A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Denise Carpenter

By: Sam Malkowski Last Updated: July 22, 2015

DeniseCarpenterDenise Carpenter’s attitude is one of humor. Between a career at NorthShore Health Centers and the personal obstacles life has thrown at her, each day is demanding. She uses a sense of comedy and a responsibility to do good inherited from her parents to improve not just her own outlook, but the futures of those around her.

Denise’s parents always taught her that the “world is bigger than this.” Everyone needs a purpose and Denise has finally found hers. She began working for NorthShore a few months ago and can only describe her job as “Awesome”

“I honestly get to go to work every day and know it is making a difference. And I work with people who want to make a difference. When you work for someone whose only goal is to see wellness for everyone, there is nothing bad you can say about that,” she said.

As the Lead Community Outreach Coordinator, Denise is able to connect nonprofit organizations with others that can help them. She is a catalyst, making events happen in the community.

The biggest thing NorthShore has going on right now is the World’s Longest Health Fair. From July 13th to August 31st any school aged child can walk into one of 6 medical clinics and get immunizations and a physical for no more than $25. Participants will also be given a backpack full of school supplies.

Denise is able, through her job at NorthShore, to work with many of the coalitions in the area.

“They all fill a different niche in the community,” she explained.

Mental Health of America holds a monthly dinner to break down the social stigma surrounding mental health. Step Ahead is a coalition of nonprofits which meets monthly to discuss what's going on in the community to better it. The Porter County Wellness Coalition, which includes these charities as well as the YMCA, HealthLinc, and more, hosts wellness fairs to be sure citizens are aware of their options.

Not many people know how to get the health care they need. NorthShore and its affiliates are about “Getting healthy to stay healthy.” They want to show “how much easier preventative medicine is versus when you are already sick.”

Denise also works with the Portage Chamber of Commerce in her free time. She grew up in Portage and is proud of the changes her city is going through. It is a blend of wildlife but with a homey feel, even with the city vibe.

“They’ve really built it into a place where you can live there, play there, eat there. You really have a lot of options,” she said.

Helping people is a calling Denise discovered at her previous job at Harbor Buick GMC dealership. They put her in charge of the events and charities involved with the dealership. They did things like host benefits to raise money for Alzheimer's research, and even assisted in fundraising endeavors. After working with people and charities for so many years, Denise was hooked. She had discovered her purpose.

The Jim G. Carpenter Foundation was formed by Denise and her sister, Emily, with much appreciated assistance from Concordia University. The nonprofit was created in honor of Denise’s father who battled with stage 4 lung cancer. Her family realized that they did not have a lot of support during her father’s illness, and even less after. Their foundation gives scholarships to people who have dealt with their own, or a loved one's, life altering or terminal illness, and it also supplies patients with things to do in the long hours of chemo administration. They made their foundation into a support system rather than a faceless sponsorship. They even deliver food, home made by Denise’s mother, to grieving families.

Denise started college with the intent to earn a computer programming degree. By the time she graduated she had gained her calling and switched her major. Her personal struggles, her experience at work, and an inspiring couple of college courses at Simpson College in Iowa led her to a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations.

Denise Carpenter speaks of her accomplishments modestly. She is bursting with praise for the people around her and grateful to do the job she does.

“It is so inspiring, to meet people like this,” she said.

Every day she encounters another person with a story about helping someone else.

“I see this need in the community,” she explained.

It is being filled, every day, with her passion, dedication to helping others, and a heavy dose of jokes.