First Merchants Bank donation helps St. Jude House reach $25,000 match challenge goal issued by anonymous donor

First Merchants Bank donation helps St. Jude House reach $25,000 match challenge goal issued by anonymous donor
By: GreatNews.Life Last Updated: July 30, 2020

First Merchants Bank recently donated $5,000 to St.Jude House. Pictured, from left, are Buffy Adams, St. Jude House Director of Development ; Stephanie Madison, Bank Vice President, Community/ Client Manager and St. Jude House Development Committee Member; Ryan Elinkowski, St. Jude House Executive Director; and John Freyek, Bank Vice President, Relationship Manager

First Merchants Bank recently delivered a $5,000 check to St. Jude House Family Violence Prevention Center and Emergency Domestic Violence Shelter just in time to meet a dollar-for-dollar match challenge deadline.  The donation from First Merchants Bank will help replenish the shelters general operating funds that were lost due to Covid-19.

The donation was part of First Merchants pledged $1,000,000 to be contributed to nearly 100 non-profit organizations across all communities the banking institution serves throughout Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. Local leadership identified St. Jude House as providing valuable services within communities it serves.

Santa holds one of the children living at St. Jude House last Christmas. St. Jude House is beginning to gather funds to ensure all the families living at the shelter during the holidays are given a special Christmas to remember.

When St. Jude House (SJH) was forced to Covid-cancel its Spring Stand Up for St. Jude House Comedy Night, its largest annual fundraiser, the SJH Development Committee comprised of 24 local business leaders reacted strategically to overcome the financial shortfall. The creative solution: The St.Jude House Virtual Variety Show driven by Toyota of Merrillville, a 90-minute professionally-produced, TV-quality, night of entertainment!

“The negative economic impact caused by this pandemic cannot be overstated, and First Merchants is committed to doing everything we can to support our communities during these difficult times,” said Dale Clapp, Regional President.

“This is the time for flourishing companies to step up and help the non-profits who serve our most vulnerable populations. Domestic Violence, for example, was a public health emergency long before Covid-19 and St. Jude House has been on the front lines for 25 years providing comprehensive and compassionate programs and services. We are honored to assist in its mission of helping women and children escape a life of violence.” said Stephanie Madison, Bank Vice President, Community/Client Manager and St. JudeHouse Development Committee Member.

And assist they have in pushing St. Jude House over the finish line towards doubling the anonymous $25,000 gift to $50,000, that came to St. JudeHouse in late April during the Virtual Variety Show.

Emceed by Robin Rock, of 93.9 LITE FM, the show featured various acts such as Chicago Dueling Pianos, a reptile show from Traveling World of Reptiles, Larry Wirtz the Illusionist,  and many local music acts.  Prize giveaways were also plentiful throughout the night, with more than 500 people entering to win during and leading up to the show.

The Virtual Variety Show was broadcast live from Faith Church in Cedar Lake on the Facebook page of Local 219. Mid-way through the show, St. JudeHouse received word from a first-time anonymous donor issuing a $25,000 match challenge. The viewing audience responded and donated nearly $9,000 during the show by texting the word GIVE to 36000. The text option to donate remains open for the next 12 months thanks to the generous support of Close-By Text Marketing. 

First Merchants generous $5,000 donation, turned into $10,000 thanks to the match-challenge, means essential general operating funds for the shelter.

St. Jude House Executive Director, Ryan Elinkowski explained the donation impact to the 650 adults and children served at the domestic violence shelter every year, “We are so grateful to our new Community Partner, First Merchants Bank, as this gift plays an important role in St. Jude House’s ability to empower our clients and their children with tools and resources to break the cycle of violence in their lives.”

“20,000 domestic violence calls are received nationally on a daily basis and the fact is, those living in the cycle of violence could be your neighbor, your customer, your employee, your family member or a close friend,” Elinkowski said. “This is an issue that most likely impacts someone in your circle, whether you know it or not. So often, we don’t see or know what is happening behind closed doors.”

Domestic violence also takes a heavy toll in the business community as well, with EIGHT MILLION days of paid work are lost every year due to domestic violence.  Not to mention a bottom-line loss of $8.3 BILLION in expenses annually, a combination of higher medical costs ($5.8 billion) and another $2.5 billion in lost productivity.

