Valparaiso is a warm, devoted community, in our neighborhoods, our administration, our schools, and especially in our businesses. Look anywhere in Valparaiso and you will see businesses getting involved in charitable causes, whether they are donating to an individual family and their health fight, local organizations, and even national and international causes. Here are just a few examples of Valparaiso businesses that make a difference.
Cathy Brown, whose family owns Valpo Velvet, says getting involved in community causes is important for her business and to support her employees who are like family. “We are always giving donations to United Way and to school functions, and any causes that involved kids because I’m a big supporter of kids. I have my degree in education so it’s a combination of both worlds for me. We did a fundraiser for the Porter County Animal Shelter for their Hounds Around Town event and had a dog here in our front area. Valparaiso is a great community and everyone supports one another so working together is key to the development of the downtown and the community and I get a lot of pleasure from working with everyone. It makes for a better living experience for everyone,” she says.
One of the organizations that Valpo Velvet has supported in recent days is The Alliance of Students against Poverty (ASAP). Brown explains, “One of my employees, Peter Fink, started the club a few years ago in high school and some of the members work for me. This was the second year we did it, bringing high school bands here to perform. They’re all really gifted and they raised $900. It was a really good time. The proceeds go to Hilltop House.”
Peter Fink explains the origins of ASAP which began over ping pong. “My sophomore year, all of my friends and I were really into ping pong. We thought we’d start a club where we could have fun but also do good for others and fight poverty at the same time, so we organized Ping Pong Vs. Poverty and it was a ping pong tournament. With the money we bought llamas in South America through Heifer International, and we also got a water irrigation pump for a village in Africa and medical supplies for Haiti. Thanks to the student body at the high school it was a great turnout and people were really generous. Throughout the years it has grown a lot and we have monthly meetings we hang out and play Free Rice, which is a website and the UN donates rice to a country in need every time you answer an educational question right. This winter we did a program to send a child to school in Guatamala, and we organized Corsageless for a Cause and donated that money for a girl in Haiti,” Fink says.
The connection with Valpo Velvet and the event to bring bands to the business as a fundraiser began after Fink had a conversation with Brown, his employer. Fink says, “I have worked at Valpo Velvet since I was a freshman and we organize a benefit concert each year. We had it this year on the back dock at Valpo Velvet which makes a great stage. We have a suggested $5 donation and the community is really awesome. We made almost $900 for the Hilltop House and we have a lot of fun playing music, people have fun listening to it, Valpo Velvet does good business, and Hilltop benefits. As much poverty as there is internationally we also have our problems in the United States and here in Porter County. Valpo Velvet has been really generous. They extend their business for use to us teenagers and they are really into music and know what it’s all about. They have become a community, a family.”
Another business that gives back to the community, both internationally and locally, is Grieger’s Motors. Dave Rodgers, owner of Grieger’s Motors in Valparaiso, says that they are involved in many different organizations and causes. “Through a program called Kids Alive we support orphanages around the world. We specify we would like to donate every year to a few different orphanages on the continent of Africa in a few different countries there. It is a very well-run organization and we like what they do. Here in Porter County we work with Housing Opportunities and the Porter County Community Foundation. We like to get involved in causes such as these because the community has done a lot for us and the dealerships feel a responsibility to give back,” says Rodgers.
Indiana Furniture Showcase is also involved in a local cause, Caring Designs. Margy Boyce, founder of Caring Designs in 2012, says, “I went to the Caring Place and talked to the executive director and told them I wanted to use my decorating talents to make beautiful living spaces for the ladies coming out of the Caring Place. They have very little coming out, maybe a bag of clothes, and so I decided I wanted to decorate using donated furniture. I have a wonderful supply of furniture from places in the community. I interview each lady on what colors they like, the style of furniture they like, and I like to make it the way they want so it is meaningful and emotional. They always say they never expected it. We use artwork, rugs, draperies, accessories, everything.”
The program has helped many women in the community. “We’ve had 15 in one year and a little less than half have children so we also do the children’s room and it’s very rewarding. I make no money and it’s just all volunteers. I have 15 ladies who help me on move in day, and 33 men who help move large items. We have two storage units that were donated and my garage is the overflow, so we are desperately looking for someone who has a pole barn or an old warehouse or someplace we can walk around and find the pieces we want. The director of the Caring Place told me it’s bigger than she imagined. The significance of having a home like this is it’s not just a beautiful place to come home to, but it keeps them away from their abusers. When you’re facing an empty apartment and you have to buy every plate and glass and utensil, it’s overwhelming and they go back to a place where they have a bed to sleep on, even if it’s with the abuser, so we are trying to put an end to that, to bridge the gap,” says Boyce.
Ashley Miller, CEO of Indiana Furniture says they chose to get involved with Caring Designs this year during their annual tent sale, and it’s the first time supporting this cause. “It’s new for us. We’ve partnered for a little over a year with Hometown Thrift out of Hobart which is a group that works with recovering addicts. We donate pieces of furniture to them which they resell so they can help people get back on their feet. But every summer we partner with a charity for our tent sale and this year we chose Caring Designs which helps families in situations of domestic abuse or who have been displaced. We thought it was a good match and we will partner with them this year so we can help raise funds for them,” says Miller.
In the past, Indiana Furniture has partnered with many worthy causes. Miller explains, “We’ve been doing out tent sale to support charities for three years, first with Special Olympics, then Making Strides for Breast Cancer in Valparaiso, and now Caring Designs. We’ve really had some good increases in donations. The first year we raised over $3000, the second was $5000, and our sales staff is motivated to top that this year. We will start June 6th and go through June 24th.”