Hoosier Heroes Highlights (05/05-05/12)

In the spirit of the Month of May, and the iconic winner’s drink of milk, we asked for you to help us to honor and support those most impacted by COVID-19. We’re truly grateful for all that #HoosierHeroes continue to do during this time of uncertainty. We have heard incredibly moving stories from you about your community heroes, and want to take this opportunity to highlight a few of them!

Share your Hoosier Heroes story with us through May 25, 2020. Donations are also being accepted to support dairy being provided to food banks around the state in honor of these heroes.  Now more than ever its important to remember that #WinnersDrinkMilk!

You can nominate your Hoosier Hero or donate on their behalf here.

Medical Personnel

Eric S. – RN at Rehab Hospital of Indiana

I want to nominate my son, Eric. He is a nurse at RHI, Rehab Hospital of Indiana on the west side of Indianapolis. He works a lot of overtime hours taking care of those in need. He was tested positive for the virus. He believed the virus came into the hospital from a patient who tested positive and was transferred in from another hospital to rehab. He was lucky and did exhibit some of the symptoms but was back at work 10 days later. He actually wanted to go back to take care of those in need as soon as possible. He is a very caring individual and treats his patients like family. He cares more about the well being of his patients than himself. 5/12/20 – Here is a photo of Ryan and Eric at my older son’s wedding in 2018. Ryan is on the left and Eric is on the right with his hand in his pocket. I just talked to Eric tonight and they have converted his ward in the hospital to the Covid ward. He is a very brave young man to take care of people with this illness and never complain about what he is doing.

Jason G. RN at IU Health

We wanted to nominate this person going above and beyond to work in another area of the hospital during this pandemic. He has worked at the IU health hospital for over 20 year in some kind of patient care. He works in the Cath lab now, which means he’s on call when a patient is having a heart attack. He works with a great group of individuals who take turns day and night rushing to the hospital to meet up with a patient who is having a heart attack. While this is going on, Jason volunteered to work in his old unit of Critical Care where they take care of patients who are on the ventilator because of the COVID virus. As a group they are helping patients who cannot have families there to be by their side. That means keeping communication going with the families, and being there when they get worse or better.

John & Brittany S. – Firefighter/EMT & Oncology Nurse

I nominate John and Brittany S. are a pair of true Hoosier Hero’s. Long time sweet-hearts, they married in 2014. Brittany is an oncology nurse working on the front lines battling Covid-19. John is a firefighter and EMT in Goshen. They work hard to help others while raising their young family. A boy and a girl. And dogs. St. Joseph and Elkhart counties are very lucky to have this young couple who chose early on to devote themselves to helping others. They could use a break and while they wouldn’t ask for recognition, they deserve it.

Johnna R. – Respiratory Therapist at Eskenazi Health

My mom is a respiratory therapist at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis and has been working on the front line of the pandemic for almost two months now. She has put her own health on the line everyday while working directly with Covid-19 patients in order to ensure the health and safety of others.

Kristen A. – RN at Franciscan Health

Kristen graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from IU School of Nursing in Bloomington. She is an RN with Franciscan Health. Kristen is an amazing young lady. She has compassion and demonstrates love for all. I have always said she is an angel; now I know she is.

Lesley C. – RN & COVID-19 Survivor

Lesley C. contracted COVID virus as a nurse. On Saturday 3/28 my mom began to feel short of breath and went to the hospital. She was admitted due to her O2 saturation being low and chest Xray findings of pneumonia. She had been feeling poorly for a little over a week with low grade fever, mild cough, and as Saturday approached increasing SOB. On Thursday 3/26 she was tested for co-vid via Lily‘s drive thru as she is a healthcare worker (RN). They came back positive on Monday 3/30- she has confirmed covid19. She listened to her body and took herself to the ED. Once admitted she was stable on a low amount of oxygen. Her physician called me and told me he was hoping she’d be home in a couple of days. Then on the afternoon of Sunday 3/29 and into the early evening, she began to worsen. Ultimately, the decision was made to sedate and intubate her. Since Sunday night she has been on a ventilator. I received a call once daily from her physician updating me on her status since visitors are not allowed and she is unable to communicate. She is stable, and as of now, she is doing okay. She is not doing as well as we had hoped, but she is holding steady. We are not out of the woods yet. I was told today that she will need to remain on the ventilator for at least a few more days. Please continue to keep her healthcare team and her safety in your prayers.

