Photo: Nicky Jackson, Bunco Bash Committee Chair
United Way of Porter County’s annual Bunco Bash was held at the Spa Special Events Center on Thursday, April 18th. Proceeds benefit Women United Porter County, a humanitarian initiative that supports women in substance abuse recovery. Kim Olesker, President & CEO of United Way of Porter County, said the event sold out with more than 100 United Way friends, staff, Women United members, businesses, and individuals in attendance.
Women United Porter County officially started programming in September 2018 and now supports over 70 members. The organization’s first initiative was a collaboration with Recovery Connection to create special classes for women in substance abuse recovery. Classes are held every Monday evening and involve financial literacy training, cooking classes, karaoke, knitting, crafting, and more. “These outreach classes help local women in recovery return to normal life activities,” Olesker said. “It’s an opportunity to meet people who are balancing hectic schedules and doing great things with their lives.”
The program has seen volunteerism triple and class attendance expand. Due to this quick success, there are now plans to add a second night. “Women United Porter County’s program and mission are not about dollars. Community collaboration is about giving time and talent,” Olesker said. “It’s your time, talent, and treasure all wrapped into one.”
Kasandra Tenbarge, Director of Development with United Way of Porter County, said the Bunco Bash was more than just a game. The event hosted a silent auction, appetizers, a cash bar, and generous giveaways supported by local businesses. “Through events like this, we’re able to offset some of the costs of providing materials for these classes and very soon will be able to offer additional outreach,” Tenbarge said.
Carrie Higgins, chair of United Way of Porter County's Community Impact Committee and an Assistant Professor of Communications and Creative Arts at Purdue University Northwest, said, “Some women in recovery do not have an existing support system. Women United volunteers strive to provide structure and support to fill this void.” Higgins hopes that the classes boost the success rate of the students' recovery, and that they themselves will teach classes one day. “We want to show recovering women that they are our neighbors and friends,” Higgins said. “We want to assure them that they are no different than us, they aren’t alone, and we care.”
Women United Porter County is proud of the hard work and dedication of its volunteers. Kasandra Tenbarge shared several impact statements made by women who attend Monday night classes:
“Coming to these Monday night classes has taught me new ways to find things I enjoy doing. When I get bored, I have new things to do to keep myself busy and entertained, and I have things to do with my children.”
“The workshops helped me learn life skills, finances, and how to explore my self-worth,” another participant said.
Women United Porter County is moved by the large response from women in the community who want to help, and the group is hopeful the support will provide the motivation and finances to expand the reach of the program. “We have big plans and we can do it,” Higgins said. “We are moving in the best possible direction in a short amount of time.”