February 8, 2017
The beginning of the academic year is typically marked with school supply drives for low-income students, but as the spring semester approaches, those supplies tend to dry up.
This problem is exacerbated when students cannot afford basics such as socks and underwear, so the Ryves Community Optimist Club is lending a hand with "Growing up in the Hood," a fundraiser set for 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Sycamore Banquet Center. The Optimist Club was assembled to address the needs of the Ryves neighborhood children by supporting much-needed projects and raising funds.
"We knew that we wanted something that would keep the supplies going all year," said Theresa Ortega, who works for the campus recreation department at Indiana State University. "I came up with the idea a few years ago that I wanted to do something to collaborate on campus because Dr. (Dan) Bradley had made Ryves Neighborhood kind of a focus of ISU. I wanted to do something that would bring it to campus, give it more visibility than what we had had independently."
Ortega also wanted to include the Chinese School of the Wabash Valley, which has benefited from several collaborative projects thanks to funding from the Center for Community Engagement at Indiana State.
"So we thought that was the perfect thing to have those three groups working together," Ortega said.
Bradley was also quick to offer to host the event in the university's Banquet Center.
"We did this event last year, but I wanted to bring these collaborators in this year to put together the event, so it was a much bigger, more visible thing. We want more people to be able to participate, and we want more people to be members of the organization," Ortega said.
When Ryves Youth Center lacked necessary sound equipment and security cameras for a popular annual boxing event, the Optimist Club lent a hand. They also do many projects with Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.
"The teachers at Ben Franklin school would tell us things like, ‘The kids would come to school in the winter with no socks or underwear,' so we did a fundraiser at Baesler's, and all the money we got from that event last year, we purchased socks and underwear and put them into a stockpile," Ortega said. "They keep it on-hand, so when the kids need that stuff, it's there, and they don't have to worry."
After successfully creating that stockpile for students, the Optimist Club is looking toward collecting school supplies. Once they reach their goal, Ortega says that additional funds could go toward numerous fees for the school -- for field trips, or things that would otherwise be unaffordable, but are important for children to experience.
Even collaborative trips with the Ryves Youth Center and the Chinese School "can bring other parts of the world to these kids and help them realize they're a part of something bigger."
"They're not just their circumstances, not just their tough living situation and all the family drama that can come with it and the heartache, but that there are bigger things out there that they can pursue," Ortega said.
The morning event will include breakfast, silent auctions and fellowship in support of the Ryves neighborhood. Tables will be decorated by the Ryves children and students at the Chinese School.
The featured speaker is Pamela Malone Gresham, director of the BEST Program, which helps future educators transform lives and communities inside and outside of the classroom. She went from being a beneficiary of neighborhood programs in Ryves as a child, to being an ambassador and now country liaison with ACEI representing children in the United States.
Gresham says her role is to provide hope and encouragement and reassure people that the time, the resources and the kind words of others can make a huge difference to these children.
"I'll be talking about and sharing some of my background and how through the generosity of others for resources, time, influence, modeling ... my life was transformed from what could have been into what is," Gresham said. "I recognize humbly that I am not here of my own accord, and that it was a collaborative effort of many people in my community who may or may not have realized what a big difference they were making."
Single tickets are $20, and participants can also purchase a sponsorship of $250, $300, $500 or up to $1,000. People who cannot attend can become a "patron" for $5. Contact Theresa at 812-237-8096 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Theresa Ortega, administrative assistant, Student Affairs, Tortega@indstate.edu or 812-237-8096
Writer: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, email@example.com or 812-237-3773
Single tickets are $20, and participants can also purchase a sponsorship of $250, $300, $500 or up to $1,000. People who cannot attend can become a “patron” for $5. Contact Theresa at 812-237-8096 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.