Giving Back: Duke Energy employees volunteer time assembling food boxes for Good Samaritan Network

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Fifteen Duke Energy employees who work in Hamilton County recently stepped up to help a local nonprofit that provides food and other services to individuals in need.

The employees, who work for Duke Energy in Carmel and Noblesville, volunteered their time Nov. 15 to assemble 500 boxes of food for Good Samaritan Network inside the llama barn at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. The Fishers-based nonprofit works with 268 agencies, 280 churches, 43 food pantries, 69 schools and five hospitals to serve Hamilton County residents, according to its website.

Mark LaBarr, government and community relations manager at Duke Energy, was among the 15 employees who came together to help Good Samaritan, which also received a $50,000 check from the Duke Energy Foundation. LaBarr said the foundation invests more than $2 million in Indiana communities that it serves, noting that the investment involves doing volunteer work for organizations like Good Samaritan Network.

“We’re here to get together to support folks who need assistance,” LaBarr said.

Besides the $50,000 check from the Duke Energy Foundation, Good Samaritan also contributed $25,000. LaBarr said with high inflation and supply-chain shortages affecting the food supply, the funding will be helpful with the holidays approaching.

“During the holidays, we want to make sure those needy folks in Hamilton County have food for their family,” LaBarr said.

Fellow Duke Energy employee Dwight Watkins was also among those contributing their time and said he particularly enjoys being able to give back, especially this time of year.

“I like to make sure everyone’s got a meal on their table,” Watkins said. “Duke Energy, they give me the opportunity to volunteer several times a year and it makes me feel good trying to give back.”

Watkins said it was especially important for him to volunteer his time since organizations like Good Samaritan Network don’t have a lot of money to hire people to do the type of work that Duke Energy employees were doing.

Watkins, who works in Duke Energy’s Carmel office, has been with the company for 43 years and encourages others to give back whenever possible.

“If you can spare some time, I think it’s good to volunteer,” he said. “If everybody could give back a little bit of their time, it could help out a lot of people.”

Nancy Chance, founder and executive director of Good Samaritan Network, appreciates Duke Energy’s efforts, saying that volunteers like Duke Energy “are the lifeblood of our organization.”

Chance said Good Samaritan Network has seen an overwhelming demand for services this year, including almost 400 Energy Assistance Program applications for Hamilton County. That number so far represents about half the total number of applications Good Samaritan Network saw in comparison to the 790 families it served from Nov. 1 to April 15 a year ago, Chance said.

“That’s unprecedented, it’s huge,” Chance said.

Besides energy assistance, Chance said her organization is also seeing an increased demand for food assistance and clothing across Hamilton County. Good Samaritan has also provided rent assistance through its grant programs as well, she added.

“All of our (food) pantries and agencies are getting a lot of requests for resources,” she said. “It’s been tough all the way around.”

Chance said although there has been a considerable need for the last three years, she stressed that this year has been worse compared to 2020 and 2021 because of a lack of grant money available to cover certain programs such as rent and utilities other than the Energy Assistance Program. However, she has tried to stretch her agency’s dollars as much as possible, she said.

“There’s been a lot more need (for services) than what there was, and I think it’s because gas prices are higher and everything you buy is higher,” Chance said.

An interior view of the llama barn at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds, where 15 Duke Energy employees from Hamilton County helped pack food boxes Nov. 15 for Good Samaritan Network, a nonprofit organization that provides food and other services to people in need. (Photo by Matthew Kent)

Want to help Good Samaritan Network?

Good Samaritan Network, which was formally organized in March 1995, is looking for volunteers. Good Samaritan Network is the umbrella organization, or the hub, that coordinates and develops various efforts and opportunities for clients with consistent programming and services.

To volunteer as an individual or a group, visit gsnlive.org/ivolunteer for more information.

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