Lori Lee Makes Community Service Her Full-Time Job
Lori Lee’s earliest memories of community service are with her father, who was involved in every community club in her hometown of Logansport. He would take Lee and her sister along with him, and they’d watch and help as he built, gave, and worked to improve the town he lived in.
Lee is a woman of many talents and gifts, not the least of which is a passion to share those gifts with her community. She was a medical assistant for Hendricks Regional Health for 27 years, and has been retired for two years. Now that her three kids are grown, she fills her time with as much community service as possible. Giving is just as much a part of who she is as her welcoming smile and her bubbly energy.
Adopted from South Korea as an infant, Lee grew up in Logansport and was as involved and devoted to school then as she is now in Hendricks County. A member of her high school band, choir, speech team, debate team and school musicals, she was a busy student who carried her musical talents into adulthood.
A lesser-known fact about Lee is that she would have tried out for “American Idol” not long ago if she had been allowed. Unfortunately, the show requires participants to be under 28 years old to audition.
“I make my husband Rick watch it with me,” Lee says. “I sing throughout the whole thing.”
Lee always wanted to work in the medical field. She grew up working at a local hospital as a nursing aide, and the medical assistant role was a natural fit. She raised three kids in Avon, and as they became older and more independent, Lee looked for ways to continue giving back.
She started her extensive community service resume by joining the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce in 2013.
“My kids were raised, and I wanted to be out in the community,” Lee says. “I wanted to meet people and serve others.”
She joined the Chamber board of directors, and currently serves on the executive board. While the Chamber has undertaken many projects and programs for the community, one highlight for Lee has been the Welcome Bags program, which was her idea.
The program, as she describes it, is like the Welcome Wagon business concept reinvented. She partners with Alex Hershey, pastor at The Branches Community Church in Plainfield, to put together gift bags to welcome new members of the Plainfield community, and they’ve done it now for five years. The bags include promotional pamphlets, samples, and coupons to restaurants and other businesses, to help folks get acclimated to the community.
“We take these bags to anyone who builds a new home or moves into a home or apartment,” Lee says. “It’s a way to welcome them to Plainfield.”
Lee has helped with the Quaker Day Parade as a co-chairman for the past three years, serving with Rick Shaw and Kevin Ponto. The parade has been one of the most beloved and anticipated events of the year in Plainfield since 1974.
Lee is also very active in the Plainfield Kiwanis, a club that focuses on community outreach and has grown from seven to more than sixty members since Lee became involved three years ago. She has served as the club president for the past two years.
The Plainfield International Festival, which was held for the first time last year, was also Lee’s idea. Her method of getting it off the ground was simple.
“I went to the International Festival in Indianapolis, and I thought Hendricks County should do one,” she says. “I went before the Town Council, got a group of volunteers, and we did it. We had over 1,700 people come.”
The festival features food, dance performances, products and booths representing a number of countries.
Lee’s involvement with both the Hendricks County Community Foundation and the Plainfield library keeps her busy, and she usually maxes out at five meetings per week between all of her various commitments.
Rick is her biggest fan and supporter. He accompanies her at many meetings and has made many friends thanks to his wife.
The recent coronavirus-related quarantine and business shutdowns have given Lee some time to focus on another big project she started just before the quarantine – her own business.
Lee started LJ Philanthropy as a way to use her endless community connections to connect donors to those in need. Her biggest goal is giving back to the community wherever needed.
“I started it two years ago as a way to connect people to businesses in a lot of different ways,” Lee says. “I’ve helped people find jobs. I’ve helped them find nonprofits to volunteer for. Now I’m branching out into helping people find places to do charitable giving. I do that in conjunction with the Hendricks County Community Foundation.”
Recently, a former patient Lee worked with was looking for a charity to which he and his wife could donate. The couple never had children and wanted to give their extra money to a charitable cause.
“I meet this guy once a month for lunch,” says Lee, who has stayed in touch with former patients simply out of love and the desire to stay connected.. “He is so sweet. He’s in his mid-80s, and I take him and his wife cookies and bread sometimes. They just wanted to make a difference in their community, and I was happy to make that connection for them.”
Even though Lee has slowed down due to the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns, she most definitely has not stopped. Her commitment to community traditions, as well as her innovative ideas, make her a gem in the Plainfield community.
“My business connections have grown because of the relationships that have been made in the Plainfield area with the police department, the fire department, the Town of Plainfield, the library, and small business owners I network with,” Lee says. “I credit Joe Aldridge, deputy assistant police chief, and Brad DuBois, Chamber director, among other strong leaders who have helped me.”
Lee also humbly credits her father for setting a powerful example in his work, taking her along, and showing her how rewarding community service can be. Lee and her husband have ten grandchildren ranging from one to 16 years old.
“They are all getting going on volunteering in the community too,” Lee says. “My dad would be so proud of me now. He passed away ten years ago. He was always out in the community doing things. I know that’s where I get my love for doing it.”