Where do we start?
Start local. Community foundations contribute funding, expertise, leadership and resources that have developed communities throughout the state for decades. The 94 community foundations in Indiana represent more than $3 billion in combined assets. You can contact your own local community foundation to see how you can get involved.
Eric Hessel started working with the Hendricks County Community Foundation (HCCF) in 2003 as a youth grant maker and has since worked in both the direct service and funding areas of nonprofits. “The Community Foundation has been part of my life for over 17 years as a volunteer and a staff member. I’m constantly in awe of its ability to unite the community to respond to its needs,” he said.
“At the start of the COVID outbreak, HCCF partnered with Hendricks Power Cooperative, Duke Energy and Visit Hendricks County to provide immediate grants to organizations on the frontlines of our COVID response. Since those early days, the Community Foundation has provided almost $95,000 in grants into the community.”
Join—or create—an advocacy organization. If you see a need, there’s likely an organization you can find that is already working in that space, but you can also start your own. While studying at IU, Sneha Dave founded the Health Advocacy Summit (healthadvocacysummit.org), a nonprofit organization that facilitates advocacy events and yearlong programming for adolescents and young adults with chronic and rare illnesses across the U.S. and abroad.
Dave lived with severe ulcerative colitis since the age of six and was extremely ill for the majority of her childhood. At 14, her large intestine was removed, followed by several other surgeries conducted in an attempt to give her a better quality of life. By her junior year of high school, she was finally able to go back to school full-time.
“Unfortunately, a chronic disease is exactly that –chronic– and while my condition is not as severe as it once was; it has had lasting effects on my childhood and my life as a young adult,” said Dave.
Dave found hope in bringing people together. “At the Health Advocacy Summit, our goal is to build a sustainable movement that will empower the voices of young adults living with chronic conditions and ensure that they are given the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.”
Educate yourself. If you are interested in getting involved or more informed about issues like economic or racial justice, mental health or education, go deeper. Interested in advancing education? Attend school board meetings to deepen your knowledge of the challenges facing schools and to learn where you can plug in to make a difference. Campus and community events can raise awareness, too. The Faith & Action Program at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis sponsors a public event each fall to create awareness of issues relating
We are all equipped and called to come alongside people living in poverty—whether through activities such as advocating for justice, mentoring, volunteering and championing low-income neighbors, according to Lindsey Rabinowitch, Program Director for the Faith & Action Program.
“Those in poverty, especially generational poverty, have often experienced deep trauma,” said Rabinowitch. “Poverty is complex, therefore our approach to breaking the cycle of poverty must take a holistic approach. Investment in relationships and walking with those in their journey out of poverty must be a key ingredient. They need hope and to know that they matter, their life matters.”
Do what you can. Involvement can also be on a more direct level, like getting involved in a school, in your neighborhood or a school serving an underserved community. Faith & Action Grant Recipient Pastor Jeffrey Johnson of Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis encourages individuals not to worry about how small their church or organization might be or what position they might or might not hold, and to instead simply look around and see what they can do. “No act is too small,” he said.
The message: If you can’t build a library, buy a child a book. If you can’t endow a scholarship, help a kid with school supplies. If you can’t house a family, help them with a home repair. “Get in where you fit in,” Johnson said. “Even if you can’t do everything, you can do something. Whatever you can do, do it, knowing that the impact of an act of love and kindness usually exceeds the actual size of the act.”