GARY | An opportunity to bag and deliver nonperishable groceries to 33 senior citizens who lost almost everything in a flood two weeks ago drew dozens of volunteers from multiple generations to the Genesis Convention Center on Sunday.
Good Deeds Day as a public-private, ecumenical partnership began with a conversation between Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Michael Steinberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana in Munster.
“Michael and I met and decided to work together on Good Deeds Day,” said Mary Cossey, director of constituent services for Gary, who organized the project and brought in teens and adults from Immanuel Baptist Church in Gary and elsewhere to participate.
Freeman-Wilson was unable to attend Good Deeds Day because she was attending the Congressional City Conference this weekend in Washington, D.C., Cossey said.
The three groups participating brought canned and packaged foods and spread them out on large banquet tables. Children and teens from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties packed the groceries in bags and placed them in bins for delivery. The participants then walked to the nearby Genesis Towers carrying the bins to distribute the groceries and chat with residents.
The decision to help the senior citizens was an easy one, Cossey said.
“The 33 residents lost a lot of stuff in the flood and were displaced to another part of Genesis Towers,” she said. “Walgreen’s is another partner and has promised to provide toiletries and cleaning supplies for the residents.”
Good Deeds Day was observed Sunday with volunteer efforts in Jewish communities throughout the United States, said Steinberg. “This is the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the Jewish Federation and the city of Gary,” he said.
Rabbi Leonard Zukrow of Temple Beth El in Munster said the project at the Genesis Center is important for several reasons.
“It’s important because this is how we build bridges,” Zukrow said. “This also takes what we learn in the classroom and makes it real (for the youths).”
Those same lessons are learned at home and at Immanuel Baptist Church said some of the teens.
“You never know when you’ll need help,” said Kennedy Walton, 15, a freshman at Chesterton High School and the daughter of the Rev. Kurt Walton, pastor of the year-old Immanuel Baptist Church.
“Paying it forward” was his motivation for participating Sunday, said Dillon James, 18, a senior at LaPorte High School.
Gary resident Cameron Hughes, 15, and a sophomore at Andrean High School in Merrillville, stacked groceries on the banquet tables prior to the bagging effort.
“People forget senior citizens when they get older,” she said, “and they’re the kind of people who need the most help.”