Community Leaders Comment On Instilling HOPE To The Citizens of Muncie During COVID-19

Downtown Muncie's iconic sculpture, “Passing of the Buffalo” standing tall at dawn. Photo by: Matt Howell, Farmhouse CreativeDowntown Muncie's iconic sculpture, “Passing of the Buffalo” standing tall at dawn. Photo by: Matt Howell, Farmhouse Creative

By: Mike Rhodes,—

Muncie, IN— reached out to a number of local community leaders to get their thoughts on how to keep hope alive during the coronavirus pandemic. Their thoughts and comments are below.

Dan Ridenour, Mayor of Muncie

The City of Muncie is such a vibrant community. The city’s best resource is its people. I see people unite and come together in times of need. While these circumstances related to the COVID-19 epidemic are less than ideal, the stories of positivity and community that emerge from this time are inspiring. There are stories of citizens shopping for those who are at risk, businesses donating food, volunteers stepping up to provide help. As Mr. Rodgers used to say “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

And Muncie is filled with helpers!

It is understandable when faced with the adversity of this pandemic, to focus on all that is wrong. But it takes courageous individuals to rise to the need. Muncie’s citizens are courageous. The community has helped each other, we’ve come together in new and innovative ways to make sure everyone is safe.

I am a proud Muncie resident, and encourage everyone to keep their head held high during this pandemic. Continue to look out for each other, help those in need, and follow the CDC guidelines. Now is the time to look for and appreciate our helpers: doctors, nurses, medical staff, police officers, firefighters, EMS, your neighbor who does shopping for those in need, volunteers, supermarket workers, truck drivers, teachers, parents, the businesses who’ve donated, and so many more.  To all those who may go unappreciated, yet are so needed, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you for helping! We WILL get through this.

Brad Polk, Muncie City Council

Thank you to all Munsonians who have taken COVID-19 seriously. The sacrifices that we are all making during this time – closing businesses, canceling gatherings and physically distancing from those that we love are crucial to flattening the curve and helping the most vulnerable amongst us. If there’s one thing that every person should remember during this trying time, it is that you are not alone.

As an elected official I am always amazed by the spirit of giving that Munsonians display. Muncie is more than just a place; it is a people. We will weather this storm if we stay united, optimistic and supportive of one another. Some ways that we can support each other include: volunteering at local food banks, donating blood if able, and supporting small businesses and restaurants that are being hit hard by the pandemic.

The simple definition of community is when one possesses a feeling of fellowship with others. As a community, we have faced our fair share of challenges in the past and have emerged stronger on the other side every time. Support your fellow citizens, uplift those around you— we will all be much better off at the end of this difficult road for it.

Casey Stanley, Ontario Systems

They say adversity doesn’t build character but reveals it.

Just a few weeks ago, I doubt anyone (at least not me!) would have predicted a local, national, and global challenge like the one we are experiencing. What began as an obscure story in a far-away place has transformed our lives in ways we could not have imagined. Daily rhythms have been interrupted. How people worship, care for loved ones, and meet financial needs, have undergone tremendous challenges and change.

During this storm, though, I have been reminded of valuable lessons.

First, despite our natural human desire to be in control, we are not. Our blessings —whether they be our community (family, friends, etc.), health, financial, professional, and anything else—are a gift from God. We should be thankful each day for the blessings in our life.

I’m also more keenly aware that times like this reveal the character of people and our community. Daily I see people doing what’s right—working hard and caring for others. Our local government, foundations, private industries, not-for-profits, and our entire healthcare community have quickly mobilized to focus on people, families, and our collective future. Delaware county is FULL of people who are helpful, loving, honest, and unafraid to selflessly serve others. Whether it be ensuring an elderly neighbor has groceries, providing the technology a child needs to keep up in school, or a parade of cars assembled to ensure a four-year-old has a special birthday, it’s inspiring to me.

And there’s something else. Something the news isn’t reporting, and most people don’t get to witness. Even amid a here-and-now pandemic, I have observed that our community leaders have not slowed in their commitment to Muncie’s future. They persist in acting on making this a thriving, safe, and equitable place to live, work, learn, and play. Organizations like NextMuncie, United Way of Delaware County, the Muncie-Delaware County Community Foundation, our Chamber of Commerce, the Ball Brothers Foundation, and so many more have not stopped their work to revitalize downtown, help our families focus on early childhood education, attract new and grow existing businesses, and more. They believe the future is bright, even while we experience some cloudy days.

