight, and great-grandfather to 10.

“We have good help here; everyone does their part and works together as a team,” said Halton. “There is little to no conflict as no one fusses or complains, but instead works hard to get the job done.”