"Paying it forward"
Evansville, a town of roughly 5,000, is a place where people connect to each other through Amazing moms groups, dog walking groups and backyard chicken groups, a place where drivers stop for pedestrians and watch out for each other’s children, it is a place where people can ask for help and have that need met quickly. We genuinely care about each other and want to help each other.
A child was born today and has absolutely nothing. Who can help? Help! My car broke down and I have two interviews tomorrow. Does anyone have a car I can borrow? My family has been living with family members for the last six months because we can’t afford to get our gas heat and plumbing hooked up. Do you know of anyone who can help? I’m moving into my own apartment on the first of the month and I need furniture and kitchen items. Does anyone have anything they don’t need anymore?
A woman is working on leaving her abusive husband and needs a job, a place to live, and all the furnishings. No information about the woman and her children is being revealed as she needs to get it all planned before she makes her move. Please private message me if you can help.
There was a fire in our neighboring town and the family lost everything. Who can help?
Would you lend your car to a complete stranger or let another stranger and her children live in your home? In the small town of Evansville, in all of these cases and more, the needs were filled, within days, sometimes hours. These are examples of the types of requests for help that are posted on our (Facebook) social media site called “Pay it Forward, Evansville, WI.”
Started by Tammy Pomplun in 2015, the page has five moderators, who each serve a specific role. Milly Garcia helps make connections with the town’s Hispanic community. Somewhat new to town, Jeanne Blume connects with and helps admin understand the point of view of newcomers and how to help them feel more welcome. Ashley Johnson, a newlywed, helps make connections with young adults and those just starting out. Rose Pomplun helps new moms get their needs met, whether it be for formula and diapers or a complete nursery or child care. Sandy Thompson has experience with the medical field and social services and helps people find the information they need in that regard. Middle School student Adrian Garcia reaches out to middle and high school students. Administrators are quick to point out, though, that it is the caring and giving community that deserves the credit for making the town so welcoming.
As a result of the group, Pomplun and her husband, Louie, put out a “Pay it Forward Little Free Pantry” in the front of their home, right next to their Little Free Library. In addition to choosing a free book, people can take cleaning or personal care items from the Little Free Pantry, or a box or can of food to get them through the night until they can get to a food pantry, like Evansvilleâ’s Ecumenical Care Closet, which was established as a food pantry and resource to serve the community. Along with the food pantry, a thrift store helps make gently used household and clothing items affordable to members of the community while raising funds for the food pantry. A separate agency, the Aware Agency, a division of Community Action, is led by Julie Hermanson, and also serves the needs of the community through Holiday food and gift baskets, diaper and coat drives and more.
The community is blessed in other ways as well. Through the Pay it Forward group, two other groups have been established, a Play it or Trade it service, led by Sharon Sicklinger Koebler, where people donate new or gently used sports equipment that is offered free of charge to those in need, and Nina’s Pet Outreach, led by Sydney Badeau, where people in need can receive free pet food and supplies. A new event, another result of the Pay it Forward group, is being held in early May 2017. Called the Pay it Forward Purge Party, the community has begun cleaning out their homes, and will hold a giant free rummage sale, where others can come and take whatever they want or need for free.