And so my encouragement to anyone who finds themselves wondering if the world will ever feel right-side-up again is this. Be grateful for all your blessings. Be kind and helpful to your neighbors. And, stay hopeful and resolute to the promise of our bright future. Together, we will get through this pandemic, and I believe that we will be well-positioned as grateful, helpful, committed people in a remarkable hometown.

Dr. Jeff Bird, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

In the midst of this unprecedented time of deep uncertainty, it’s so rewarding to be a resource that not only stays open, but takes extraordinary steps to care for this community and provide hope when so many of us feel helpless. But as we confront this global pandemic together, we can find comfort in stories of sacrifice, compassion and recovery.

I see selfless acts every day as our team members—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, patient transporters, respiratory therapists–  show up, stand up and care for our critically ill patients and each other. The compassion they show while functioning together as a team, united by one purpose, is reassuring to me. We’ve seen an outpouring of love and compassion from community members, too. From well-wishes from Burris students, food donations from local businesses, families finding creative ways to “visit” with loved ones, to a community-organized prayer vigil, I am so moved by these efforts to protect, heal, and encourage one another. In between so many challenges, it all comes down to videos like this one, that shows a patient making a recovery and on their way home.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain, I encourage you to revisit these and other examples of sacrifice, compassion and recovery in our community. May they give you a sense of comfort, foster hope for the future, and reassure you that together, we will get through this.

J Chapman, Woof Boom Radio

“You are never beaten until you admit it.” George Patton said that and I think he was talking about one of his soldiers who was surely from Muncie.

There were two reasons Woof Boom started here. First, there were great radio stations in Muncie I had been chasing for nearly a year. Second, people who live in Muncie are tough and they don’t quit.  Being tough doesn’t mean you are mean…it does mean you have great drive and never give in.  The employees at Woof Boom are like the people I know in Muncie. I’ve watched our employees for the last month forge ahead despite the great uncertainties of these times. Our customers have a strong will and desire to not quit, to not give in. The business, public, and political leaders I know here are very much the same.

When we started Woof Boom we made a bet. The bet wasn’t on Muncie. The bet was (and still is) on the people of Muncie.  Despite the challenges, we will not only get through this crisis but we will be stronger in many ways because of our collective experiences. I am so thankful for the people who are on the frontlines helping our community right now.

I am thankful for those at Ball Memorial, first responders, the bankers who worked overtime to process the CARE Act, the small businesses who keep our community moving, the on-air staff at Woof Boom along with all of the media outlets in Delaware County, and the people who stayed home to flatten the curve. Most of all I am thankful for the spirit of service and tenacity that is very much a part of our community today, as it will usher in a brighter future tomorrow.

Mitch Isaacs, Shafer Leadership Academy

There’s a relationship between life altering change and grief.  It’s OK if you’re working through this change right now. It’s OK to be unsure, or upset. It’s OK to be angry and it’s OK to be worried. These things are natural.

So spend some time with some of that if you need to, because here is what I know about Muncie: we endure. This community has endured a lot of the last few decades, more than most. We’ve dealt with the loss of industries and the loss of identity. We have been challenged to rethink and rebrand ourselves in this, the 21st century.

And yet, Muncie endures. We endure the hardships. We endure the loss. We endure challenges. And through it all Muncie will emerge stronger, smarter, and more ready for the new world in front of us. It’s what we’ve been doing for the last 20 years – adapting, changing and growing. We’re poised for this challenge and any other surprise in front of us.

Muncie endures, and you will too.

Lead on.

Jud Fisher, Ball Brothers Foundation

We are not going to fail. Muncie and Delaware County are blessed with world-class educational institutions, from preschool through higher education, with incredible leadership. Our healthcare systems are second to none. Our manufacturers continue to thrive and drive the Midwest economy. Businesses of all sizes grace our cities, towns and rural areas with opportunities. Our farmers continue to fill the world’s pantries—including ours—with food. Our non-profits are excellent and cover a wide variety of needs.

Our business, non-profit, and government leaders are top notch and are fighting through our pandemic crisis without a playbook. Our collective communities have seen this in the past. It is during times like this I am reminded of the tremendous legacy of those who came before us. Our ancestors—and many of us—have been tested, but in the end we have all stood steadfast and recovered. We have learned from world wars, economic hardship, and other unique challenges.

