Taking “Care” of Boone County: How The Caring Center is Addressing Hunger in Lebanon

The impact from closures and stay-at-home orders meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 is being felt in communities large and small. While these abrupt changes to our daily lives are designed to contain the virus and protect our well-being, closed schools, lost paychecks and a disrupted supply chain have caused a dramatic increase in the number of our neighbors experiencing food insecurity.


Boone County, one of six United Way of Central Indiana service areas, is proud home to The Caring Center, an organization whose mission is to stabilize individuals and families during a time of crisis. Upon receiving a $25,000 grant from the Central Indiana COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund (C-CERF), the Caring Center is working to tackle hunger at its core.


Formally known as Project Help, the Caring Center was established in the early 1980s when a group from St. Peter’s church distributed food and clothing to those in need. Since then, the center has evolved into a multi-program, not-for-profit organization serving thousands of people, specifically those who are food insecure.


“As this pandemic continues, food insecurity, the need for assistance and other basic essentials for survival will continue to be on the rise,” said Theresa Hanners, executive director of The Caring Center.


With help from C-CERF, the Caring Center has the resources needed to combat these emerging needs. These funds have allowed them to continue operating under normal operating hours all while providing extra food for families, so they don’t have to come out as often. To make pickups as safe as possible, they’ve even started pre-boxing items to hand out at their drive-thru collections.


“[The grant] has been very helpful and flexible,” said Hanners. “These funds have taken a lot of stress off our daily operations.”


Just last week, a local doctor called the center expressing concern over a 54-year-old man quarantined at the hospital. With his wife in hospice care and living on a fixed income, it was evident he needed their help.


“We called immediately, and within the hour, had gathered two large boxes of food and personal care items,” said Hanners. “They will continue to receive weekly deliveries as long as they need them.”


A few days later, they received another call from a nurse about a pregnant patient who had nothing to provide for her soon-to-be-born baby. The Caring Center quickly assembled everything needed for this new family – not only for the baby boy’s arrival – but also for the mother-to-be.


“It has been so wonderful,” said Hanners. “Because of safety issues, no volunteers are here, but being able to keep our staff busy and having the resources to keep our food pantry fully stocked has made our lives so much easier. We are so grateful for this generous donation.”