Good Samaritan Network Provides Help Around the Holidays
Each year the Good Samaritan Network of Hamilton County (GSN) strives to ensure that the holiday season is a joyful one for families struggling financially. The staff at the 501(c)(3) organization conducts an annual Holiday Assistance Program for those who qualify. Led by Founder and Executive Director Nancy Chance, GSN also works to coordinate the efforts of multiple local groups and agencies that aid the underserved.
The group was officially organized in 1995, but its activity began in 1980. Chance was well known in Hamilton County due to her work with abused children and her resourcefulness at securing donations for needy families, especially during the holiday season. At the time, she also served as a trainer speaking on the subject of child abuse for various county organizations.
“Firemen from Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville asked if I would put together a centralized database of all the people served by them and other Hamilton County entities,” Chance says. “Nothing like that existed and I was glad to say yes. It has helped with consistency, and cut down on double and even triple dipping, so there are enough resources for everyone who needs help. GSN is a data depository and sort of a best-kept secret. We started off with 390 families. In 2019 we ended up with about 40,000. We are an umbrella that tracks activities of over 268 agencies, 47 pantries, 280 churches, 69 schools and nine township trustees.”
Besides the organization’s signature holiday programs conducted at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, other types of assistance are provided throughout the year. GSN addresses the need for food, utility payments, shelter and medical assistance. The group also coordinates in-kind donations, plus education along with its many partners.
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Inc. reports that Hamilton County has a 5% poverty rate.
“This will be my 40th year organizing a Christmas assistance program,” Chance says. “There are families out there that are just getting by. The need will be even greater this year because of COVID. People were already struggling and working two or three jobs. Then people who worked in places like barber shops or restaurants were laid off for months. They can barely pay their bills, so they don’t have money for Christmas expenses.”
This year’s Good Samaritan Network Christmas distribution will be held December 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Llama Barn at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville. To participate, an application must be pre-submitted and approved. GSN leaders prefer that applications be accessed and submitted on the organization’s website, but individuals can call the office as well.
New this year is a pre-event called Holiday Share Days. On Thursday, December 10 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, December 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., gently used clothing, toys, baby items and household goods will be available at the same location as the Christmas distribution. Inventory will be restocked for the second day, but visitors can only choose one day to attend.
“We started collecting things for this year’s Holiday Assistance last January,” Chance says. “Donations are kept in various storage facilities. We still need new clothes, socks, underwear and toys for children five-years to teens. We also need volunteers to receive donations. Many people are needed December 8 through the 11 to sort through stuff at the Llama Barn.”
During this time of COVID-19, GSN has a no-contact donation process. Donations will not be received in the office or lobby area. Instead, on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., individuals can drive directly to the back of the building and proceed to the warehouse garage door. Donors should remain in their car with a mask on. Honk if the garage door is closed, or call 317-842-2603, extension 200.
Volunteers can sign up via the organization’s website by clicking on the iVolunteer link. Face masks, social distancing practices and temperature checks are required. Individuals 16 years and younger are welcome to volunteer, but must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers must agree to participate at their own risk, and not to hold GSN liable if COVID-19 is contracted.
Good Samaritan Network leaders pride themselves on strong connections developed with community partners. Under the GSN umbrella, participating organizations are stronger together than alone. This dedication continues to make Hamilton County a place where all individuals feel supported.