Volunteer impacts food insecurity one delivery at a time

Volunteer impacts food insecurity one delivery at a time
By: Porter County Aging and Community Services Last Updated: June 27, 2019

“Goody Lady” is a moniker that Kathy Conn has embraced since 2013.

That is when she began delivering bread, sheet cakes, cookies, pies and more to non-profits in Northwest Indiana. Anyone who visits these organizations can grab these items and enjoy.

“I live on a lake stocked with fish and would get bread from the Hostess outlet to feed my wildlife,” Conn says. “When it went out of business, I approached Strack & Van Til on U.S. 30 and bought their day-old bread.”

When winter came and the lake was frozen, she still continued to collect the items to help maintain that relationship. With more and more food items, she decided to start delivering them to area non-profits.

“Once I got started, one place would tell me about another,” she said.

Today, she drops off goodies to such agencies as Porter County Aging and Community Services, Alice’s Halfway House for Women, New Creation Men’s Center and Respite House, all in Valparaiso, as well as Sand Castle Shelter in Michigan City. She makes deliveries four days a week.

“When I first started, I was doing it every day and my garage started looking like a grocery store as you have to sort and box everything. It was getting out of hand,” she says.

She connected with the Salvation Army, which took over accepting food items three days a week.

“I have a two-pocket folder and an ongoing list as well as letters that people have sent me. I take the letters to the stores, so they know where their stuff is going,” she says. “I don’t get paid. This helps me feel productive, to be doing something that helps the community.”

A memory that stands out for Conn is when she saw a little boy clutching a sheet cake that she had just dropped off at the Salvation Army as a reminder of the scope of homelessness in the region.

“When we say homeless people, there’s children too,” she says. “Homeless children still go to school, have birthdays, graduate … When I saw him carrying that cake, he had the biggest smile on his face.”

Bringing food and goodies to those who need assistance is a special component of Conn’s life as she has faced pain on a daily basis since a car accident in 1995. Her health issues stop her from being able to work and her volunteer role allows her to remain active on her terms.

“I was a day care teacher, worked for Lake County Child Protective Services and with seniors to help them with light housekeeping and grocery shopping,” she says. “I have always worked since I was 14 and had a very active life. After my accident, my health went down-hill and it took years to feel halfway normal.

“When I started to get around, I wanted to do things with the public, because I can’t work a 9 to 5 job,” she says.

She also is happy to make an impact on food waste by helping save these items from being tossed.

“I tell my organizations, ‘If you need it, eat it. If you don’t, don’t waste it. Don’t throw it away. I will take it somewhere else.’ I have plenty of places to go,” she says.

“It’s a form of therapy to me. I am going to do this until I can’t anymore.”

PCACS’ mission is to extend a helping hand to seniors, those with disabilities and low-income residents by providing services to improve their quality of life, including transportation, energy and emergency assistance, Section 8 and ramp programs.

For more information, visit www.portercountyacs.org.