Innovators of the Month: January 2016

soc-inn-nwi-logoNWI Innovators of the Month highlights Larry Alt of Merrillville, a 2007 Member of The Society serving on the Board of TradeWinds who inspired one of Indiana’s first computer recycling programs for workers with disabilities. Also featured is Mary Beth Schultz and Margy Boyce of The Caring Place and Caring Designs of Valparaiso, respectively. They are Team Members of the “Class of 2015 – 2016” highlighting one of the nation’s first initiatives that designs and furnishes first homes for victims of violence. This issue is for media serving Jasper, Lake, La Porte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski and Starke Counties.

Each edition features inspiring stories of innovators who are Members of The Society of Innovators. The Society is part of Ivy Tech’s Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. For information, contact O’Merrial Butchee, Director, Lamkin I & E Center at (219) 981-4942, or John Davies, Managing Director, The Society of Innovators of NWI at (219) 981-1111, Ext. 2292.

Larry AltGot Old Computers? TradeWinds Can Help Solve this Problem!

“What’s your sawdust,” asked Larry Alt, Larry Alt & Associates, whose office is in the building displaying the big billboard as drivers exit I-65 onto U.S. 30. But Larry has always made a big statement, whether as chair of Lakeshore Public TV, on the TradeWinds Board or in his commercial real estate business. Years ago when working for Whiteco, he devised how to save big bucks by leading a team to control the illumination of 36,000 billboards.

This paved the way for Profile Systems that uses this technology to control heating and cooling in key markets. It even led him to get approval to establish the Sign Shop at TradeWinds to make signage for these billboards. Simply, Larry is a problem-solver. He brings together a problem and a solution. His point: What does someone need to get rid of that is a waste product and then finding someone who can find a use for it!

This same logic applies to another big idea from Larry for a new service in which disabilities workers take donated computers, disassemble them, and recycle their component parts. It’s a free service in the region that solves a big problem for most of us as well as corporations that in the past might dispose of them in landfills. “Now there’s an economic value because our workers are being paid to recycle these computers,” Larry said. For information, contact TradeWinds at

Mary Beth Schulz Margy BoyceCaring Designs does ‘Extreme Makeovers’ to benefit Clients!

Imagine Extreme Makeover! Now apply this to the first home for victims of violence leaving The Caring Place, Valparaiso. The home is not only furnished, but it’s customized for their tastes and lifestyle. The families who walk into these apartments and homes for the first time scream for joy, cry, and sometimes stare in disbelief at finding themselves not just in a bare apartment, but in a fully designed and furnished home by loving volunteers. Before transformational moments like this happened, they would leave the shelter sometimes with only a bag of clothes.

Thanks to an idea of Caring Designs Manager Margy Boyce (right) with support by Mary Beth Schultz, Executive Director, The Caring Place, shelter residents walk into an “extreme makeover” of their first home. Why? It helps ensure success in their new start!

Launched in 2011, this wonderful idea has evolved into a multi-faceted project that is likely the first in the nation for shelters involving first homes for clients. This ranges from volunteers updating furniture to a surplus of furniture that allows the Caring Place to sell upscale items at its showroom at 3107 Cascade Drive, to fund the project. A former designer at Walter E. Smithe, Margy quit her job to launch her idea that has blossomed into furnishing 57 homes called makeover “reveals” involving 130 clients and children. For details, go to