Team-building pasta parties took a charitable turn for the Portage girls basketball team.
The team held a coat drive Nov. 13 for The Salvation Army, gathered non-perishable food items for the Nativity Food Pantry in Portage on Dec. 5 and raised funds for the Hobart Humane Society on Dec. 12.
"We're trying to teach life lessons to have a lasting effect longer than games," Portage coach Chris Seibert said. "They've done a great job. It's not just about doing the bare minimum."
The charitable additions to the dinners was spearheaded by Desiree Johnson, whose daughter Alexis is a senior forward for the Indians.
It's almost a way a life for this family. Desiree Johnson was also active in charitable causes while her daughter was part of Junior Miss Softball and Portage Youth Basketball.
"I'm always looking for ways to give back to the community," Desiree said. "I've raised (Alexis) to try help out others.
"I just thought this would be a good idea, so I suggested it to (Seibert)."
Alexis Johnson also started on Portage's 2013 Class 4A state softball championship squad, and she also takes great pride in these accomplishments.
"It makes me feel good about myself," she said. "I like helping others who don't have a lot.
"Some people think that since you won a state title, you might think you are better than everyone else. It's just not the case."
Johnson said the Indians girls basketball squad pitched in at the Boys and Girls Club for a couple of days in recent years, but she's glad the team is doing more now.
"That's the way we want it," Johnson said. "We always take a picture at the end of (the pasta parties). It feels pretty awesome."
The team doesn't just plan on doing this for the holidays. An event for Gabriel's Horn, a Portage homeless shelter, is in the works.
"I'm not surprised how the girls have taken to this," Desiree Johnson said. "We're really blessed. They love working together as one."