We have a rich legacy of resiliency to draw from as we support those who are working tirelessly on the frontlines, as we work toward better days over the next year, and as we plan to counter tough times in the future. We are not going to fail. We were built for this—forged in fires of the past, good and bad. Let’s remember that historical message as we move forward. Let’s push to help our neighbors and our communities respond to, and recover from, these unfortunate times. Let’s give our children a lesson in hope and hard work as we move on toward better days for Muncie and beyond.

Scott McKee, First Merchants

There are two common definitions of the word hope. One is akin to a wish which is a passive desire for something that we want to happen—as in we hope something happens. The other is more likened to a confident expectation of good outcomes. The latter is the hope that I want to inspire and reinforce in you. Because we can ultimately expect good to prevail, we all can rest in great hope that is just as assured as the sun rising again in the morning. This is not to say that there won’t be plenty of dreary, nasty, cloudy days because we are assured of that being the case. We are experiencing some of that right now, but as a friend reminded me the other day, “the worst thing is never the last thing.”

If we can learn to live with these cloudy and nasty days, with an expectation of good outcomes, our lives will take a richer and more meaningful course. Too often we let fear, or feelings of hopelessness, blind us of opportunities to learn and grow during difficult situations. Paralyzing fear that is centered on all of the possible negative outcomes can cause us to act irrationally and even selfishly. A great antidote for fear is simply the giving of ourselves to others in service. A famous author once said that we simply need to “forgive life for being absurd” sometimes, then we need to find ways to help make things better for those around us. We have all seen many wonderful examples of exactly that lately.

Public private partnerships, large and small businesses, churches, non-profit organizations, and millions of caring people have risen to the occasion to alleviate suffering in our communities. Some actions are massive like manufacturers retooling their machinery to produce medical supplies, the medical community caring for those who are suffering from this terrible disease, or the mass of volunteers serving the poor and destitute. Others actions seem smaller, but are equally meaningful, such as the elderly woman I witnessed carefully wiping down a shopping cart after she finished her grocery shopping. She was giving a few moments of her time to care for a stranger she will likely never meet. All of these caring actions and gestures matter because they all contribute to our community, togetherness, wellness, and love for one another.

I can assure you that we will come out of this pandemic much stronger because we have a community comprised of people who care very deeply for one another.  There is too much good in too many people throughout our community for us to feel hopeless. Let’s forgive the reality of this pandemic for being what it is, learn from what we are experiencing, and reach out to those in need. The sun will rise, and the fear will subside. I have great hope for you because good will prevail.

Steve Lindell, 104.1 WLBC

I have always coached air talent on the Radio, “I’d rather be accurate, than first.”  Meaning, make certain of the accuracy of whatever you are sharing on radio and on digital sources that are also representing the radio station and the company that we work for. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated monsoon of information, there is a new problem: everyone with a cell phone thinks they are a News Director.  That, added to the reality that some actual broadcast news-sources all have human beings (that sometimes have opinions that trickle into their presentations), we must be certain that we have Facts Not Fear (our latest phrase that we live by inside our Woof Boom Radio stations.)

How do we instill positivity, and the reality that we will all get through this?  We seek stories of people helping people (and they are not difficult to find.)  We use our radio stations, which reach 93% of American’s every week (and since the C19 situation, more than one-third say they are listening to as much, or more radio each week.) Our “tone” is also critical – using the personal medium of radio, the way we say a word, or phrase can have as much meaning as the actual information.  We even use (anti) social media as another touch-point to our listeners and potential ones – but the overall goal is this: inform (in a factual way) and entertain (to give people a release-opportunity, too.)  Radio: The Original Social Media.

Watasha Barnes Griffin, YWCA Central Indiana

“No one can live without hope,” says Frank Nuño.  When we lose hope, you are only able to look at the circumstances around you. During this pandemic, I have looked beyond the circumstances and tapped into the power of love. The love of families, the love of friends, and the love of our compassionate community. Only when love is a verb and put into action does it thrive.

You have to have hope. It is what wakes me every morning and puts me to bed every night.  What gives me hope is the many acts of kindness that I have witnessed.  The altruism of our community, the heroic acts of our front line workers.  We can not see the Coronavirus, but we can see each other.  I am inspired and proud to live in a place that sees its citizens go beyond their personal fears to provide courage, compassion, and commitment as we unite to keep our community healthy. We are one. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.

