Hoosier Heroes Highlights (05/20-05/25)

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

Jody G. RN

Jody has been working directly with COVID patients the past several weeks. She is a registered nurse at Witham hospital in Lebanon, working on the critical care unit, which is now the COVID unit. Furthermore, Jody owns a small hobby farm and helps out on her parents 500 acre farm. Jody’s the president of the Boone County 4H Council and the project leader of the llama/alpaca club. In these roles, she is a key leader in keeping our community safe during this pandemic.

Angelica A. – Respiratory Therapist

Angelica A. became a respiratory therapist in the Fall of 2019. Her road to this career has not been easy, but this has never slowed her down. As a respiratory therapist, she sees patients of all ages and medical diagnoses. She has many coworkers who are in a higher risk group, and knowing this, Angelica has stepped up to protect her coworkers who have children, are pregnant, and in general anyone who feels uncomfortable treating patients. One example of just how caring she is, that has tugged at our hearts, is the time when she discovered that one of her patients was deeply religious. Angelica took it upon herself to seek out a religious figure to pray for that patient outside his door as he succumbed to the disease. She has isolated herself from all family and friends, to protect them, and though we know this is extremely hard on her, mentally and emotionally, she NEVER complains. She helps patients make their last calls prior to giving up the fight, the family unable to be there to comfort their loved ones. She holds the hands of the people taking their last breath. She is the one who places patients on ventilators, as well as off the ventilators. Three years ago, Angelica met her soulmate, Rob. Prior to meeting Rob, Angelica had no experience with farming of any kind. From the time they met, Angelica has fully involved herself with any part of farming she can. In the 3 years of their relationship, they have grown as a couple, and always continue encouraging each other to be the best version of themselves. This fall, Angelica will officially be a part of our family, as her and Rob are tying the knot. In times when Rob’s attention is needed on the family dairy farm, Angelica steps up to take care of feeding their own animals, and has continued to do so through this pandemic, despite how many hours she has worked. This example reflects on all aspects of Angelica’s life. She always puts in the maximum amount of effort in any situation. Angelica is also always eager to learn. She has no problem jumping into a truck to get feed, driving a tractor through the field, or even just making sure those who are in the field have dinner. She enjoys [the farming] aspect of her life more and more every single day, making her the perfect fit into our family. Her determination and loving soul make her the perfect fit to be a Hoosier Hero, but more importantly, our hero.

Melissa G. – Nursing Home Staff

Melissa has dedicated her life to caring for her residents/families for the past 25 years. She has given 110% to her job at Glenburn Nursing home. She’s worked many hours just to make sure the residents were taken care of, They are like her family. She has been there during good times & bad times. She loves her job, her co-workers and residents! She’s been there every day during this pandemic until covid19 got her down. It didn’t keep her down though, she’s better & anxious to return to her residents. This pic is her prepared for duty

Dr. Kiran A.  – Internal Medicine Resident

It is abundantly clear to me that Dr. Kiran A. is the right person for this award. He is a colleague of mine, and while I, as a surgeon, have had my surgeries cancelled and my work diminished during this pandemic, Kiran has instead been at the forefront. He has truly been a devoted hero to the state of Indiana during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an internal medicine resident within the IU Health system, Kiran has been at the forefront in providing direct care to numerous COVID-19 patients. In fact, he admitted and provided care for the first cases identified at Eskenazi hospital, now the foremost facility for COVID-19 patients in the Indianapolis. Kiran has been instrumental is saving the lives of countless patients, including those we recognize as the youngest and most vulnerable. I have the privilege of knowing Kiran closely, and I know that he has experienced both the highs of saving young patients afflicted by COVID-19, but also the lows of recognizing those who cannot be saved. In talking about his involvement in this wild experience, and I know that he is still haunted by the death that he has seen. The vivid nightmares he describes of young patients dying is reminiscent of PTSD. And yet, I recognize that Kiran is one of countless doctors and nurses that have cared for these patients. To choose any one of them for this award is a near impossible feat. I would argue, however, that this award was made for Kiran. Aside for his genuine compassion in caring for patients, this award represents his two biggest interests: sports and milk. And I’m not kidding. Kiran is passionate about his sports. Kiran and I have shared many experiences over watching sports the past few years. This pandemic has prevented our sharing of many sporting events, in particular March Madness and Pacers games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as well as the Indianapolis 500 this weekend. While we lament what has been lost, I know his optimism for the future remains. To have the opportunity to be a part of the Indy Series Championship would mean the world to him. On top of that, Kiran drinks more milk than any adult I’ve ever seen. I’m talking 2 gallons a week. A commemorative milk bottle for him would not just be a trophy, but possibly a milk container in his refrigerator. But I am serious, this award would mean so much to Kiran. He has truly been a hero during this pandemic. All nurse and doctors have, but Kiran has persisted despite all challenges thrown at him. While choosing one doctor or nurse to represent all of those who’ve cared for COVID-19 patients would be near impossible, I assure you no one would appreciate this as much as Kiran Aravapalli. He is truly the definition of a compassionate caregiver, and one the American Dairy Association of Indiana should be proud to name as a Hoosier Hero.