“We are living in a time where every 9 seconds a woman is beaten or assaulted,” St. Jude House Director of Development, Buffy Adams said. “St.Jude House offers non-residential and residential programming and support via a full-time Adult Advocate who leads sessions about domestic violence, HOPE, financial empowerment and identifies specific counseling needs, a Legal Advocate who assists with custody and protective orders, a Children’s Advocate who helps with homework but also works to unpack the trauma via therapeutic play, anger management and explorative art projects and a Case Manager who helps with housing, employment, education and transportation.”

St. Jude House also has a 24-hour crisis line taking more than 1,600 calls a year. In the case of 8-year-old Sammy and his mother, this hotline became a vital tool in their journey to St. Jude House.

“When I say domestic violence, most people probably don’t think of children, but sadly we serve more children at St. Jude House than adults,” Adams said. “Over the course of the last year Sammy’s mother, Megan, made eight secret calls to the 24-hour crisis line at St. Jude House, building up the courage and making a plan to escape from their domestic violence situation.”

The calculated escape plan seemed simple enough; Megan and Sammy only had to make it out the back door, down the stairs, through the backyard and one block over to a gas station to make ‘the call’ from an untraceable track phone. The one saved number on that phone was St. Jude House. This callwould activate the secret crisis vehicle to retrieve Megan and Sammy at a public gas station.

 “This is a pretty typical example of how our clients and their children end up at St. Jude House, escaping a life of violence with little more than the clothes on their back,” Elinkowski explained. “Once they are in our care, we provide essential basic needs including shelter, food and clothing to aid in escaping horrific violence. Outside of meeting these immediate needs, we also empower our clients to leave behind a life of abuse with comprehensive and compassionate programming and services delivered by our expert staff.”

St. Jude House has been a pillar of strength for domestic violence victims for 25 years, and becomes even stronger when the community it serves takes part in supporting its mission.

“Like us on Facebook and share our posts so people in your network can see you are a supporter, you never know when someone may feel the need to confide in you about their own situation,” Adams said. “Beyond that, we encourage people to schedule a St. Jude House advocate or advisor to come speak at your school, business or organization (In person or via Zoom), or schedule a tour of our shelter so you can better understand our mission and decide if you want to get more deeply involved.”

The most important action community members, parents, students, and businesses can take, aside from financial support, is to be a part of increasing awareness about domestic violence as it really is an issue that impacts the very essence of our communities as it impacts the children.

 “The statistics concerning children as the ‘invisible victims’ of domestic violence are horrific,” Elinkowski said. “The violence they experience at a young age makes them four times more likely to abuse in a dating relationship, 25 times more likely to commit rape as an adult, six times more likely to commit suicide, and 1,000 times more likely to commit violence in their relationship or abuse their own children as an adult.”

St. Jude House exists to help break children from the clutches of violence, and in turn breaks the vicious cycle it traps them in.

“The impact abuse has on these young lives shapes their futures in horrendous ways, but the impact St. Jude House has on them helps change the outcome,” Adams said. “They enter St. Jude House as victims, but leave as empowered young survivors with a chance at a new start. Yet, because allour services are offered at no-cost, we couldn’t provide the life-changing emergency shelter, programs and services without the support of our individual donors and our corporate Community Partners who not only helped St. Jude House meet the $25,000 match challenge, but through their continued support, literally saves hundreds of lives every single year.”

Additional match dollars were raised in May and June from businesses renewing or joining the St. Jude House Community Partner Program including:  Accessibilities, Inc., Circle Buick GMC, LGS Plumbing, Pete & Sons Auto Repair, Edda Taylor Photographie, BKD CPA’s & Advisors, Calumet Breweries, Centier Bank, Ameriprise Financial, Beverly Bank and Trust, Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Little Green Apple Hallmark, Frank MrVan North Township Trustee, Service League of Northwest Indiana, LOFS Lions Club, Rizo Insurance Agency, Crown Point Lions Club, Salesforce, Kappa Kappa Kappa Gamma Theta Chapter, Caryn Crist Coldwell Banker Residential Broker, Jessica Kish McColly Real Estate Services, Aimee Koerner Draper & Kramer Mortgage , Guaranteed Rate, Latitude Commercial, 3M, Solan Robinson Elementary School Student Council, Reith Riley Construction, Buckeye Partners, Inc., Toyota of Merrillville, Precision Control Systems, and Pruzin Funeral Services.

To learn more about St. Jude House, how they are changing the lives of domestic violence victims for the better, and how you can contribute to this mission, e-mail

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Santa holds one of the children living at St. JudeHouse last Christmas. St. Jude House is beginning to gather funds to ensure all the families living at the shelter during the holidays are given a special Christmas to remember.