Good Samaritan Network embarks on mission to help more than 18,000 people, families this holiday season
This holiday season one charitable group is embarking on a herculean task: helping more than 18,000 Hamilton County residents and their families in need have a holiday experience.
Good Samaritan Network isn’t new to Hamilton County. Nancy Chance, the group’s executive director, started assisting families with their holiday needs in 1980.
She said in that first year that 397 families were helped during holiday assistance programs.
According to Chance, food pantries have seen increased numbers of middle-class families using their services, which will likely put the number of those participating in Good Samaritan’s programs closer to 20,000.
The organization started ramping up its efforts with the holiday assistance programs this week and plans to distribute baskets, as well as extra items from Gleaners Food Bank, on Nov. 17.
In this month and the next, Good Samaritan will provide families with baskets, free Thanksgiving dinners and a major program in December that Chance said people in Hamilton County will camp out for.
Addressing a need
Troy Halsell of the Noblesville Housing Authority knows how staggering the number of people Good Samaritan helps is and emphasizes the importance of family time.
“…Having meals together is a key component,” he said. “Good Samaritan is there to help them with that.”
The Noblesville Housing Authority distributes applications to its clients for the assistance programs, which is how the network tracks and registers the families.
Halsell could not give an estimation of how many people the Noblesville Housing Authority refers to Good Samaritan, but he said it happens on a weekly frequency.
The folks at Fishers Freedom Festival contribute to and work with Good Samaritan on different programs.
Food collected at drives at Oktoberfest and Christmas in October was donated to the network.
“I don’t know how she (Chance) can work her full time job at the hospital and do all she does for the county,” said Jennifer Kehl, executive director of Fishers Freedom Festival.
Kehl said she encourages those who cannot donate items or money to donate their time to Good Samaritan.
Chance said the whole family is welcome to volunteer with Good Samaritan, even the young ones.
Logistics and needs
Of the families that sign up with Good Samaritan, Chance said not one will be turned away.
“Logistics is huge,” she said. “You have no idea.”
In the past, the Thanksgiving dinner events cost the nonprofit between $10,000 and $12,000. Because the event is expanding to Sheridan Elementary School, Chance believes the bill is going to look like $16,000.
That’s just Thanksgiving dinner, which is also delivered by sponsor families to those who can’t get out of the house.
Chance sees the “gut-wrenching” reality of what some families go through in Hamilton County on Dec. 8.
She said families camp out the night before to ensure that they won’t miss out on one of the only opportunities they have to give their kids a Christmas. Those who were referred to the program receive food, clothes and toys at the 4-H Grounds.
Chance said the phenomenon caught on in the past four or five years, pointing to the ailing economy. She even tries convincing campers, huddled under blankets or with portable heaters, to go home.
“They’re afraid they’re going to miss the only opportunity they have to give Christmas to their kids,” she said, “and it’s real. I mean, you can see it on their faces.”
Good Samaritan will continue helping people through Dec. 24, and sometimes even on Christmas day.
Chance said no one gets turned away.
To pull it off, 3,000 volunteers will have donated their time by the end of the year, with 2,000 working on Christmas distribution alone. There’s some overlap between the numbers, Chance admits, but she said that’s how many physical bodies are needed to make it happen.
“If it wasn’t for the good people in the community and donors, we wouldn’t be able to make it happen,” Chance said. “We struggle every day to meet the needs.”
Visit gsnlive.org to sign up to volunteer or make donations.
What Good Samaritan needs this holiday season:
-New clothes for older kids (up to age 15)
-Traditional kids’ toys
Nov. 17: Thanksgiving Basket handouts at the 4-H Grounds
Nov. 22: Thanksgiving Dinner deliveries by sponsor families
Thanksgiving Dinner at White River Christian Church (1685 N. 10th St., Noblesville) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thanksgiving Dinner in collaboration with Sheridan Ministerial Association at Sheridan Elementary School (24975 Hinesley Rd., Sheridan) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dec. 6: Volunteers do donation pick-ups and more at 4H fairgrounds from 6 to 10 p.m.
Dec. 7: Volunteers do donation pick-ups and more at 4H fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dec. 8: Christmas assistance at 4-H Grounds