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Nonprofits collaborate on snow boot distribution
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Nonprofits collaborate on snow boot distribution

GARY — Much of the snow is gone, but some Region families may have been looking to next winter, thanks to a snow boot giveaway involving several nonprofit organizations.

Big Shoulders Fund held the children’s boot giveaway Saturday on the Gary SouthShore RailCats’ parking lot.

“This is a blessing. This is awesome,” said Carole Williams, of Gary, a recipient.

More than 12,000 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19 since March 2020. There are real names, faces and human stories behind that staggering number. This Sunday, The Times partners with 11 Indiana news agencies to share the stories of dozens of “Hoosiers We’ve Lost” in a special print section and online presentation. Watch for it Sunday.

Big Shoulders was not alone Saturday. Also volunteering were students from Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, the RailCats, Gary Fire Department, and Community HealthNet.

According to Dan Kozlowski, regional director of the local Big Shoulders initiative, this giveaway is part of an ongoing effort to ensure that Northwest Indiana families have access to needed resources.

“We’re really relying on community partnerships to open up our mission to cover as many people in the community as possible,” Kozlowski said.

Ashley Nylen, manager of marketing and promotions for the RailCats, explained, “After no season last year, we want to do all we can to help the neighborhoods in Gary.”

Supported by a grant from Bruce and Beth White, Chicago-based Big Shoulders has been teaming up with Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Gary. A promotional brochure on Catholic schools was attached to each box of boots.

“Schools are our interest, but our mission is to serve children,” Kozlowski said.

Carolina Martinez, 17, a junior at Noll, said, “I enjoy when you can see in their eyes how happy they are.”

The drive-through distribution began with people writing down the child’s gender and boot size, then proceeding to volunteers to receive their boots.

“This is a blessing to Lake County and the country,” Deborah C. Boyd, of Gary, said. “There are so many people around the U.S. in financial need.”

“We were looking for boots all winter but could not find any,” Nicholas Petri, of Hobart, added.

The giveaway began when Dick’s Sporting Goods donated 37 pallets of boots to Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. With 15 pallets remaining, Shepherd contacted One Region, an organization working to improve life in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Northwest Indiana received 2,250 pairs of snow boots, said Matthew J. Wells, interim CEO of One Region.

“When an opportunity comes, you don’t turn it down,” Wells said. “It’s a nice collaboration between Indianapolis and the Region.”

One Region reached out to its network of nonprofits, including Big Shoulders Fund, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, and Hope Community Center in Valparaiso, for warehousing and distributing the boots.

Coming Sunday, see a patrol with Valparaiso Police Lt. John Patston in the latest Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops installment.

Kelly Nissan, vice president for social responsibility and impact for the local Boys & Girls Clubs, noted, “The nonprofit sector in Northwest Indiana is strong, and when we work together we can achieve bold results. We share a common goal to help children and their families thrive.”

Stacey Colby, outreach and engagement manager for Community HealthNet, said the boots will still be good next winter.

“It starts with boots,” Nissan said. “Who knows what’s next?”

Gallery: Hoosiers We've Lost

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