The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to Northwest Indiana. Nonetheless, United Way of Porter County has met this obstacle head-on by working with over 700 volunteers and aiding nearly 60 community programs to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of residents. That level of support was only possible thanks to the support of their dedicated donors network.
“We have seen tremendous generosity from our community,” said Kasie Tenbarge, Director of Development at United Way of Porter County. “Every year, individuals and organizations have been critical to helping us serve community needs, and this year more so than ever. Without our donors, we could not save residents from homelessness, provide PPE to organizations in need, or mobilize volunteers to get food, supplies, and other basics.”
One of United Way’s main focuses is to help residents with emergency food and shelter needs. Due to the economic hardship that COVID-19 caused, that mission has become even more critical.
“We’ve seen this need double, even triple, in certain areas of the community,” said Kim Olesker, President & CEO for United Way of Porter County. “Basic needs are essential, and for now, they are our primary focus. We’ve taken on additional programs like Backpacks United and the State of Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund to help alleviate some of the need.”
Backpacks United provides children with meals over the weekend. An $8 donation feeds one child for a weekend, while $240 sponsors a child for the whole school year. The Hardest Hit Fund is aimed at housing support. It offers up to $30,000 in financial assistance to residents struggling to pay their mortgage.
“United Way has always been at the forefront of helping neighbors in need during times of crisis,” Tenbarge said. “Our strength is in our ability to identify needs and flexibility to find ways to solve the need.”
United Way’s Pacesetter organizations –1st Source Bank, CSI, Horizon Bank, Meijer, NIPSCO, and SENSIT Technologies – went the extra mile with their support and donations this year, enabling United Way to meet the community’s needs during a time of crisis.
“These organizations stepped up early in big ways to support our COVID-19 response,” Olesker said. “Without their generous support, we could not have offset some of the immediate impacts the community was feeling. Without their continued support and that of many others, many residents would have gone without during these tough times.”
Matt Vessely, Regional President at 1st Source Bank, noted that United Way’s handling of the pandemic demonstrated why they are such a valuable institution in the Region.
“United Way of Porter County is at the forefront of helping those impacted by the pandemic,” he said. “They are closely serving those folks, and it is that close tie to the urgent needs this pandemic has presented that made it clear to us that United Way is an important organization to continue to support.”
Mark Ritzi, V.P. and Market President of Porter County for Horizon Bank, shared a similar sentiment.
“Supporting the United Way is a great way to give back to our community,” he said. “They have a niche with different community needs and can quickly reach those most in need. The COVID-19 issue is one for the history books, and I know that Horizon Bank and its Advisors, along with United Way, rose to the challenge and are continuing to support and volunteer their help.”
COVID-19 is not over, and United Way of Porter County’s fight to ensure residents have their basic needs met continues. This year, thanks to generous grant opportunities, any new donors who give $100 or more will have their contribution matched one-to-one, and existing donors who have given gifts in the past have a variety of other ways to match their donations.
Every donor makes a difference and helps improve the life of one of their neighbors who is struggling in the face of the pandemic.
“There was so much to be done in the early months, and there is still so much to do as many residents still battle COVID-19’s negative impact,” Olesker said. “Our network continues to work hard to help meet their needs. Join us to help your neighbors beat unbearable challenges – financial peril, homelessness, hunger, drug addiction, disability, and more.”