Food Service Team Members

Jennifer C. – Food Service Director

I am nominating Jennifer C., NEW Food Service Director, at Twin Lakes School Corporation to be a Hoosier Hero from our community in Monticello, Indiana. School closed without notice on Friday, March 13. By Wednesday, March 18 we changed gears and started feeding emergency carryout meals. Every week, Jen adapted to the production needs of climbing numbers. She changed from distribution twice a week, to distribution once a week. At the peak, 1590 students were served=15,900 meals in one week-in one distribution. Since that time, prepackaged items are less and less available, and Jen had staff begin bagging and cupping foods that could be purchased in bulk. She changed from serving 10 half pints of milk per student, to a half gallon + 2 half pints. Bags to be used continually were changed to meet the needs. Every week there was some adaptation to get the job done. Jen has been positive, gets the job done, and is a take charge person in her new role. She has done the menus on the fly, and handled employee issues. Working with masks, and gloves-this task will continue thru June 22 before looking ahead to whatever the 2020-2021 school year will look like. It’s time to celebrate Jen’s accomplishments and reward her with this Hoosier Hero title for our community.

Aprile R.

Story Credit to The Herald Bulletin

Mar 26, 2020, DALEVILLE — Despite the early morning fog, patrons of Daleville Community Schools lined up around the elementary school to receive food for the week. The Daleville schools on Wednesday provided 6,100 meals for families residing in the school system. That could continue until the COVID-19 crisis ends. “I think the school is doing a really, really good thing,” Courtney Caldwell said. “There are a lot of people, like my husband, who is out of work and short on cash. Getting food is hard. It helps a lot with the kids being home.” Caldwell said she has two children at home and she has been working from home for the past week. “We’re completely getting some cabin fever,” she said, laughing. “The older one is doing e-learning and the younger one is excited to stay home from day care.” Another mom, Sarah Alexander, has four children at home and is caring for several others. “The kids are getting adjusted to it fairly well,” she said. “They are getting antsy with being stuck in the house.” Being a stay-at-home mom has been helpful with the children having to stay home, she said. Her husband is still working for Miller Pipeline. “I think it’s great,” Alexander said of the schools providing meals. “I absolutely love it, because I know some families are having financial issues. To be able to get foods for the kids is fabulous.” Rachel Ellis said her two children, ages 9 and 16, are doing e-learning and starting to get some cabin fever. Ellis works two days from home for the Salvation Army. “It’s an amazing thing. We have some awesome people at the school,” she said. “They’re pulling together to help the community.” Sarah Rector has three children of her own and is watching her sister’s children. “This is very important,” she said. “I work at a fast food restaurant and I’m laid off. “The kids are very bored,” Rector said. “We have lots of crafts in the house to keep their mind running.” Kim Ruark was picking up meals for three families. “They’re all friends and Daleville families,” she said. “I made the one trip. This is especially important. For the families I’m picking up for, it’s essential. “We have taken meals to these families at different times,” Ruark said. “I can’t say enough. This is a huge blessing for the Daleville community.” Aprile Reed, food service director for Daleville Community Schools, said this was the second week for the food distribution. “We do the summer food program and so we’re just doing this to help our families,” she said. Reed said the school is purchasing all the food and will get reimbursed for some of the meals. Getting emotional, Reed said the staff is doing the work by giving up their time and taking the risk. “We’re planning on this every week until this is over,” she said. “It’s stressful, but I feel blessed to be able to feed all these people.” Reed said the families email the numbers to the school so they know how many meals to prepare. It’s a weeklong job. “We hope someone will donate treats for the kids,” she said.

