Elkhart has always responded to challenges

Hats off to each and every one who had a part, no matter how large or small, in making Elkhart the wonderful community that it is today.

Posted on Aug. 26, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Place Where You Live is a regular column from a variety of writers in Elkhart County. As the column's name suggests, they'll write about issues affecting their neighbors and communities.

My husband and I have been residents of the Elkhart community for the past 60 years and have grown to love and appreciate living here. Elkhart is a unique community. People care and will commit to a cause with their time and talent when made aware of the need. We are truly the city with a heart.

Do you remember when the Elkhart County Association for the Retarded’s headquarters was in a house on East Jackson Boulevard with little space for patients and staff? It took the efforts of many people, along with the help of a consultant, to raise the money needed to build a larger facility on Hively Avenue. And more money and people to provide complete care for the mentally disabled citizens of our community in a much larger setting in Bristol. If you helped in any way, thank you for making this wonderful program possible.

When Meals on Wheels first began, meals — ordered by doctors — were planned by the dietitians at Elkhart General Hospital and put together by volunteers. Additional volunteers loaded the meals in their cars and delivered them to homes throughout the city. Meals on Wheels, provided Monday through Friday, has helped many people stay in their homes. It is still being provided by the hospital and volunteers. Amazing!

Child And Parent Services was just a gleam in the eye of a small committee when members reviewed the first statistics for child abuse in Elkhart County. We were overwhelmed to see the need was so great. A task force led to a committee, the United Way got involved and the citizens of Elkhart responded. The Methodist church led the way with office and meeting space, followed by others who also saw the need for this program. Our goal was to break the cycle so that future generations could live without abuse and neglect. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the programs would become as far reaching as they are today. The people of Elkhart made this possible. They dream big and support their dreams.

Ten years after the seed was planted for a child abuse and neglect program, the Elkhart County Medical Auxiliary began to consider a hospice program in Elkhart. After years of study, task force meetings and visits to hospices, it was decided that Elkhart needed this program. A board of directors was elected, a staff hired, and we began serving those in our community who needed our services, Fundraising was a major part of our need, as insurance and Medicare were not available to hospice patients at this time. Once again the community came to the rescue. We wanted our friends and relatives who were dying to die peacefully, with the help they needed. We also wanted their families to have the support needed to carry on after they died. EGH was a supporter from the beginning, providing office space and other help. Today, Elkhart Community Hospice is a part of the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care Inc. It began in Elkhart and continues to serve the needs of Elkhart citizens today. What a blessing it has been to so many people.

These programs began in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s and would not have been possible without the support of this wonderful community. Yes, it took big donations, and professional staff to oversee the programs. More important, it took the concern, love, time and money of volunteers who keep these programs going today. Hats off to each and every one who had a part, no matter how large or small, in making Elkhart the wonderful community that it is today.

As we enjoy the Lerner Theatre, Wellfield Botanic Gardens, the IU South Bend Elkhart Center, the Ruthmere Museum and the many new attractions in our community, let’s celebrate the contribution so many made in the past. We have much to look forward to.

Ruth Gattman is a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She has been deeply involved in the Elkhart community.


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