- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

MCCORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A startling statistic caught Vanessa Jones’ eye recently. In Central Indiana, more than 300,000 people don’t have enough food to eat at any given time, and one in five is a child.

Those numbers shared by Gleaners Food Bank were featured on a poster the McCordsville woman saw at her grandchild’s school in Hancock County. Jones already does her part for the homeless by cooking for Wheeler Mission once a month.

“We used to buy 100 McDouble burgers and go all around Downtown giving them out,” Jones, 48, told The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1zGgvla ). “My husband, Nelson, suggested we go to the shelter and help serve. I decided that the times we go serve, I would cook the food. I really enjoy what we are doing.”

Now, she’d like to do more.

Feeding Families for the Holidays is her campaign to feed people closer to her Hancock County home, where she sees a need.

“Christmas break is coming, and kids will be out of school. So many kids are on free and reduced meals, so they eat breakfast and lunch at school, but where will they eat when they’re on break?”

Jones is hoping to feed up to 25 families during the holiday break. The grandmother of five can’t afford the $2,500 it will take to fill the baskets on her own, so she has turned to the Internet for help. Jones jumped on a growing trend by establishing a GoFundMe page.

The social fundraising site, which allows friends, families, neighbors and strangers to donate money for a particular need, has seen exponential growth particularly in the emergency category, jumping from $7.5 million contributed in 2013 to $21 million so far in 2014, according to GoFundMe representative Courtney Cohen.

San Diego-based GoFundMe was launched in 2010 and has quickly become the world’s top fundraising site for personal causes and life events. Hundreds of thousands of people have raised more than $580 million.

So far, Jones has raised about half the amount needed, thanks to many small donations, as well as support from a Girl Scout troop that is donating a portion of its profits from cookie sales.

She is working with local schools to identify families in need. With help from several other volunteers, she will deliver the food baskets Dec. 20. If you would like to help or want to pass along the name of a family who needs help, contact Jones at (317) 590-0565. Email her at [email protected]

Joining Jones in a campaign to raise money for good is Fred McDowell, who has created a GoFundMe campaign to finance a Christmas dinner at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. The dinner for staff and families of patients will be Dec. 19.

“We try to help salvage what could be a bleak or nonexistent holiday for the families of patients and staff,” said McDowell, who adds that Santa will hand out toys at the event. The Christmas dinner is one of three that McDowell helps to organize at Riley. The others are at Thanksgiving and Easter.

Friends are rallying around a former Fishers hair stylist who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer. Stephanie Ellis, 41, is a single mom to an 8-year-old daughter. Friend and fellow hairdresser Kathy Hietpas is hosting a silent auction at Sola Salon, 11801 Commercial Drive, Fishers, from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 12.

“We’re hoping to raise enough money so she can take her daughter on a little trip to make a memory,” said Hietpas. “I’ve never done anything like this, but I just felt the need.”

The Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, Starbucks, Gigi’s Cupcakes and Crew Car Wash are among several businesses that have donated items for the auction.

Hietpas said Ellis, who is being cared for now by her mother in Alexandria, has a heart for service. “She volunteered at Shepherd Community Center for years. At her retirement party at the salon, she asked guests to bring blankets for patients at the cancer center because chemo treatments make you cold. She collected 75 or 100 blankets,” said Hietpas.

“She has given her time to help others; I’m hoping the community will give back to her.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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