Holly H. – Cafeteria Manager

Holly has been a tremendous leader and asset to our Supplemental Feeding Program since schools closed on Friday, March 13th. With very little preparation, we put together a feeding plan to feed 625 students a week out of Carmel High School. Holly serves as our Cafeteria Manager at Carmel High School where she supervises 60 employees and oversees meal production for 5,000 students. During out Supplemental Feeding Program, Holly led volunteers, placed orders, packed meals and often came in on the weekend to prepare for the week’s packing event. Her leadership, work ethic, and commitment made our program a huge success. With Holly’s guidance and perseverance, we were able to supply almost 50,000 meals to students while school was closed. As a Food Service Director, I am so thankful to have Holly on our team and proud of her leadership during this uncertain time.

Community/Food Bank Heroes

Lily P. – Kroger Employee

My sister works at Kroger and has gone out of her way to continue to help people during this pandemic. Not only is she working hard, she is going out of her way to help those who are trying to avoid crowded areas. Multiple times she has helped my wife’s mother & aunt (both over 65). She has picked stuff up for them and left them at their door, making sure to wipe everything down. I know she has done this too for other individuals. She is very selfless and continues to show that daily.

Ari H. – Kroger Employee

Our daughter has been on the front line working at Kroger in Nora every day since this thing started. She bravely goes in every day, has a smile on her face under her mask, and is happy to help customers find what they need or answer questions. She stays late to help clean and comes in early if someone had to stay home sick. It’s very scary to be an essential worker during this time, but she has not complained once. She says, “People gotta eat!” She’s our hero!

Anna S. – Non-Profit Leader

Sew and Serve, a non-profit sewing group started by Avon resident Erika P., has donated more than 107,000 cloth masks and surgical caps since the group began March 20, 2020. It started as a small Facebook group but quickly grew to nearly 6,000 sewing members. Volunteers work in different capacities to efficiently make and deliver masks and caps to healthcare facilities, first line responders, and service organizations. At one point, requests for masks and surgical caps exceeded the supply by tens of thousands. Volunteers closed the gap and the group now fills requests more quickly. The group shows no sign of stopping – requests continue to come in and demand still outweighs supply. Volunteers wash and iron fabric, cut material and help coordinate the distribution of materials and completed masks and surgical caps. The group is a source of encouragement and teamwork. Members help one another and work as teams – one person washing and cutting, and the other sewing. Jill B., a volunteer, encourages members by reminding them, “The 1st mask or the 100th could save a life. So be proud no matter what you have done!” “It’s wonderful to see how the group members are lifted up by service not only to healthcare workers and first responders,” Erika P. said, “but many have expressed joy in having the interaction with each other during this otherwise isolating time.”

Indianapolis Zoo Keepers

The Indianapolis Zoo is filled with Zoo Keepers that are our Heroes and Heroes to our animals. They are the core of what makes our footprint a magical place to be. Our Zoo Keepers are involved in every piece of keeping each of our species of animals happy and healthy. Each day the Keepers at the Indianapolis Zoo interact with our animals on different levels to keep them happy and healthy even amidst a crisis. They show up every day to care for each species with safety care, health care, quality time and continued interaction. Without guests at the Zoo due to COVID-19, our animals need and want extra faces to see and interact with daily to keep them mentally sharp. That interaction is almost equally as important as the health and safety interactions. Just like we show up for our kids every day to ensure their needs of health, safety and love our met, our keepers show up for our animals. They are the heart of the Zoo and our every day heroes.

Monica K. – Business Owner

Monica is the most kind, loving, compassionate, and generous person that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! She is the founder of Save Haven Baby Boxes! She creates a safe and anonymous way for a mother to place her baby in immediate care when she cannot care for the baby. There are a myriad of reasons that mothers cannot care for their baby but the safe haven is a last resort for giving the baby up without fear of persecution. Monica has saved 73 babies as they were safely surrendered just since the safe haven baby boxes inception in 2016. She has not and will not stop there. More are being built as we speak and fundraisers are in the works to build them at more fire stations nationwide.

