Giving Year Round

Jan DeFerbrache, founder of the non-profit Gaia Works and the gift shop Magic Candle in Irvington, is filled with gratitude for all the people who have stepped up to help her help others. Earlier this year, Jan’s shop was burglarized two days in a row: thieves stole the cash register and donated goods from the pantry in the shop one night, and the next night they broke in again and stole items and damaged the shop itself. “I felt violated,” she said, recounting the day she walked into a huge mess of shattered glass and overturned displays. “That day, a gentleman came in to ask for food for his elderly mother, and I had nothing to give him. I just broke down. A volunteer ran to the store to get a bag of food for him.” Then she got angry. “Those thieves didn’t steal from me, they stole from hungry people, old people who rely on our help.”
Then, to add insult to injury, the insurance company denied her claim, leaving her with over $10,000 in losses. “I’m still finding glass under cabinets from the burglary.” Many people stepped up to help her overcome the losses, including Alan and Rhonda Hunter, who guided a special Irvington Ghost Tour to raise funds. Many others in the community also stepped with with clean-up assistance, emotional support, and more.
Thanks to the help of nearly 70 Gaia Works volunteers, friends, and the community, Jan is finding a new normal. Her pantry supplies about 10-15 full bags of groceries for needy seniors and families in the area every week, plus helps stock community food boxes. Last year, a cabinet company donated large pantry closets to help keep everyone organized, and groups have come in to help sort and deliver food. Jan said “I am so grateful. So blessed.”
For many years, Gaia Works has helped support the hungry and vulnerable in the Indianapolis area. “We had some Red Hat Society ladies here helping sort food and deliver baskets,” Jan said. “They knew how fortunate they were — they were retired from jobs, but got pensions and they were doing okay. That’s great, but what about the housewife who worked raising kids, then the husband gets sick and his treatment eats up all their savings? And he dies and she’s left with nothing. And she’s trying to live on $500 a month Social Security benefits. How can anyone do that? That’s who we are trying to help.”
With the cold weather and holidays around the corner, the pantry will be stretched to its limits. “It looks full right now,” she said, indicating the well-organized cans and boxes on the shelves. “By the end of the week, most of these cans will be gone.” At the time, she was also organizing a chicken donation for Thanksgiving meals. “We get them chickens. They are easier to cook.” She’s also in touch with Coburn Place, a shelter for domestic abuse survivors, waiting on a count of children and women who they will help. “We generally have 30-35 moms, and 50-60 children,” she noted. They supply full stockings, cold weather gear, and gifts to everyone.
As we have for the past several years, the Weekly View will be a collection point for both the Gaia Works Christmas gifts, and for pantry items from until mid-December. The priority list for the food pantry include: $10 (or more) gift cards to grocery stores for seniors to purchase fresh vegetables and meats, canned vegetables and fruit, canned meats (Vienna sausages, Spam, etc.), peanut butter, soup and crackers, microwaveable meals, and shelf-stable items that can be made into simple meals. Jan said that she is also asking for small packages of frozen meat, hot dogs, and frozen dinners, which they can store in their small freezer (don’t bring them to our offices, as we don’t have a way to keep them).
For the Christmas drive for the families at Coburn Place and other needy local families, we need new hats, scarves, and other warm weather items for kids, stocking stuffer small toys and puzzles for all ages and for boys and girls alike, candies, games, slippers, and coloring books.
To make a donation of frozen items, call the Magic Candle at 317-357-1101 or drop them off at the shop during business hours at 203 S. Audubon.