Pandemic sparks epidemic of people helping people in Northwest Indiana

Pandemic sparks epidemic of people helping people in Northwest Indiana
By: Julia Demma Last Updated: May 7, 2020

It may feel germy and uncertain in the Region right now, but something else is going viral: people helping people.

As the news of the Covid-19 outbreak has been all-consuming, a scroll through any social media channel reveals a better part of the human condition: empathy, caring, love, and the good old-fashioned concept of neighbors helping neighbors.

In Northwest Indiana, we’ve seen countless examples of local government officials, not-for-profits, grocery stores, businesses, and neighbors who have been lending each other a helping hand (or elbow, for that matter). And since this is what GreatNews.Life, is all about, we want to talk about it.

“Every day we highlight the great things happening around our community, and one of the best stories to read at any time is one of a community member or multiple local organizations stepping up during a time of need,” said Chris Mahlmann, founder and CEO of GreatNews.Life. “We applaud those doing so and wish everyone safety and health during this time.”

With school systems on eLearning, this has made both childcare and access to meals difficult for some families. We’ve seen an outpouring of help from community members on social media.

“Friends, if any of you need or know someone in a dire situation, which could use some groceries from our pantry, I can help out. We have plenty of dry/canned beans/legumes, rice, veggies, fruits, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, pork chops, peanut butter, assorted baked goods, and breakfast sausage. I am more than happy to share, as we're all going through a lot and need to be a team to get through this.” –Erik Tannehill, La Porte

A fellow Facebook friend, Nicole Kintzele Messacar, replied: “And since you should be extra careful, please let me know if things need to be delivered. I can help.”

There have been more deliveries and helping hands offered throughout the Region.

“With everything going on, now is the time we all come together as a community! If you need help getting to the school to get the meals your kids need please let me know - PM me. I can go pick up the meals and drop them off for you! Please PM me!” --Christine Struble-Bockman, Crown Point

“I’m not really anybody. But I am someone who is more than willing to run to Strack’s or Meijer for any of our elderly or others at higher risk during this outbreak. PM me and I’ll do your shopping, so you stay safe.” – Bob Hipps, Hobart

GreatNews.Life recommends that community members be wise about accepting help from strangers, but applauds neighbors helping neighbors across the board.

We also saw our GreatNews.Life partners shouting out appreciation for each other. Bob Franko, CEO at VNA of NWI, reached out to find local in-home sitters for his staff, many of whom are single partners and can’t afford to miss work. Hospitals across the region have been sharing love for each other and local businesses via supportive messages, praise and thanks.

“Big shout out to our local restaurant Jordy N Jax BBQ for bringing my Porter Regional ER staff food today recognizing the rough time our emergency departments are going through right now! Sooooooo kind and thoughtful of Jordy N Jax—Thank you! We got our community’s back—no worries,” wrote the emergency room director at Porter Regional Hospital.

Community members have been spreading some serious color and cheer to brighten the lives of others during the COVID - 19 pandemic. Chalk the Walk of Porter County has inspired hundreds to pick up their chalk and create masterpieces --including murals saluting our local frontline heroes at St.Mary Medical Center.

Local travel baseball organizations depend on community businesses and organizations to support their effort to give what often amounts to year-round training to their players and support to families, but during the COVID-19 crisis, it was time for those organizations to give back.

Duneland Flyers Vice President, Nick Doud, thought of the fundraiser idea initially for just his organization.

"But then I thought, why not reach out and make it bigger," said Doud.

He reached out to other organizations through Facebook, text, and email, and before he knew it, 18 travel organizations from Indiana and even Illinois had joined the cause. #RegionStrong became truly about the region.

The 18 organizations included Duneland Flyers, St John Tomahawks, On Deck Fury, Winfield Warriors, Indiana Lightning, South Shore Smoke, Laporte Crush, Triple Crown (Valparaiso), Hobart Storm, Lakeshore Riptide, Mokena Blaze (IL), Valparaiso Green Wave, Michiana Scrappers, Schererville Shock, Portage Chiefs, Maple City Baseball, New Carlisle Longshots and even Indiana BPA, a statewide sanctioning organization got involved.

