Around the holiday season, community generosity is at its height.

People make donations part of their December traditions. Organizations and nonprofits ask the public to ensure children and families have gifts to open on Christmas morning. Groups host free meals, and pass out food so that no one goes hungry.

But even in the most selfless of seasons, needs remain unfilled. One county service organization aims to close those gaps and lift those people up.

UpLift Johnson County hopes to meet the overwhelming need in the county with a pair of projects, and they’re asking for the community’s help in doing so. The service organization is collecting food to ensure children have enough food to last them and their families over the holiday season.

At the same time, the group hopes to make Christmas a little brighter for seniors throughout the county.

The outpouring of support UpLift Johnson County has received so far has been inspiring, McClellen said. She’s confident in that the generosity of the public will ensure they meet their goals.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to help others in the community in need. There are so many people in our community who want to give back, but they maybe don’t know how to do it,” said Wendy McClellen, executive director of UpLift Johnson County. “These are grassroots ways for people to really be impactful right here in Johnson County where were live.”

Uplift Johnson County was founded in 2019 as a service organization, with the intention of finding needs that weren’t being met throughout the county. McClellen has been a part of the Johnson County community her entire life, going to school here, graduating from Franklin College and making her career here in real estate and mortgage origination.

She wanted to do something for the place and people that she loved.

“Our mantra is ‘See a need, seek to fill it.’ We simply identify needs in the community and partner with other nonprofits organizations or individuals, and do service projects and donation drives,” she said.

In its efforts, UpLift Johnson County has focused on every facet of the community in need, from first responders and veterans to the homeless and those in recovery from substance use disorder to community leaders, pastors and teachers.

The organization helped put together a diaper drive for Afghan refugees who came to Camp Atterbury in 2021 with nothing.

In January, UpLift will host an event meant to honor and pamper breast cancer survivors.

“It’s a day to celebrate themselves — we’re not talking cancer, we’re going to pamper them and give them a day of fun,” McClellen said.

Their current efforts are centered on two main campaigns. The first is to ensure children in need have food for the long days over winter break.

UpLift organizers partnered with Firefly Family Services, the nonprofit formerly known as the Children’s Bureau providing resources and services supporting kids and their families. The goal is to provide two-weeks worth of simple meals for 100 families throughout the county, McClellen said.

“Those kids would normally be getting free and reduced lunch, so Firefly has vetted families who are food at-risk,” she said. “Last year, they did 60, but this year they said they could really use 100, because the need is so much greater because of how expensive everything is.”

Through Dec. 9, UpLift will be collecting a variety of food items at its offices in White River Township. People can go online to the organization’s website to get a list of needed food, from family-sized boxes of cereal and packages of instant oatmeal to peanut butter and applesauce cups to shelf-stable milk.

Donations will also be accepted to buy food, McClellen said.

UpLift will pack up those groceries and deliver the packages to Firefly, whose caseworkers will deliver the meals to their families.

“For two weeks of food for things like spaghetti and sauces and cereal, simple meals, you can really provide a lot of food for $35 or $40,” McClellen said.

At the same time, UpLift has planned a donation drive to provide holiday warmth for underserved seniors in the area.

Their collection will serve as a partnership with Johnson County Senior Services’ Giving Tree campaign.

“They have trees all over the county, but what happens is, some of the seniors don’t get purchased for. We’re having a drive to collect money or donations of actual gifts, and then take those to Johnson County Senior Services to make sure no one is left out,” McClellen said.

Donors have been outstanding about supporting UpLift efforts in the past, something that McClellen is incredibly thankful for. She’s looking forward to helping make the holidays brighter for hundreds of people throughout the county.

“This is my passion,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of contacts throughout my career in Johnson County, and for me, being able to actually put my hands and feet to it, we just love it.”


HOW TO HELP

UpLift Johnson County campaigns

UpLift a Family: UpLift has partnered with Firefly Family Services to collect food for those kids and their families during this time of year. Volunteers will go grocery shopping using the provided list of suggested foods for their family in need. Volunteers will then bring the groceries to the UpLift office at 3209 Smith Valley Road, Suite 146, Greenwood, where Uplift will pack up the groceries and deliver the groceries to Firefly. Caseworkers at Firefly will provide the families with the donated groceries.

People can find the list of needed food at upliftjoco.org/events/uplift-a-family-2022-christmas-food-drive.

Uplift a Senior: Donations are being collected to help underserved seniors in in the community with items for the holidays. People can uplift a senior between Dec. 12 and 19 this year by donating online or contacting us at [email protected]

Monetary donations to both efforts can be made at upliftjoco.org.