Dr. Tara H. – Pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children

Dr. Tara Harris is a Hoosier hero. She’s a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children specializing in combating child physical and sexual abuse. She is also a professor of pediatric medicine at IU School of Medicine and a renown national expert on her specialty. Dr. Harris has been especially busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. While she volunteered to go full-time in the hospital as a general hospitalist or pediatrician, her specialty was unfortunately needed with a rise in child abuse during the pandemic. Dr. Harris saves Hoosier children from further abuse and loss of life on a daily basis. In her few minutes of free time, Dr. Harris owns and runs Every Dog Counts Rescue (www.edcr.org). Seeing EDCR as an outlet for the painful circumstances she sees with children on a daily basis, Dr. Harris raises tens of thousands of dollars every year, as well as inserting her own money, into rescuing only the worst case scenario dogs, saving them from certain euthanasia. Her story needs to be told more. She is nothing short of a hero!

Agriculture Leaders

Melissa F. – Administrative Assistant
Purdue College of Agriculture’s Office of Multicultural Programs

One in eight people in North Central Indiana suffers from food insecurity. With unemployment on the rise throughout the state and country due to COVID-19, those numbers are likely to rise. Melissa Funk, administrative assistant in the Purdue College of Agriculture’s Office of Multicultural Programs, has organized the college’s food drive to support Food Finders Food Bank for the last several years. Food Finders serves 16 Indiana counties, including Tippecanoe County, home of Purdue. This year, instead of gathering food donations, she led a virtual food drive and collected monetary contributions online. She enlisted nine other colleges and units at Purdue to join in the virtual food drive. At the end of the two-week drive, because of Melissa’s leadership, Purdue collected $82,364, which provides 248,761 meals for those in need. Melissa’s hard work, commitment and leadership in helping provide much-needed food to those in need makes her a true Hoosier Hero.

Tejo W. – Indiana Dairy Farmer

Tejo has worked none stop problem solving through this crisis to make sure everyone of the employees at all 5 of the dairy’s he manages keep their jobs and maintain a safe work place.

Western Boone FFA – Student Organization

Western Boone FFA launched a Milk & Meat for Boone County campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic to help feed neighbors and support farmers. Inspired by dairy farmers dumping milk, the FFA officers have raised over $25,000 to purchase milk, beef, and pork to donate to five local food pantries. The student officers, mostly high school sophomores and freshmen, have coordinated the purchase of 800 gallons of milk, 700 pounds of pork, and 700 pounds of beef from Indiana farmers and businesses to be delivered monthly for several months. The Milk & Meat campaign provides protein to the Caring Center, Zionsville Food Pantry, Western Boone Food Pantry, Lebanon Boys & Girls Club, and Love, INC to meet the increasing demand caused by the corona virus. The FFA officers created a social media campaign to raise awareness, called local businesses and families for donations, and made TV/radio/print media appearances. The student-led Meat & Milk for Boone County campaign serves several hundred families living in food insecurity, and helps five food pantries meet client nutritional needs by providing protein.

Food Service Team Members

Lynn S. – School Meals Leader

Why is Lynn a Hoosier Hero? Lynn has been working almost round the clock since March 16th 2020 to coordinate and help move food from all our 19 school buildings to the 6 open meal sites – it is impossible to really understand how Herculean of a task this is – but she makes it look easy and keeps a smile on her face while doing it. She had the option to remain home (while continuing to receive her regular salary) – but there is no way that Lynn could sit by when the community needs to be fed. She has been working in snow and rain and hasn’t missed a day yet. She has coordinated with all of our food vendors, including our wonderful local Dairy – Pleasant View Dairy – to make sure that we have enough product to nourish our community. We lost a dear employee last week and Lynn has remained a rock of strength for not only our staff but those in the community – you can see her wearing the tie-dyed shirt in honor of Sherry. It would be so easy to collapse in on ones self right now and decide it is easier and safer to remain home – but Lynn will continue to work, no matter what the conditions, to ensure our most vulnerable children receive nourishing meals. I wish I was better with words and stories to convey how much Lynn deserves this award.