For every shirt or hoodie sold in a week's time, one mask would be purchased with the #RegionStrong hashtag on it to be donated to miscellaneous organizations throughout Northwest Indiana. In the end, the group of teams worked their way up to 475 masks. That's almost $3,000 in masks to be donated. 

"I think this fundraiser was an opportunity for baseball programs to teach the kids that life is more important than baseball and outside the lines, it is important to come together to support your home field," Doud said.

Over at Rittenhouse Village at Portage, staff members, residents, and families have been hard at work trying to lift spirits. They recently began partaking in a Visual Event series and kicked off the program with window painting within the residency. In addition, family members have been showing their love and support by sporting bright posters with special messages outside of Rittenhouse’s windows.

Local municipalities, townships, and other organizations also have stepped up during this uncertain time.

Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana will continue to deliver meals and remains open to serve customers in light of COVID – 19. First Financial Foundation and First Financial Bank have donated 10,000 toward the efforts of Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana to support delivering nutrition to older area residents during the COVID – 19 pandemic.

Valparaiso Rise’n Roll is offering $1 regular donuts during this time to share some happiness. Order by phone for curbside delivery (219) 242-8160.

United Way of Porter County is providing an online community resource at unitedwaypc.org/coronavirus-resources. The online guide directs residents to government, health, education, and social services websites and features information about coronavirus quarantine, childcare resources, food resources, financial assistance services, e-learning topics, and more. Residents interested in volunteer opportunities will also find ways to help out their community here as well.

United Way of Porter County has also created the Coronavirus Pandemic Relief Fund to help those most affected.

For information about the relief fund and to donate, visit unitedwaypc.org/coronavirus-resources.

Information about the resource guide can be found at unitedwaypc.org/coronavirus-resources and will be continually updated as new information becomes available.

The La Porte County Center Township Trustees Office prioritizes the health and safety of its community and staff and is taking extra precautions around its facility. The office is prepared to respond to increased needs for food-related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and offered information for emergency food pantries here.

In addition, Scholastic knows that missing school isn’t easy for kids—or for parents. But they also know that there are simple ways to turn unexpected time at home into exciting opportunities for students to learn, think, and grow. That is why they’ve created Scholastic’s Learn at Home website. This free resource provides children with 20* days of exciting articles and stories, videos, and fun learning challenges. Children can complete them anytime, in any order. They can work on their own or together with their family. Visit www.scholastic.com/learnathome. These active learning journeys are available on any device and will provide children with up to three hours’ worth of exciting learning experiences per day. They can go on virtual field trips, meet best-selling authors, or dig deep into a topic they love.

The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana is currently providing food assistance and resources through several different methods.  Civic leaders Tom Sourlis and Sue Eleuterio have generously offered to match all donations to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, dollar for dollar, during the month of April---up to $125,000. This gesture of compassion and support comes as the Food Bank increases its emergency relief efforts to address the consistently growing need in the community as the COVID-19 crisis continues. To donate, visit wwwfoodbanknwi.org/911. Follow the link to learn more: https://nwi.life/article/emergency-food-assistance-plan-from-food-bank-of-northwest-indiana/.

Legacy Foundation has developed a COVID – 19 Relief Resource page to provide information on opportunities and individuals to receive assistance. Click here for more information.

The Portage YMCA is serving free meals to families daily. Details here: https://portage.life/article/free-meals-for-families-at-portage-ymca/

If you are looking for ways to help, there are many senior centers, not-for-profits, grocery stores, and other organizations looking for a helping hand. And of course, you can do your part in other ways by practicing social distancing and only leaving your home for the necessities.

There is a NEW toll-free number for Indiana's COVID-19 Call Center: 877-826-0011. If you are calling with general questions about coronavirus, PRESS 1; If you are a healthcare provider calling about the novel coronavirus, PRESS 2.