Written by Jasmin French is the Senior Manager of Ethics & Compliance at Cummins Inc. She was an OPTIONS Class 19 participant and is currently a member of Women’s Fund Engagement Committee.

Last month, Women’s Fund hosted a virtual conversation with the leaders of three community partners – Early Learning Indiana, Indiana Diaper Bank and Seeds of Hope. Each panelist shared their story about the disruption caused by COVID-19 and how they are cultivating hope during the pandemic to an audience of approximately 25 women representing OPTIONS Alumnae, Sage Society and Women’s Fund staff. 

Maureen Weber, President & CEO, Early Learning Indiana

Early Learning Indiana (formerly Day Nursery) has a 100+ year history of enriching the lives of children through day care services at its centers throughout Central Indiana. Women’s Fund has supported them for 20 years. In the wake of COVID-19, that support has continued and used to provide care for the children of essential personnel, first responders and other frontline workers. Funds were also used for personal protective equipment for employees, “hero pay” bonuses to employees honoring their commitment and sacrifices, and essential items to help children be successful during the day while their parents are at work.

Maureen described the ways operations have been significantly disrupted by the virus. For example, they traditionally serve 800 children daily at their nine learning centers. That number is down to 100-150, one center has temporarily closed, and they closed three separate weeks due to confirmed coronavirus cases. Additionally, temperature checks, contactless drop-off and pick-ups, and providing comfort to employees who are concerned about their own health and well-being, are helping to mitigate the risks posed by the virus.     

Rachel Suskovich, Founder & CEO, Indiana Diaper Bank

Rachel shared that 1-in-3 families in our community are in “diaper need” and Indianapolis has been deemed a diaper desert.  To address this shortage, they partner with homeless shelters, pregnancy centers and other community organizations to provide diapers and basic needs for families in Central Indiana.   

Rachel emphasized that the Women’s Fund Emergency Grant arrived at a critical time. By April, the Diaper Bank’s inventory had been reduced to 10 boxes (from a typical 2-3-month inventory) due to COVID-19. As one of a few recipients of the maximum grant allocation amount of $10,000, the Diaper Bank purchased 60,000 diapers – enough to fill an entire trailer. Combined with its existing inventory, a grand total of 75,000 diapers were distributed in April to its partner organizations.

Marvetta Grimes, Executive Director, Seeds of Hope

The third panelist, Marvetta Grimes, warmed us with her spirit of gratitude and inspired us with her tireless commitment to helping chemically dependent women advance to a better, healthier life. Seeds of Hope provides transitional housing for women recovering from drug addiction. Seeds of Hope has been a Women’s Fund community partner for 20 years. 

Prior to the pandemic, as many as 17 women could live in the facility. Currently, the facility is home to 12 women who have had to navigate shared living with social distancing requirements, and the impact of a fellow resident who contracted the virus. Staff has been reduced from five to three full-time employees (an employee tested positive for the virus and was under quarantine). The Women’s Fund Emergency Grant enabled Seeds of Hope to continue to provide essential services for its residents during this crisis, including providing basic needs, job placement, and counseling services.   

Marvetta inspired attendees with her “attitude of gratitude’ and her example that even in these challenging times, we are blessed.   

This virtual conversation offered real examples of the ways Women’s Fund is impacting lives in a positive way during unprecedented and uncertain times. Thanks to the generosity of so many, this work will be able to continue.  

Here’s How You Can Help 

Early Learning Indiana – donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), especially adult masks, are needed. Crayons, colored pencils, markers, and pencils are needed for each child due to safety precautions.  For information email info@earlylearningindiana.org or call 317-636-9197.

Indiana Diaper Bank – The Diaper Bank hosts a “Diaper Drive-Thru” the first Saturday of each month.  Here, families receive donated diapers directly (contactless pick-up).  Volunteers are needed to distribute these diapers.  Additionally, the Diaper Bank maintains an Amazon Wish list of most needed items (click here for the list).

Seeds of Hope donations of gently used clothing, toys, household items and appliances are welcome for their Hope Chest Thrift Store, located at 2012 West Morris St.. Please call 317-244-0203 with questions.