By Sam Elliott
It’s a holiday tradition now in its 35th year and a partnership dedicated to providing food to Hamilton Co. families in need this time of year.
On two Saturdays this season at the Hamilton Co. 4H Fairgrounds —Nov. 14 and Dec. 5 to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively — volunteers from the Carmel Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 185 and their families spent the mornings packaging a combined total of 1,000 boxes filled with plenty of food for a good holiday meal.
Along with community partners NextGear Capital and Kroger, the Carmel FOP had a goal of raising $40,000 to supply enough food baskets to help feed 1,000 local families.
“It’s surprising how many families in Hamilton County need this. They’re working families. They’re not on government assistance, and they just can’t make ends meat at the holidays,” Carmel FOP President Shane VanNatter said. “If they’re going to buy toys for their kids for Christmas, they’re not going to have food money. This box of food we provide is enough for a nice holiday meal, plus there’s enough extra stuff to last about a month with the flour and sugar and cereal. There’s a lot of stuff in the box.
“We’ve got fruits, vegetables, potatoes, stuffing, ham or turkey, butter, essential staple items to get a family through this time of year, even some Kool-Aid,” he added.
Upwards of 100 volunteers were on hand to fill a 35-foot moving truck to the brim with boxes of food on each packaging day. From there, the Good Samaritan Network of Hamilton Co. takes the boxes for distribution to area families in need.
“We’ve been partnered with Good Samaritan Network, and they just ensure there’s no duplication and that the people who get the food are qualified and are in need,” VanNatter said.
Nancy Chance, founder and executive director of the Good Samaritan Network, praised the Carmel FOP — along with all the other community police, fire and service departments who help the organization’s cause — for their help in packaging the food boxes.
“They’ve been a huge mainstay for me for years. We’re in our 35th year with the Carmel FOP,” Chance said. “They’re so very valuable. Without them, we couldn’t do the holidays.”
VanNatter said the food packaging drive with the Good Samaritan Network is one of the most important things the Carmel FOP does each year.
“We don’t want our only contact with the community to be when we show up at somebody’s house on a complaint or a traffic stop or some tragedy. It seems like police are always showing up at the worst time, so we want to be there at the best times too,” he said. “This is just a way for us to have a positive contact with the public and help our community in another way than what we usually do. We’re used to going out and saving lives and that kind of stuff, but now we can offer a different type of assistance.”
Every dollar donated to the Carmel FOP goes directly to the group’s charitable causes. The group doesn’t use any paid solicitors and donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
The organization raises money through a mailing campaign seeking donations from businesses and individuals.
“We have some individuals who are very generous. We have one guy every year who gives about $5,000,” VanNatter said, adding that additional money raised is used for helping families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty, scholarships and other causes.
For more, visit CarmelFOP.com.
Among the long list of other programs sponsored by the Carmel FOP include:
• D.A.R.E. of Indiana
• American Cancer Society Relay for Life
• Prevail of Hamilton Co.
• Chaucie’s Place
• Special Olympics of Indiana
• Tatum’s Bags of Fun
• The Carmel Heroes Club
• Trinity Clinic Car Seat Program
• Komen Walk for the Cure