The holidays are traditionally thought of as a magical season when all is merry and bright, but for those who struggle to make ends meet, it is often a stressful time. Good Samaritan Network (GSN), a 501(c)(3) organization located in Fishers, coordinates with Hamilton County agencies and organizations to make sure families in need receive a helping hand. Since 1980, the annual Holiday Assistance program has provided toys, food and clothing to those who qualify. Beyond the holidays, GSN works with its partners to support many programs such as utility and rent payment aid, as well as access to free medical care and food pantries.
GSN began more than 40 years ago when Founder Nancy Chance was approached by firemen who organized charity drives around Hamilton County. They felt a central database was needed, so services weren’t duplicated and resources could reach as many people as possible. Today, GSN is the umbrella organization that tracks the activities of close to 300 entities including three free health clinics, four baby pantries, nine township trustees, six chambers of commerce, as well as almost 50 food pantries, area school systems, community meal programs and about 300 churches.
“Our database is the reason getting assistance to people runs so smoothly in Hamilton County,” Chance says. “Data isn’t duplicated over and over. We are working together and not against each other. We get referrals from the township trustees, Fraternal Order of Police, churches and private sponsors. Clients receive a packet which they must send back or email us. There is a whole lot of entry to make sure all the data is correct such as income statements, Social Security cards, IDs and number of people in the family. The amount of assistance is given according to the scale the state gives us. That’s why the data entry must be so exact.”
GSN is best known for its Holiday Assistance program. In November and December clients receive meals, food and clothing in a variety of ways. Clients receive food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas plus meals for both holidays. On Holiday Share days, gently used clothing, toys, baby items and household goods are offered to participants who have an approved application. An application link can be found on the GSN website, and applications can be submitted online or printed and mailed. Clients should choose one of these methods to avoid confusion. Families will be notified through text, phone or email during the week of the specific event they qualify for.
“We have something for anyone who wants to volunteer,” Chance says. “Our oldest volunteer has been 100 years old, and we have had people come with a baby on their back. There are sit-down jobs for those who have trouble walking or standing. All someone needs to volunteer is two hands and a want to help. Training is on the ground. It’s not that big of a deal. A lot of our volunteers have been with us for years. There are slots to sign up on the website through iVolunteer.”
Another way to help is to donate either monetarily or through in-kind gifts. Financial donations can be made on the website or mailed. Donations of nonperishable food, toys, school supplies and baby items, among other products, are accepted all year. A complete list of suggestions is available on the website.
“This year the number of families who need the Energy Assistance Program is very serious,” Chance says. “Our year starts November 1, and by the first week we were already almost to the halfway mark of the 700 registrants we served last year. We are especially concerned about seniors and the at-risk community – families where parents work more than one job and still can’t make ends meet.”
“The good news is that we are a team,” she adds. “From the nine township trustees to all our partner agencies and organizations, we all work together.”
Good Samaritan Network is located at 12933 Parkside Drive in Fishers. Fore more info, call 317-842-2603 or visit gsnlive.org.
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