Natalie T. – GCCS Food Service Director

Natalie T. has been an absolute hero during all of this Covid madness! She has worked many hours and weekends to ensure that our school meal program is still feeding kids! GCCS has fed over 70,000 meals during this time. Without her excellent leadership it wouldn’t have been possible. She is a TRUE SCHOOL LUNCH HERO!

Community/Food Bank Heroes

Antonia S. – Founder & CEO of #ShipHappens

When I think about someone who is a “Hoosier Hero” I think about my wife Antonia Sawyer, Founder & CEO of the organization #ShipHappens. An Indiana based nonprofit organization that specializes in mail based Naloxone (Narcan) medication distribution. Utilizing the social media platform Facebook, the organization draws in lay persons to participate in free online opioid overdose recognition and response utilizing Naloxone, and then ships the medication free of charge to the address provided by the participant. #ShipHappens currently has approximately 100 volunteers at any given time to assist in its efforts. Efforts outside of Naloxone shipping include physical training opportunities, Naloxone kit building events, and since Covid-19 NEW virtual Naloxone trainings. Since its inception in March 2019, Antonia has volunteered her time to run #ShipHappens and ensure over 1,000 lay persons across Indiana have had access to the lifesaving medication. With an astonishing 136 kits reported used to revers an overdose and/or save a life. This has all been accomplished as Antonia has worked full time, pursued her Master degree full time, and raises our three sons; ages 16, 11, and 9. Who she includes in her work as she seeks to instill lifelong lessons of compassion and service. She has also worked with other populations such as those with developmental delay and/or severe mental health issues. Including them in kit assembly and naloxone education; ensuring they are empowered through being prepared for an emergency should one arise, and providing them an opportunity to have direct impact in their community. In response to COVID-19, and understanding that social isolation and social distancing are risk factors for drug overdose, Antonia wanted to be of service to any other harm reduction agencies across Indiana as they adjusted to social distancing and social isolation as required by local governments. Antonia reached out to local health departments to offer Naloxone access, as well as Indiana based syringe service programs and other outreach initiatives to ensure they knew she was there to help. All while supporting communities as they grappled with the new policies in place within their local law enforcement agencies requiring a suspension in administration of the medication due to COVID-19 related fears. Antonia has been proactive in educating and equipping Hoosiers with the lifesaving medication they need to save their loved ones life. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Antonia has appeared on social media, new broadcast, and virtual recovery groups advocating for the training in opioid overdose and response utilizing naloxone, resulting in an additional 133 laypersons being trained since the pandemic began. She is an individual who believes in providing zero barrier programs to the highest risk populations, while working under a philosophy of empathy and compassion.

Bill B. – Founder & Director of Servant’s Heart Food Pantry

Servant’s Heart, a non-profit food pantry, serves families in 5 zip codes. Bill Boone, founder and director works tirelessly to make sure families in need are taken care of. He makes runs constantly whether to get eggs, bread from distributors two to three times a week and other food items from either Gleaners or Midwest Food Bank. He services families on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings with the help of volunteers dedicated to his mission. He never seems to tire out . God has allowed him to take care of those in need and always provides. He also shares anything that he can helping other pantries in need of food and supplies. I believe that Bill is someone that deserves some recognition although he chooses not to be in the spotlight but to concentrate on what he knows best with God’s help and that it taking care of those in need.

