Nappanee not short on acts of kindness

NAPPANEE — Reading the headlines today may make one think that there are few things to be proud of their fellow man for — but not in Nappanee. Consideration is the norm and random acts of kindness are seen often, even when the person doing the kindness doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
Karen Sherer Stoltzfus, executive director of the
Family Christian Development Center says she sees actions that not only make a difference, but that ironically come when they are most needed.
“It happens more often than you’d think,” she explained of unexpected donations, “but it always amazes us. You might have someone come in and you’re not sure at first why they are here, or what kind of service they might need ... and then next thing you know they plop down 10, $100 bills and just walk away!”
And that’s exactly what happened this May after FCDC office manager and volunteer coordinator Idella Chupp asked a woman if she could help her. The woman explained that she had just watched a televised report on area food pantries and that “it had been awhile” since she gave to her local pantry. But rumor has it, the same anonymous woman (just as unexpectedly) did the same thing — walked in and out, giving the same amount last year and offering no name and taking no receipt.
The woman, referred to as “the mysterious angel donor,” isn’t alone. Last January someone walked in and gave food pantry manager Ken Woodcox a set of diamond rings that were later found to be valued at more than $5,000. In May, that return donor also brought in more jewelry and a trumpet made for the 1962 movie “The Music Man.”
“That person that donated the rings brought us the trumpet and a handful of diamond, ruby and sapphire rings which later were auctioned off at our fundraiser for about $400 to $450,” said Sherer Stoltzfus. “The trumpet was made in Elkhart and we’re trying to have it appraised. We’d like to keep it in the area.”
Most recently, a farmer approached Woodcox and asked what the organization’s needs were. After learning that the eaves of the building (at 151 S. Locke St.) were falling apart, the man returned with a $2,000 donation (that, which another $500 to pay for the labor of the repair and the use of a cherry picker would get the job done). Also a return and anonymous donor, this same generous man paid for the waterproofing of the FCDC basement storage area last year which had long been a problem with flooding and dampness in the pantry.
“There are always little things to be done,” Sherer Stoltzfus explained. “We are a small enough agency that we don’t get a lot of bequests and still being relatively young, with only 16 years in the community, it’s really nice when we do get a memorial.”
As well as personal and business donations, the resources that can be found at the FCDC are funded through fundraisers, and assistance through grants from the Elkhart County Community Foundation, and the United Way.
“That helps us with the medication assistance program,” Sherer Stoltzfus said. “We serve several hundred every year, saving people about $500,000 on their medications — which is very helpful because a lot of people don’t have insurance.”
The FCDC serves those with other needs as well including offering a program similar to the BABE program where parents can get coupons for attending appointments and meetings designed to help them learn better budgeting, parenting and job skills. The coupons can then be used to purchase much-needed items like crib mattresses, clothing or diapers. The food bank is open two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch) and no matter the weather, often it has people lined up waiting for it to open.
The FCDC offers babies free check ups (181 babies Wa-Nee last year alone) and 521 children got their vaccinations at FCDC in 2011 — free of charge.
Sometimes those that have received assistance from the FCDC return the favor when they are back on their feet by donating money, food, items to use or auction, or simply by donating their time as volunteers.
“We had someone at our fundraiser Saturday that had received a variety of services last year and was doing better,” Sherer Stoltzfus said, “and they wanted to buy a ticket for the event (which cost $60) and bid on some auction items.”
She said whether it is a background of faith, a returned favor or a simple random kindness, individuals in the community are often as generous giving to the FCDC as it also is giving to the community.
“It’s interesting too how sometimes we’ll get exactly what we need before we’ve even asked for it,” Sherer Stoltzfus explained. “You just never know what kind of help will walk through the door.”
To learn more (or to donate recurring much-needed items like macaroni and cheese and cereal), call 574-773-2149.