I've known Lynn Reed for quite some time now (probably around fifteen years to be precise), but when I met her at her cozy South Haven home, I was greeted not only by her incredibly friendly dog, Ned. Once she got him calmed down and I gave him some solid ear-scratching, we settled down to talking. I am pleased to say, that I learned a thing or two about her.
How did she get here, you ask yourself? Well, she started off going through the Portage School system – where she participated in choir, band (she was a flautist), and played volleyball and basketball, until a knee injury sidelined her. Then, Lynn graduated from Indiana University in Gary with a degree in Social Studies Education in the early eighties. However, lack of available jobs, a laid-off husband, and children to support led her to her position at City Hall.
Currently, Lynn is working her twenty-eighth year at Portage City Hall under Clerk Treasurer Christopher Stidham. She started there as the Payroll Clerk in the mid-eighties and has worked her way up to where she now is and has been since about 1996, which is Deputy Clerk Treasurer. That means she is in charge of all the record keeping, book keeping, and accounting outside of payroll.
Reed had two children; Andy, who is thirty-four, and will be getting married very soon – she gleefully showed off pictures from this past weekend's shower festivities. She also had a daughter, Rachel, whose legacy Lynn has helped carry on. In 2008, just before she was set to return to the University of Southern Indiana where she was studying Special Education, Rachel took a trip to Florida to visit friends. While there, Rachel and her boyfriend were walking along the ocean's shore during Tropical Storm Faye, and she was pulled under the riptide and drowned.
Rachel was a supporter of Breast Cancer fundraising because of the loss and struggle she had seen due to it and other cancers around her growing up. When she was eighteen, she even got a tattoo with that same theme that said "hope". Rachel was also very active in softball, basketball, and volunteering in classrooms – specifically special needs – in the local school district.
When Rachel passed, the community rallied and raised money for both Lynn and costs for arrangements and funeral expenses. The amount given was generous, and Lynn was humbly and gratefully embarrassed to say exactly how much; with the remainder, she set up a scholarship at Portage High School. This scholarship is meant for students planning to major in Education, but specifically Special Education, which is what Rachel was planning on going into.
When Rachel's friend, Nick Wellman – a teacher at Willowcreek Middle School,- saw the design for Rachel's tattoo, he mentioned to Lynn that it would be a great design for a shirt and could be printed and sold to help raise money to keep Rachel's scholarship going strong.
"He was right," Lynn states, "We've sold ...tons and tons."
Most items have been sold either via Lynn's office coworkers, friends of Rachel, or fundraisers at one of Rachel's former schools.
To date, six scholarships have been given out and there is enough put away for six more. There is a committee made up of Lynn and Rachel's father, friends, and teachers that chooses the recipient; application process is "the standard application" and an essay asking about what they've done, what the need is, and what they plan to do. Lynn says she always reads the essay first. If she's impressed, then she'll look at the rest of the application.
"...everyone reads the essays and makes their own judgments on who they think should be awarded the money; who represents Rachel; who emulates Rachel the most."
Over the years, Lynn has led the choir at her church, which she did for eighteen years, only putting it aside to be there for Rachel's travel ball schedule. She also helped Chris Hurd run the City of Portage's Relay for Life team, both in prep and support during the event. In later years helping there, she also sold Rachel's Hope t-shirts and sweatshirts.
Lynn's support of the local community and schools this way is a wonderful way to not only keep her daughter's memory alive and vivid, but also help others in her Rachel's name. This makes Lynn Reed important to the community and a Portage Life in the Spotlight.