Kathy H. – Grocery Store Owner

I help serve the community at food pantry in Elizabeth, Indiana. A new owner of our town store called 1819 grocery, Kathy Hensley, bought the store just a year ago. I met her at the store, and when she found that we needed anything at food pantry she got things together for us. We are a small pantry, we serve four township in Harrison County Indiana. She would call me if she met or knew of someone in need. Plus she would make sure we had things if needed. But when this virus thing came around, she stepped up even more. She was notified that Aldi was giving away free gallons of milk. So she made two trips and brought back and helped give out 400 gallons of milk. Kathy has a big heart. Her husband Vincent donated all the fresh fruit and fresh vegetables to our pantry during Christmas last year, we made up 100 boxes of food to give away.

Tom W. & Maria S. – Food Pantry Volunteers

On February 17, after a 12 hour day at the food pantry, I came home and slipped on the ice going into my home. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital to discover I had dislocated and broken both bones in my right ankle. Tom, who is 75, and his wife Linda had been enjoying a vacation in Florida and came home the next day. Tom and Maria Schmit, my assistant, immediately started work to cover all of the work that I did as well as continue their normal volunteer roles. It was pretty well handled until Covid-19 hit. Then they had to totally change they way we were running the pantry. With very little help from me they worked to make sure we were still feeding the hungry in our community and meeting the new requirements. They set up a drive through system and coordinated volunteers to make up boxes of food staples to be handed out as well a system to allow clients their choices of perishable items. They continued the work I had done for 20 years with a smooth transition that still took care of our clients.

Robert M. – Community Hero & Leader

Mr. M. has tirelessly volunteered his time during this pandemic. 1. Every Tuesday and Thursday he packs bulk food for Blessing boxes at Church. 2. Every Wednesday he helps pack food and then hands it out at the Primary for our area students. 3. Every Saturday he hands out Powerpaks to kids. 4. Every Sunday he hands out food to our community at WNMS with the Milford Food Bank. 5. The last Wednesday of the month he packs skids at the MFB. 6. He visits homes weekly to check on kids and bring them food!! He is the most selfless person I have had the privilege of working with!!

Robie C. – Restaurant Owner

Robie C. owns Robie’s Restaurant in Attica, In. Each Sunday he provides free meals to families in town during this pandemic. He is a great man that does great things for Attica.

Education Leaders

Ann L. – 4th Grade Teacher at Horizon Elementary School

Ann L. is a 4th grade teacher at Horizon Elem. in Granger, IN. She is a highly respected, well-known, and well-loved teacher in our community, having raised her own four children in Granger. This year, one of Mrs. Lira’s students, Lauren, went through the tragic loss of her mom to pancreatic cancer. Mrs. Lira was a hero to Lauren and her whole family while Lauren’s mom was so sick, making whatever accommodations were needed with Lauren’s schoolwork to help her be successful and also by helping the family by with meals, transportation, and more. Then in February, when Lauren’s mom passed, Mrs. Lira was right there every step of the way to help, comfort, check in, feed, and pray for Lauren and her family. Just weeks after the funeral came the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and eLearning for the kids (4th grade Lauren and her two older brothers, one in middle school and the other in high school). Knowing that Lauren’s dad was dealing with so much all at once, grieving the loss of his wife and now faced with 3 children doing eLearning at home, Mrs. Lira stepped up once again, going above and beyond in a very special way. During these past stay-at-home weeks, Mrs. Lira and Lauren have been doing what they call “Zoom Cooking.” Here’s how Mrs. Lira described it to me: “One of my joys…..Lauren and I have been Zoom cooking together, and it has been a REAL JOY! She is learning where things are in her own kitchen, how to use her stove, and how to read the recipes. Earlier in the week, I drop off the ingredients on her doorstep, and I make the exact same dinner for Mike and me. This week it is chicken and rice casserole…the yummy kind with the buttery Ritz crackers and poppy seeds baked on top. Lauren is extremely proud of herself! xoxoxo” Not only is the cooking experience a joy for this teacher and student, but it is a blessing that once a week, Lauren’s dad doesn’t have to worry about dinner, because Lauren cooks for the whole family (with a little help from her amazing teacher, Mrs. Lira)! It’s such a cool thing! The bond being created between this teacher and student is simply a beautiful, special thing to behold. Moreover, the impact that this teacher (a true Hoosier Hero) is having, not just on a little girl who lost her mom, but on their entire family, is immeasurable. Mrs. Ann Lira, 4th grade teacher, is most deserving of the Hoosier Hero recognition. She’s a hero every day to all of her students, but this year, she has become a VERY SPECIAL HERO to Lauren and her family during their mom’s illness, passing, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic. I sincerely hope you will give Mrs. Lira your full consideration for this honor. She will be a fantastic ambassador for the ADA and the Hoosier Hero program! With joy and appreciation, Mrs. Tressa Decker, Principal of Horizon Elementary.