To all of our essential workers, please continue to take care of yourself so that you are strong enough to take care of others.

We may feel like we are going through the worst phase of life. It will get better. We are going to get through.  This too shall pass.

Al Holdren, Atlas Collections

I take the approach that with uncertainty comes the opportunity to: Serve our neighbors, friends and maybe the single mom in the grocery line digging for change (as I saw Dich Holdren, my Dad, do often.)

I’ve seen people take the time to do a project for their neighbors in their yard (Griffis Boys.) I’ve watched a mayor step into the fire, only months into office and push forward. I’ve seen a director of a local Mission move into their facility to serve his men safely (Frank Baldwin.) I’ve watched pastors direct their flocks from a video camera and “Give Hope” spiritually to all that will listen. I’ve watched community members every week or so, pass out food to 100’s of cars along with our National Guard Warriors or serve meals every Sat night (Bob Ball.)

I’ve seen school teachers driving through neighborhoods, because they “Love” their kids. I’ve seen a GRAND lady organize 100’s of cars to thank Dr. Jeff Bird/President of BMH and his BMH Hero’s in a parking lot. And so much more.

These simple acts of caring, giving and kindness are what Muncie does when they are threatened.  We pull together and make things happen.  I name these people to make sure no good deed goes “UnThanked”.  We need to do this and make sure those doing great things are being supported and pushed up!  There have and will be so many more to come.  Great people need an opportunity to serve and I believe this crazy pandemic has provided just the vehicle for people to act upon things they have thought of.

When appropriate, go outside and look around and keep your ear to the ground and listen for a need and simply do what you can for those asking or needing help.  I just got off an amazing call with my Secret Families Board Of Directors and in conclusion there will be Christmas for those put in our path to serve.

I love this town. The fight is on and it ends when we say it ends!  I hope this is a call to service for everyone.  Do SOMETHING!

Frank Baldwin, Muncie Mission Ministries

Pre-COVID days seem so long ago and our former daily routines only remain in memory like a wisp of smoke. Schools are closed, businesses have been shuttered, jobs lost, and our lives have been disrupted. Instructions for remaining healthy include a new term: social distancing.  The community triaged the crisis and has generously responded. New practices and protocols are now routine. As the adrenaline subsides and the new reality is focused on isolation, we are faced with this question: How does our community remain hopeful?

Here are a few actions to inspire hope. Performing acts of kindness brightens your spirit and connects us to one another. Write notes of encouragement or call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.  Around the clock reminders that the world is a bad place are not necessary — take a break and turn off the news.  Read a book, go for a walk, or listen to music.  Finally, return to your faith. Faith inspires hope and connects us with God. Doubts are real and should be examined.  Perhaps this is a time to consider priorities and where your faith resides.

Jim Funk, Former Ball Memorial Hospital HR Executive

This morning I was on a Zoom call (the mode of meetings these days) with 20 colleagues from 10 different countries, and we spent some time sharing with each other what good we think could come from this current and tragic pandemic experience. As I listened, I noticed much in common among our human experiences from so many different cultures. This gave me hope—a hope that the world will somehow become more united as we all go through this together, and that we all wish for a better future in each of our countries.

One after another, each person shared profound insights about what was already changing for the better. More solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. Sharing what we have with others who have less. More time to be with family. Having fun across the generations that may be under one roof right now. Better balance of work, relationships, rest, and healthier meals at home. Time to learn new things, taking an online course. Seeing this as a way to gain new perspectives on the value of human life. More humbled by knowing we aren’t in control as much as we thought we were. Dialoguing and finding common ground between those of different political and religious views. Getting back to basics, and what is really important.

I felt many of the same experiences, right here close to home—not just across the ocean. The last person to share said she is more reflective, and is asking herself the question of what she can personally do to be better, and to help others be better in the post-pandemic world. What a great opportunity to push the “reset” button, and realize a new vision.

My questions for reflection are: In what way have we failed to respect the dignity and life and flourishing of our fellow human beings? Where has the common good been put aside in order to have more immediate gains, and how should that be realigned? In what way do I demonize people with different views, and thus separate myself from my brothers and sisters? How would I like for my priorities to be different in the future? What will I do more of and less of when this is all over? If I can gain even some of the benefits my colleagues mentioned, and accomplish a “reset” for myself from this time to reflect more deeply, I have reason to be hopeful through these difficult times.