A local company is collaborating with Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. in an annual effort to help students and their families.
Johnson-Witkemper Insurance, Inc, a subsidiary of Marvin Johnson &Associates, recently donated more than $20,000 to BCSC schools for them to redistribute to families in need, said former BCSC student assistance coordinator Larry Perkinson. On Friday, Tony Johnson, executive vice president of Marvin Johnson &Associates, delivered checks to schools, accompanied by Perkinson and his successor, Janae Norman.
“(The money) goes to the principals, and they use their staff, teachers, deans to identify as many families as they can help,” said Perkinson, who dressed up as Santa Claus for the visits.
Once, a student’s family didn’t have transportation, so the boy was given a winter coat and a bicycle so that he could continue going to school.
“The deans, counselors, principals, teachers know their kids better than we do,” said Norman. “And they know where the needs are. … They know it’s all for student needs, so that’s what it goes towards.”
“We’ve actually been doing this event since 2009, but it started in 2008 when Johnson-Witkemper made a huge donation to help families after the flood,” Perkinson said.
The insurance company’s contribution to the community included a donation of $10,000 to Family Self-Sufficiency and the Lincoln Central Neighborhood Family Center so that the agencies could buy school supplies and clothes for young flood victims in the county.
Johnson also contacted Perkinson, a good friend who was once his wrestling coach, in 2008 and 2009.
“When we went through that horrible travesty of the flood — my father is a big softie, especially around the holidays, and they wanted to continue to help the community, especially kids,” Johnson said. “And Larry and I connected, and I thought, ‘What’s the best way that we can directly put the things that kids and families need right in their hands?’”
The answer, they decided, was talking to teachers and administrators.
“They’re on the front lines and they’re in the trenches, and they know the kids personally,” Johnson said. “And the teachers, of course, are always trying to help as much as they possibly can, even out of their own pocket. … We want to put money in their pockets so they can help the kids. And that’s kind of how all this started, really, in 2009.”
“When I was student assistance director, it was just a chance to smile all day long that I looked forward to,” said Perkinson. He added that Johnson and his father are the “servant leaders” behind the work.
Perkinson estimated that if Johnson-Witkemper continues the annual effort next year, the company will have invested $250,000 in the needs of kids and families since 2008.
“You should just see the kids and the teachers and the principals,” said BCSC communications coordinator Josh Burnett, who was there to document the visits. “These three have brought a lot of joy to all the schools that they visited today.”
Perkinson said that there is definitely a need for assistance in the community. According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 people in the state of Indiana face hunger. For children, the number is 1 in 7.
“We’ve got those kids,” said Perkinson. “We’ve got families that are hard-pressed. But we are blessed to have so many foundations and agencies and companies that give back to our families every year, and Johnson-Witkemper’s just a great example of that.”
“We are big believers in taking care of the community that takes care of us,” said Johnson.