Local Nonprofit Provides Meals and Youth Programming
When Andy Danforth went to Kosovo last year on a mission trip, he didn’t realize how much the experience would affect the next year of his life. The trip involved running sports camps for Muslim children in an underserved area.
Danforth enjoyed the sports camps he ran there, and was impressed by how much the kids loved and needed the leadership and interactions. Upon his return home, he got to work on implementing the ideas behind his sports camp right here in Hendricks County.
That’s when Gift Kindness was born.
Gift Kindness is a local nonprofit that provides humanitarian relief in Hendricks County, and sometimes beyond. Danforth registered Gift Kindness as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in August, and the entity has taken on several forms throughout the past year.
The original idea was based on sports and physical movement, giving kids something to do besides video games to develop leadership skills and teamwork.
“If we could teach Christ’s principles to kids with a different language in a Muslim country, then I figured we could do that here,” Danforth says.
Danforth was planning to build a gym when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and derailed his plans. Still eager to help the community, he shifted gears to provide food relief.
“We paused sports and focused on food,” Danforth says. “Gift Kindness was born right in the middle of all of that.”
Danforth was surprised by the amount of need in Hendricks County, and arranged for food to be donated and delivered using his company’s vehicles.
Over time, it became clear that the two main components of Gift Kindness would be food relief and youth sports, with a dash of humanitarian aid thrown in.
“We do have a minor disaster relief segment,” Danforth says. “We did recently go down to Ragley, Louisiana, to help with hurricane relief.”
He and other volunteers were able to pack a truck and an 18-foot trailer with water and other nonperishables for delivery to those in need.
“That place is destroyed,” Danforth says of Ragley. “Nobody is talking about it. The news cycles lost interest.”
Gift Kindness volunteers deliver food to local residents on Fridays and Saturdays. Any given volunteer spends approximately one hour dropping off food for three to six families. The organization’s goal is to hit 50,000 meals served locally. They serve 50 to 75 families per week right now, delivering enough food to make 10 meals per week to each family.
“We don’t ask questions,” Danforth says. “There are lots of people on the fringe without cars, or not wanting to show up at a pantry. There’s a lot of guilt and shame around that. All we ask is what we can be praying for them about. We aren’t walking up to their houses with Bibles.”
While food is a constant focus, Danforth is still ramping up the sports side of his nonprofit. COVID-19 forced him to shift gears, but he has plans to utilize a gymnasium on the campus of Camp Camby, which provides addiction services, training for job skills, and support for homeless residents of Hendricks County.
Danforth says Gift Kindness is not solely his, and does not operate without an outpouring of love and support from the community. Eric Prichard is the driving force of the food initiative. Amanda Hauskins is vice president and volunteer organizer.
Much of the work would not happen without Ryan Chapman, who runs Active Grace out of Camp Camby, and Randy Ebert, who owns Camp Camby. Ebert is passionate about empowering the missions of others for the benefit of the county. The gym is already being remodeled to include a full basketball court designed for diverse uses such as pickleball, tennis or volleyball, as well as a weight room and a full commercial kitchen.
The approach to sports used by the Gift Kindness team will be based on Athletes in Action, a sports ministry focused on teaching values and leadership through athletics. He plans to enforce a C.L.A.S.S. basketball training program. The concept is to communicate, love, acknowledge, sacrifice and serve teammates. Danforth’s friend and employee John Francis helped develop and will coach the C.L.A.S.S. basketball system.
“Developing these kids as leaders and functional people in society is more important than anything,” Danforth says.
He would love to have kids come from suburban areas to play with kids from inner-city areas, fostering relationships and lifting each other up.
As Danforth plans to conduct more sports camps and programs, he is committed to keeping the dinner table important and keeping Sundays sacred. As a kid growing up, he was heavily involved in sports, which meant he was never at the dinner table. He firmly believes that the dinner table is one of the best places for families to connect, and that Sundays should remain a day to rest and unwind.
The Gift Kindness pilot basketball program ran in October, and Danforth plans to start a basketball team for ages nine and under. A subsequent phase will include indoor pickleball. There will be Saturday classes for kids ages five to 10, and additional sports classes depending on the types of volunteers Danforth is able to find. The goal is to reduce video game time for kids and increase physical activity.
“We could really use any type of help,” Danforth says. “We’ll need people to organize and run classes, and we’ll need coaches.”
Volunteers can deliver meals, participate in a monthly workday at the gym, or create other ways to help. Danforth’s niece enjoys baking, and bakes items for each week’s deliveries.
“There are so many people we can reach if we all help,” Danforth says. “There are so many people who want to do good. Our mission statement is ‘Love thy neighbor’ like it says in Matthew. It’s that easy. That’s what we’re doing.”
For more info, visit giftkindness.org.