A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: John Kolb

Having grown up in central Indiana, John Kolb and his family didn’t move to the Valpo area until about a year ago for the opportunities the area provided them with – personally, professionally, and for their children’s education and well-being.

As of December 2014, Kolb and his family officially started a non-profit organization called The Thrive Foundation, which strives to help those in the area who are less fortunate. Shortly before the holiday season in 2014, Kolb discovered that residents of Gary’s Sojourner’s Truth House – a day center for homeless and at-risk women and children – and residents of Michigan City’s Sand Castle Shelter were in need of winter coats.

In an effort to help, Kolb and his family planned on buying $300 worth of new winter coats for the residents, and decided to start trying local garage sale sites on Facebook. When sellers heard what they were doing with these coats, they began simply donating them to the Kolbs instead of selling them. Thanks to these individuals’ generosity, Kolb and his family were able to provide the two shelters with more than 1000 items of clothing, food, and cleaning supplies.

“This was always something my family and I had done,” Kolb said. “Even before we officially started the Foundation, we were always invested in helping the less fortunate. As often as we could, we would go and hand out food packages and care packages to the needy. This year, we decided to take our dedication one step further and were able to make the Foundation a reality.”

From the moment they officially started their organization, the awareness and donations have snowballed. Currently, they are working out of their house, using their garage as a storage facility for all of the donations. However, that has since filled to maximum capacity and Kolb recently had to delay a donation, because there was just no more room to take it in.

‘The people who donate to us are the ones that make everything happen,” Kolb said. “And that moment that we provide families with the things they need – to see the relief on their face, to give them that chance to sit back and relax for a moment is irreplaceable.”

In the near future, Kolb and his family wish to expand their organization, securing a facility where they would like to start a small production line, making t-shirts, decals and the like. Their hope is to be able to employ the homeless and borderline homeless in their facility, producing these products, to provide them with work skills and some financial relief. They also hope to continue growing into a self-sustaining shelter for the needy.

“One thing we stand for is to help restore independence, vitality, and empowerment,” Kolb said. “The biggest thing is making a change. There is no stereotypical person that needs help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and help those in need. There is no such thing as being too helpful.”

In what remains of his spare time, between work and everything he does with The Thrive Foundation, Kolb makes it a priority to spend as much time with his wife and children, coaching travel softball, umpiring for the NSA, and just spending quality time together.