NEW PALESTINE — Stephanie Sasena felt helpless.
The presidential election highlighted divisions among Americans and stirred animosity between friends and family alike. The collective negativity from social media, news sources and daily conversations was overwhelming, she said.
And when she attended her moms group, she found others felt the same: turning the negativity around was all anyone could talk about.
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That shared conviction was the start of a grassroots effort to connect Indiana charities to the donors and volunteers able to boost their missions. Sasena of New Palestine and four friends — Christie Koester, Jazzy O’Brien, Emily Miller and Katie Swaney — declared they would be the “middle-women” between Central Indiana-area organizations that need money, help or supplies, and the people who want to serve their communities. Their goal is to identify Indiana charities that help marginalized populations, such as refugees, victims of domestic violence or people with HIV/AIDS, and provide a boost to those organizations through fundraising efforts, supply drives or organized volunteer opportunities for people in the group.
“There are a tremendous number of organizations already doing great work in our community,” Koester said.
“We wanted to find a way to help those organizations, not reinvent the wheel.”
The group, Do Good Indy, started with those five women in November and rapidly drew a following, with nearly 600 people in the greater Indianapolis area signing up to join the Facebook group to learn more and lend a hand. Though the group’s focus began with Indianapolis organizations, Sasena said she believes Hancock County has plenty of potential volunteers and donors as well as organizations with worthy missions.
The volunteer-run group identifies two organizations in need per month and offers an opportunity to its members to raise money, donate goods or volunteer for each charity. In January, Do Good Indy held a toiletries drive for the Julian Center, an Indianapolis advocacy organization for victims of sexual or domestic violence.
Catherine O’Connor, CEO of the Julian Center, which serves about 1,000 people each year, said every effort to aid the center’s residents is received with open arms.
“This is home for these folks; often they come to us with nothing, except perhaps the clothes they’re wearing,” she said. “They need everything it takes to stay clean and feel good about themselves.”
Do Good Indy also collected eight carloads of winter clothes, coats, toys and other items for the Immigrant Welcome Center, an Indianapolis-based organization that connects immigrants with people and resources to help them build their new lives in Indiana.
The volunteers don’t always get the chance to meet the people who benefit from their efforts; but when they do, it’s a moving experience.
The group’s founders met some of the people being helped by the Immigrant Welcome Center during a supply drive. It was poignant, seeing people who recently arrived in Indiana smile as they picked out clothes and coats Sasena said; the event happened one day after the rollout of President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days and blocked entry for residents of seven Muslim-majority countries.
“It was great to see them be able to take whatever clothes or toys they needed,” Sasena said.
The group aims to focus on organizations that might not have a large staff or an individual dedicated to fundraising, so the volunteers can make the greatest impact, she said.
And as more people join up, the founders learn about more Indiana organizations needing help from their community, she said.
Sasena said she draws inspiration from both them and her co-founders.
“Their ambition and drive is really inspiring and motivating,” she said.
Do Good Indy uses a Facebook group to organize its members. To join, search “Do Good Indy” on Facebook and request to join the group.
Organizations in the greater Indianapolis area are welcome to pitch their project ideas to leaders of Do Good Indy, a group of volunteers willing to organize fundraisers, supply drives and more.
The group focuses on organizations serving vulnerable populations.