Share the Love: Group collecting food for Johnson County Senior Services

As the coldest months of the year settle in, some of Johnson County’s most vulnerable residents face an unthinkable choice.

Hundreds of seniors throughout the county struggle to have enough to eat every day. They often have to skip meals; some have to go without food to keep their heat and power on.

Many times, they have to decide between paying for food or paying for their life-saving medication.

“Food insecurity is a critical issue among older adults,” said Kimberly Smith, executive director of Johnson County Senior Services. “Many are choosing between food and medicine, limited finances and resources, the cost of healthy foods, competing priorities, functional limitations, and the list goes on and on as to the seriousness of this issue.”

Nobody in the community should go hungry, and one local group is working with a focus on senior food insecurity. Calling themselves Share the Love, this collection of area leaders is spearheading a food drive to benefit Johnson County Senior Services.

People are asked to fill up grocery bags with needed staples of non-perishable food items, hygiene necessities and gift cards. Every canned vegetable, box of pasta, jar of peanut butter or package of protein drinks means one person goes hungry this winter.

“A lot of times, people give during the holidays, which is fantastic, but forget that people are still hungry after the holidays,” said Heather Thompson, a group member of Share the Love. “The greatest need for Johnson County Senior Services is after the holidays — they’ve cleaned out their pantry, and they really need to be replenished.”

Food insecurity continues to plague older adults in the central Indiana region, as Smith and those with Johnson County Senior Services have seen over and over again.

According to “State of Aging” report released by the Central Indiana Senior Fund, 48% of older adults age 55 and over in this area had access to affordable, quality food in 2021. That same year, 20% of older adults had difficulty getting enough to eat, and 9% had to visit a food pantry or other nutrition site at least once a week.

Any effort to alleviate this need is a noble one, which makes Share the Love so important, Smith said.

“It means the world to us that this special group of leaders are choosing to make a positive difference in the lives of the most underfunded, underserved and most unappreciated precious souls throughout our county where there are a multitude that are suffering in silence,” she said.

Share the Love was born through Leadership Johnson County’s Signature Program. In the annual offering, participants in the program meet once a month to focus on different aspects of leadership.

The centerpiece of the program, though, is the group project. In the first month, participants break off into small groups, with each team required to envision and enact a project that would benefit the community. Past examples of projects that have endured include the Soup Bowl, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, and a memorial tree-planting program with Franklin Parks and Rec.

After initially investigating a project to help veterans, Share the Love shifted its focus to aiding seniors.

For the seven members of Share the Love, the group project seemed to be a perfect opportunity to do something positive for a segment of the community desperately in need.

“We have several members who have military backgrounds and have a heart for veterans. We started to think about how we could help those elderly veterans in our community, but then thought — we love our veterans, but other seniors are hungry too,” Thompson said. “We would be excluding military spouses, excluding our neighbors.”

Group members — Thompson, Pamela Powell Doane, Betty Urban, Cecelia Henson, Jess Schoolcraft, Keith Chezem and Tom Sprague — approached Smith and Johnson County Senior Services to map the best way to proceed.

They have distributed paper grocery bags to the senior services offices, as well as to other businesses around Johnson County. Attached to those bags are lists indicating the biggest needs for seniors: canned meat, soup, protein drinks such as Boost, toilet paper and paper towels, and hygiene items such as shampoo, toothpaste and body wash, among other things.

The group has also requested donations of gift cards to grocery stores and pharmacies, which Johnson County Senior Services can distribute to its clients.

“We wanted to explain to people why our seniors are in need, and what they can do to help them. There’s also a QR code on there where people can donate to,” Thompson said. “We’re asking people to fill up that grocery bag with nonperishables, and either reach out to one of us or drop that off at senior services.”

Share the Love has already started throughout the county, and is ongoing through Feb. 19. Group members will then volunteer their time to sort everything for the senior services’ food pantry.

“It means the world to us that this special group of leaders are choosing to make a positive difference in the lives of the most underfunded, underserved, and most unappreciated precious souls throughout our county where there are a multitude that are suffering in silence,” Smith said.


Share the Love

What: A Leadership Johnson County project helping Johnson County Senior Services feed older adults in the community who are food insecure.

When: Through Feb. 19

What they need: Canned meat, soup, Boost, pasta and pasta sauce, canned fruit and veggies, peanut butter, boxed cereal, sandwich crackers, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, lotion, body wash, grocery and pharmacy gift cards.

How to help: Grocery bags with lists can be found at Johnson County Senior Services, 36 Tracy Road, Whiteland. People can also drop off items at the organization’s office. A link to donate can be found at

Questions: Call 317-738-4544