CarmelFest Champions a New Cause

Writer  /  Janelle Morrison
Photographer  /  JJ Kaplan

The Rotary Club of Carmel proudly announces a unique and historic partnership with the Good Samaritan Network in Hamilton County. Many local and area residents are familiar with CarmelFest, the annual July 4th festival produced by the Rotary Club of Carmel. This two-day extravaganza celebrates our nation’s independence, in the heart of Carmel with live music, family entertainment, a myriad of food vendors, a signature parade and of course a spectacular fireworks display.

While preparing for its 27th annual celebrations, incoming CarmelFest chairperson, Gary Sexton, and his committee members have been busy behind the scenes developing another addition to the festival’s agenda.

“I see it as a great opportunity to look into resolving food insecurity in Hamilton County,” Sexton said. “Partnerships like this one between the Rotary Club of Carmel and Good Samaritan Network are crucial to any large scale projects because we accomplish so much more together than we ever could individually.”

Incoming President of the Rotary Club of Carmel, Brian G. Poindexter, spoke on the importance of advocacy for those in need and providing a platform for those who want to give back.

“One of the greatest celebrations in America is the 4th of July,” Poindexter stated. “We celebrate with our friends and our neighbors and we have an extraordinary time. However, we do not want to overlook our residents in need, but provide some relief and give them a reason to celebrate. Additionally, we want to give the community a reason to participate and come to CarmelFest. Help us feed the hungry in Hamilton County while enjoying the 4th of July festivities.”

Certainly not a stranger to the local Rotary clubs and food banks, Nancy Chance, founder/executive director of Good Samaritan Network, has been a well-respected advocate working along with the food pantry volunteers and Rotarians. Naturally, her expertise in networking with the county food pantries, related agencies and the sheer logistics made her the ideal partner for the CarmelFest food drive initiative. Through Good Samaritan Network, she will be able to provide the necessary vehicles, manpower and distribution for a successful drive.

“GSN is nothing without the agencies and the pantries,” Chance emphasized. “They are the structural support of each community with the food processes that they serve their community with, while we provide the logistics, distribution and the communication. We take the food and supplies organize it and get it into a workable format so that the pantries can receive the supplies, and immediately get it onto their shelves and into the hands of those who need it.”

“We are anticipating that this will be a week-long project,” Sexton explained. “We will be setting up drop-off locations prior to the festival dates and then there will be a great opportunity to have parade and festival goers who may not have had a chance ahead of time to learn about the drive and perhaps make a donation or bring items to the drop off points a couple of days after the festival.”

The Rotary Club of Carmel was inspired by their Rotary District 6560 food drive initiative. The Big Regional Food Drive is the kickoff event of the BetterTogether initiative presented by the Rotary Clubs of Central Indiana to provide foodstuffs to local food pantries in 28 counties. They are using a virtual platform that combines the strength and reach of Rotarians, their social networks, partnering regional food banks, and local food pantries to serve needy Hoosiers.

During March and April 2015, a new website for the Big Regional Food Drive will be “open for business” so people can make contributions to stock food pantries and serve those suffering from hunger and food insecurity. The monies raised will supply food to locally designated food pantries through a partnership with three food banks serving the region.

Supporting the local effort of one his district’s clubs, District Governor of Rotary District 6560 Tom Branum, Jr. expressed his appreciation for the Carmel Rotarians’ efforts in supporting his theme.

“The CarmelFest food drive is an amplifier,” Branum said. “We will have more impact on the community working together. The Rotary clubs in our district have strong relationships with the local food banks and that makes our efforts easier. Clubs have a lot of value especially when they share with each other, the corporations and the agencies around them. It is about the synergy and the end result are successful results that we can then share with each other and continue to grow from.”

As the final planning and site locations are determined by the CarmelFest committee and GSN, information will continue to be released to the public on how they can get involved, where to drop off donations and help make the 4th of July even more memorable and meaningful to the residents of Hamilton County. For more information on CarmelFest dates, times and activities, please visit carmelfest.net