Brian S. and Gene T. – Principal & Assistant Principal at West Noble Middle School

Mr . Shepherd is the Principal of West Noble Primary School, and Mr. Teel is the Assistant Principal at West Noble Middle School. These gentlemen are brothers-in-law, and both are always very caring, outgoing and generous with their time. In the middle of March, our schools were shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to his regular duties, Mr. Shepherd was very concerned about the students in our district; especially when it came to their access to healthy meals. Since that time, Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Teel have both worked tirelessly to feed our community. They coordinate with a local food pantry to pickup and distribute free food to our families each Sunday. They also help a local church pack food bags for our students, and work the Saturday distribution for those bags. Finally, they help serve our free packed lunches each week. Both men visit many families each week to deliver books, food and offer general assistance to them. They consistently go above and beyond to serve our children, and have been an example to us all. They are heros in our town, and most definitely Hoosier Heroes!

Dr. Jeff B. – Superintendent Wayne Township Schools

Dr. Butts is the superintendent of Wayne Township in Indianapolis. All superintendents have been heroes to their communities as we’ve shifted to e-learning and need lunches and technology for students, but Dr. Jeff Butts has done it in a way that has been an example for so many of his peers. In addition to being likely the most robust and first in serving families food (90% of Wayne receives free or reduced lunches) to jumping into positive opportunities for his graduates with yard signs and social media congrats for each that includes post HS plans, or reading children’s books daily for the younger children from his home, to serving on statewide education task groups that provided feedback to our policy makers. He has been a huge hero!!

Juli O. – 3rd Grade Teacher at Highland Park Elementary, Bloomington

Juli is our son’s third grade teacher. She was amazing before the stay at home orders but became a superhero during our time of face-to-face classroom. Creative fun learning assignments, zoom calls, and a deep caring for her students. She absolutely understand the impact of our situation and totally had our son’s long term lifetime best interest at heart. Can’t thank her enough!

Lois W. – Principal

I nominate our principal, Lois W. She has continued to go in to our school every day and accommodate all our school families during COVID-19. She is so helpful to all our families that had to learn E-Learning immediately. She has made accommodations through the last two months. Lois even drove around the city and personally delivered fruit trays to all 69 staff members for staff appreciation week. Lois goes above and beyond and shows a kindness video every Wednesday even throughout this pandemic. She is truly a hero.

Nansi C. – Charter School President

Nansi is our charter school president She always goes above and beyond for all of us. She had a meeting informing all of us to be personally prepared at home and school on Tuesday before schools were close on Friday. When the students went home they took their chrome books and 2 weeks of homework with them. Our teachers and students were prepared. She prepared my cafeteria staff and I and we passed out 1 week of meals that Sunday and we have been doing it every week. She gives so much of her time and talents all year long for our students. (And she is no even on our payroll.) She truly loves the students and staff and Mays School! She is an EMT, Firefighter, farmer and she has been Fema personnel, EMA, restaurant owner and manager and built and painted fire trucks for Indiana Fire Aparatus. As you can see all about community service!!! She is truly talented and amazing!!

Mr. Randy M. – Superintendent of Western School Corporation

Our school Superintendent, Mr. Randy McCracken is our Hoosier Hero. He loads lunches on school buses, rides a bus, and delivers lunches to children in our community. These children are our future. His empathy for these children is modeled at all times. They are so happy to see Mr. McCracken and to receive meals from him. Mr. McCracken is hand’s down a Hoosier Hero. Our community is blessed to have him represent our school, children, families, and county.