During the July Round-Up Challenge held throughout Northwest Indiana’s Strack & Van Til and Town and Country grocery stores, $26,518.75 was raised in Porter County alone as a donation to the Visiting Nurse Association's Meals on Wheels program. The donation will deliver nearly more than 6,000 meals to the community.
“In one month! When you think about the amount of money raised… and the amount of people that helps…” said a still-shocked Maria Galka, Director of Development of the VNA.
In the Chesterton, Portage, and Valparaiso grocery stores, more than $26k was raised by customers rounding up their food bill and/or adding extra dollars here and there to donate.
It was at the Valpo branch of Town and Country on Calumet Avenue where Ashleigh Marlow, public relations at Strack & Van Til met with Galka and store managers to present the donation check.
According to Marlow, the Round Up Challenge was done at all stores in Lake and Porter County, and the overall goal for the challenge in both counties was $35,000. Last year was the first year of the Porter County challenge, which raised about $5,000.
“It is huge, incredible,” she said, of the final number. “Maria and her team were amazing and included even more incentives!”
There were gift cards and secret shoppers, all ways to add more fun and money to the challenge.
If a secret shopper from the VNA were out shopping and heard a cashier ask, “Would you like to round up for VNA’s Meals on Wheels?” then that cashier would be thanked for their efforts with a gift card, Galka explained.
The check was presented with Cheri Hofferth, the Front-End Manager at Town and Country, because it was her store and cashiers who led the Porter County stores in the challenge. Though coming just shy of her $10,000 goal, the store earned around $9,700!
Top cashiers were Sarah Matern, Cathy Peters, and another woman at the Portage Town and Country branch. Another big winner was Aimee Ward, the assistant Front-End manager.
Hosting challenges like this is not uncommon for Hofferth, yet this one was different.
“When it is a local fundraiser, you get a lot more than a national one,” Hofferth said. “We get asked, ‘This is going to Porter County?’ People in Valpo will continue to donate more when it is local.”
“I had a lot of ‘Oh, just add $2,” Matern said. “I had some, ‘add $5’ sometimes too.”
The money will go straight to providing nutritional meals for the VNA Meals on Wheels program, Galka said, but the challenge does so much more.
“It raises awareness because people hear Meals on Wheels and they think of someone who could use this,” she said. “It really helps get the word out that Meals on Wheels is available.”
There are about 150 volunteers delivering meals to those who are elderly, sick, homebound or just cannot make it to the store on a regular basis throughout the community. Residents can receive two meals a day, a lunch and light dinner, that are full of nutritious food that can be adjusted to fit any dietary needs.
According to research done on Meals on Wheels programs, Galka said, those who receive these meals are much healthier thanks to a more nutritious diet and are able to stay in their own homes for much longer.
Plus, the daily door knockings and interactions with Meals on Wheels volunteers are great opportunities to make friends and check up on the residents. If for some reason a Meals on Wheels recipient does not answer their door, then the volunteer will make a call to the VNA to check up on that resident. And, many volunteers have befriended recipients and spend time with them each day.
There are a wide variety of volunteers who either join as a group with work or clubs or individually, Galka said.
And, the VNA are always looking for more volunteers!