Judy P. – Manager of the Benton Community Food and Service Co-op

Judy is a volunteer and manager of the Benton Community Food and Service Co-op, located in Oxford, Indiana. During this time of the pandemic she has really stepped up and has helped so many in need of food, all the while doing it with a big heart and smile on her face. Caring for each individual or family that comes through the Co-op. She has been volunteering several more hours per week then normally, often 25-30 hours per week since the beginning of all the extra work involved with serving more families. She takes care of ordering the food items, shopping for items, all the inventory, keeping all the data that is involved and distributing the food to the individual families. Judy cares for each individual person that comes through the Co-op, assisting in any way needed, without ever complaining. She also takes care of her co-workers, making sure they are never in need of anything. Always doing what I ask of her and much more. Judy is a lady with so much compassion and heart for people, it is hard to top what she is doing for the Food Co-op. The Co-op would not exist and be able to serve the extra number of families we are serving during this pandemic without Judy Platt being a part of the Benton Community Food and Service Co-op. Judy Platt is definitely a Hoosier Hero!

Linda H. – Administrative Assistant

I’d like to nominate my mom. She works as the Administrative Assistant for the Home Therapy department at Fresenius Kidney Care in Ft Wayne. She started with the company last July and trained as a Patient Care Tech for just a month before she had to be off work due to a seizure. She was blessed enough to be able to return to work and finish her training before becoming the Administrative Assistant. When the Covid crisis began she volunteered to travel to Detroit to help with Covid clinics there for Fresenius. My mom was there for 5 weeks to help others and I know she never gave it a second thought about the risk that she was taking. She is the most caring and compassionate person I know, always putting others before herself. Not only did she go without hesitation, she had told me that she knew she wasn’t the best or the fastest technician but she just wanted to help as much as she could. My mom is amazing and I wasn’t everyone too know that. Those patients in Detroit were very lucky to have had her!!!

Steve and Darlene B. – Community Volunteers

Steve and Darlene B. have been a part of The Salvation Army volunteer family for decades. Steve has served as a member of our Advisory Board for The Salvation Army of Michigan City since the 1980s, and in that time, he and Darlene have volunteered in almost every program we offer to those in need in our community. But the Bakers’ true passion is in our food pantry, which is the largest pantry in La Porte County, serving thousands of needy individuals every year. On a volunteer basis, Steve and Darlene practically run the pantry – keeping it organized, stocked and running smoothly to fill the grocery orders of about 120 families every week with frozen meat, canned food and other pantry staples as well as paper products and hygiene supplies. Both Steve and Darlene would typically spend about 8 to 10 hours per week working in our food pantry. Since COVID-19 began its impact on our community, however, the Bakers have gone above and beyond to ensure the needs of our community are met. We are now serving 300-400 families every week, about triple our usual client load, due to unprecedented unemployment due to the pandemic. Although they should rightfully be staying safe at home during this time, Steve and Darlene are still working 10-20 hours per week, putting their own health at risk to help meet the needs of others. In addition to their pantry work, the Bakers work tirelessly every Christmas to make sure every family in our community has the toys and food they need to make a happy holiday in their home. They are also very generous financial supporters of the work we do at The Salvation Army of Michigan City. We can honestly say that Steve and Darlene Baker are among the most generous, kind-hearted and selfless people we have had the pleasure or working with at The Salvation Army. They are the true definition of a servant heart, giving of their time, talent and treasure in any way possible. We can assure you that if the Bakers were chosen to represent a Hoosier Hero, you will not be disappointed. They are certainly our heroes every day. In addition to their pantry work, the Bakers work tirelessly every Christmas to make sure every family in our community has the toys and food they need to make a happy holiday in their home. They are also very generous financial supporters of the work we do at The Salvation Army of Michigan City.

Brian S. – Community Food Bank Volunteer

Mr. S. goes above and beyond the call of duty for his students and staff. He works everyday packing and handing out food to the community. If he doesn’t see a student he knows needs it he goes to their home with the food. He packs food for the Milford food bank and hands it out every Sunday to the community. He visits his students as much as he can and does whatever is needed for them. He is always there to help his teammates when they need anything. He is a true leader and an inspiration to everyone he is around!

