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Jerry Davich: ‘Grow a row’ to help feed hungry kids

Audrey Carrillo 7 (left) her sister Caroline Carrillo 5 display an assortment eggplant cucumber red hot chili peppers Italian sweet

Audrey Carrillo, 7, (left) and her sister Caroline Carrillo, 5, display an assortment of eggplant, cucumber, red hot chili peppers and Italian sweet peppers in the garden at their home in Sand Creek in Chesterton, Ind. Tuesday July 10, 2012. WIth a garden twice the size as last year's, the girls have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit to donate to the food pantry at Housing Opportunities in Valparaiso. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 14, 2012 6:27AM



Audrey Carrillo heard about the shortage of fruits and vegetables for hungry children at a nearby food pantry, and she wanted to do something about it.

With kids on summer break from school, and not being fed there each day, food pantry shortages are more common this time of year. It’s a seasonal challenge in the food distribution industry, though widely unknown to most people.

Audrey decided to help expand her family’s home garden, doubling it to 30-feet by 40-feet, and she then helped plant dozens of vegetables. Beans, spinach, okra, tomatoes, you name it and the green-thumb go-getter from Chesterton planted it, around Mother’s Day.

She simply wanted to make a difference.

Such a civic-minded, homegrown accomplishment may not seem newsworthy, except for one pint-sized detail. Audrey is only 7 years old. And her sister, Caroline, who also helped plant and raise those fruits and veggies, is only 5.

Audrey loves to garden, but loves the idea of helping kids in need even more. Caroline loves the notion that food pantry clients are eating items that her family planted and picked. Both girls agree that other kids should be able to eat healthy food even if their parents can’t provide it.

“I thought the idea of someone Audrey’s age taking such an interest in helping would be inspiring to people,” said their mother, Dawn Ray of Chesterton. “When I speak with people about the food pantry, they really don’t know that there are that many people in our community who need assistance.”

Together, her young daughters now make weekly deliveries to the Housing Opportunities food pantry in Valparaiso, taking part in the agency’s blossoming “Grow a Row” program. The program asks for residential food-growers to add an extra row in their home garden, with the additional produce earmarked for the food pantry, which serves 1,600 adults and children each month.

Roughly 43 million Americans grow more food in their home then they can use, and one of every four Porter county residents, for instance, need help feeding their family. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

If you’re interested, donations can be made to Housing Opportunities, 2001 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. For more info, call 548-2800 or visit www.housing-opportunities.com.

Tell ’em Audrey and Caroline sent you.

Air show’s cost? Hmmm

The most repeated question I was asked by readers (and listeners of my radio show) last weekend during the Gary South Shore Air Show was, “What did it cost to put it on?”

“Great question,” I repeatedly replied. “But I have no idea. Let me look into it.”

And so I did by talking to Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, which has hosted the air show the past several years.

Batistatos, who is still exhaling after his staff’s months-long effort to host the show, told me that detailed figures will be released in a month or so. But, the ballpark cost to put on the show each year is between $390,000 and $450,000, leaning toward the higher figure this year because the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds took part again.

Surprised so high? So was I.

That figure, however, is before the SSCVA gets reimbursed by its many sponsors, supporters, and donators, which can bring down its net cost to somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000. (Last year’s air show cost a net of roughly $130,000, he noted.)

“We will have the breakdown down to the penny,” said Batistatos, noting his figures will not include what the city of Gary spent to host the show.

Batistatos is convinced, and convincing, that the air show’s cost is well worth it, considering how it showcases Miller, Gary, and Northwest Indiana, drawing visitors from dozens of states and beyond, and all the media coverage.

“We are getting the best bang for our buck,” he said, not drawing an argument from me.

Stay tuned for exactly how many bucks he’s talking about, who got what amount, and exactly what bang the SSCVA paid for.

Gay pride parade stalls

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the fifth annual Gay Pride Parade in this region has been cancelled.

Yes, the Northwest Indiana Rainbow Days event was supposed to take place Saturday in Gary, with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to be the special guest. A picnic also was planned to take place afterwards at Buffington Park.

But, until further notice, I’m told, everything is called off. Why? I’m not sure exactly, and I never got a clear answer. But lack of support — especially from the region’s gay community — surely was a factor.

I know that many readers couldn’t care less about this “news,” and others are quietly applauding it, but it’s a blow to the local gay community and mostly to the younger generation who are in dire need of like-minded adults, not to mention role models.

Life is tough enough being a teenager, let alone being a gay teenager with now one less place to find support, acceptance, and understanding.

And the winner is...

Plenty of Northwest Indiana officials earn accolades for their professional accomplishments, and the general public usually never hears of it.

But I want to share with you one such accolade for a woman who not only deserves it, but who deserves for it to be made public.

On June 19, the state’s Corporation for Supportive Housing agency hosted its first celebration for the successes of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. The event, held in Indianapolis, honored providers, developers, and government partners who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership contributing to the growth and vitality of the supportive housing sector.

One of the awardees, for the 2012 Community Leadership Award, was Sharron Liggins, for her Continuum of Care Network work to bring supportive housing to our region. I’ve known Liggins for many years and whenever I hear of someone who is homeless, I turn to her for help. She never ignores my call or the plight of the homeless.

Congrats Sharron.

Listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show today at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.



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