Ross K. – Owner/Operator of Rooster’s Kitchen

When Wheeler Mission reached out to local restaurants and food suppliers to see if they could help Wheeler meet the growing demands for food during the 2020 pandemic, Ross from Rooster’s Kitchen quickly responded with a donation of bottles of water. However, once the water was delivered, Ross had a bigger idea. Ross decided to approach a local organization to see if they would be willing to help Wheeler Mission with their need for meals, and help him keep his restaurant’s kitchen staff working as well. Within days, the Pacers Foundation stepped up to help, but Ross wasn’t finished yet. Ross reached out to his food suppliers and Indiana Pork agreed to donated the pork they needed for the meals, and pretty soon, Rooster’s Kitchen was cooking 1,500 meals to help Wheeler Mission. This amazing accomplishment inspired other businesses and other restaurants to get involved, and to date, 20 organizations have sponsored 15 different restaurants for what has now become Wheeler Mission’s Sponsor a Meal – Restaurant Program. Nearly $50,000 in restaurant quality meals have now been delivered or scheduled at Wheeler Mission’s Indianapolis facilities. This program has given our front-line staff a much needed break during this very difficult time. There were days when our staff were serving up to 1,600 meals per day for people experiencing homelessness, which is about a 60% increase from our typical demand. Our staff is tired and needed help. This program not only helps our staff, but it helps to support restaurants, one of the hardest hit industries during the long shut down. We are incredibly amazed as to what Ross’s generosity has sparked.

Leonora S. – Business Owner

Leonora runs a Bed & Breakfast & opened up the Bed & Breakfast to hospital workers and first responders free of charge. Word got out that a lot of first responders or hospital workers did not want to go home & infect their families & Leonora thought this would benefit the hospital workers in a big way. The Bed & Breakfast is close to the hospital too so this was very convenient for the hospital workers to go somewhere not far. Leonora helped to be there any way that she could by trying to be there for the real heroes. I was concerned for Leonora health as she is high risk and being in contact with these first responders. She said she took every precaution that she needed to, and said she would be fine. I was so very proud she was able to do this & not expect anything in return.

Jamie T. – Teacher & Food Bank Volunteer

Jamie has always been a teacher that goes above and beyond for her students and their families. During this crisis, Jamie has been at every Gleaners Food Box giveaway at our school and another school in the IPS community. Outside of these times, she is delivering food to our families and driving families to food resources. She has gone above and beyond for the families she serves!

Megan K. – Art Teacher

Megan is a passionate, creative art teacher at Brownsburg West Middle School. During the pandemic, she found herself with additional free time and decided to donate it to help others. Using her sewing skills, Megan learned how to make cotton face masks. Initially taking orders from friends and family, Megan signed up with Sew and Serve Indy. To date, she has made and donated over 900 masks. This also involved many trips to pick up donated material, and to deliver masks where needed. Her inspiration of students didn’t stop with school closing, though. She has continued to share her mask-making progress and plenty of amazing creativity-inspiring student project ideas through social media. Her most frequent hashtags have been #createeveryday and #creativityisntcanceled, and she has showcased numerous student projects completed during at-home learning. Only an amazing teacher like Megan can inspire such active engagement during a time like this. I am proud to call her a friend.

Amy F., Kimberly M., Raeanne L. – School Administrative Professionals

I would like to nominate three important people. Amy F., Kimberly M., and Raeanne L. They are the administrative professionals that work at and share their gifts at Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School. I am a 5th grade teacher at the school. When our national crisis hit, education institutions had to create ways to help our students. Our Admin team came up with a great plan. It was these wonderful ladies that implemented a major part of the plan. Our school is comprised of many low income households without computers. They gathered hundreds of laptops from our building. Assigned them. Then came up with a procedure to pass them out. AND, did a lot of trouble shooting when computer glitches arose. I will say, our entire school was involved. Without the leadership of our Executive Director, Ross P., our Director Anuja P., and our Director of Academics, Dana L., none of this would be done. The three people I have nominated are amazing. They love our kids and do what they can for them. Most of our students had access to lessons and the technology because of their efforts. It takes a village. We all work hard for our kids, but these wonderful people deserve to be recognized.

Angelica D. – School Hispanic Liaison

Angelica is our Hispanic Liaison at Saint Joseph High School. Since schools have closed, Angelica has worked tirelessly with our Spanish speaking families. She NEVER gives up. Her positive attitude and work ethic have made tremendous contributions to our students success. Angelica coordinates efforts between our school, teachers, families, and students. She works with multiple people in multiple situations every single day whether it’s on the phone, through email, social distancing home visits, or quick check-ins. She never lets students fail and she never gives up on families no matter how many times the might try to give up on themselves. Most recently, we had a senior student who gave up for 8 weeks. During week 9, after Angelica supported him the entire 8 weeks, he turned it around and is completing his studies so he can graduate. This is just one story of a life Angelica has touched. She is an absolute angel and has been the best colleague and friend. We are so thankful for Angelica and the constant support of our young men and women of Saint Joseph High School. She is our hero.