Here to help
Nancy Chance knows there are those struggling and does everything she can to assist them
For those in need, Nancy Chance is a God-send – a volunteer who never turns away someone who is hungry or seeking assistance.
“Nancy has been involved in so many worthy projects that physically help people at the grass roots level that some consider her the Mother Teresa of Hamilton County,” said Fishers Deputy Fire Chief Brian D. Lott.
Chance’s caring nature began at a young age. When she was 4, she accompanied her grandparents to their custom cabinet shop in downtown Noblesville (where the Hamilton County Judicial Center is located today). She recalls seeing six men jump from a train and gather under a bridge for shelter. Her grandfather explained the men were looking for work and were waiting for the next train to come through town. When Chance speculated that they might be hungry, her grandfather challenged her to come up with a solution.
“We had a picnic basket lunch so I cut my sandwich into six pieces, walked to the bridge, and distributed it to the homeless men,” said Chance. “My grandparents stood every day and watched me so I wouldn’t be harmed.”
Kindness runs in the Chance family. As a child, Chance would hear knocking on her grandparents’ door and her grandfather, who was a minister, would invite the guest in for a meal.
“I wasn’t a stranger to seeing people I’ve never met,” she said. “I was always concerned about people since that point.”
Today, Chance is the blood bank coordinator at Riverview Hospital. She began working at Riverview Hospital almost 44 years ago and has placed the hospital on the map with several standards and techniques when it comes to “washing” and conserving blood. As a high school student, Chance passed on a Tri Kappa college scholarship, where she planned to major in nursing, to stay at home and financially assist her family after her father was injured and hospitalized for months.
“It’s hard to get a total picture of the working poor – families who struggle at low-paying jobs or have two or more part-time jobs with no benefits,” she said. “It only takes one emergency to derail a family.”
Good Samaritan Network
Chance founded the network in 1995, to connect Hamilton County clubs, agencies and businesses to share resources and work together for the greater good instead of duplicating efforts and competing against one another for funding.
“We take care of families when they surface,” said Chance. “If we weren’t there then there wouldn’t be anyone catching families that fall between the cracks. We’re like a traffic cop. There’s a lot of checks and balances, it’s amazing.”
In the 17 years since its inception, Chance has united 64 agencies, 240 churches, 32 food pantries and nine township trustees that collectively and efficiently serve 20,000 individuals annually – all while working full-time as the blood bank coordinator at Riverview Hospital.
While Good Samaritan is in the community spotlight during the winter holiday months, the organization provides assistance year-round with rent and utility assistance, covering medication bills and of course, food.
“We fight the battle to help keep families above water,” she said. “We’re helping our own community make a comeback.”
A Growing Need
All county food pantries are seeing record numbers this year, said Chance, adding that the numbers of students on lunch assistance programs are also rising.
“There’s been a huge increase in free and reduced lunches in the county,” she said.
Chance said the assistance is now being sought by middle class families who are struggling with mortgages, utility payments, gas prices and food bills.
“We’ve had a 20 percent increase in the middle class going to pantries this year,” she said. “Many are visiting for the first time and it’s not something they wanted to do.”
Unfortunately, projections are not encouraging for next year.
“In 2013, we are expecting another 20 percent increase,” said Chance. “We’ve not seen any let up at all since 2008.”
A ‘Classic Woman’
Traditional Home magazine featured Chance in its September issue with a 2012 Classic Woman Award. The annual awards honor five extraordinary women and their commitments to volunteerism. Chance and her family were flown to New York City and honored at the magazine’s luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel ballroom.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Chance, who was nominated by her peers and friends. “Our volunteers, agencies, partners and all the ones that work with us are the stars. I’m just good at circulating people.”
Chance said the best part of the experience, aside from the royal treatment, was being able to raise awareness of Good Samaritan at the national level. Instead of talking about herself, chance chose to highlight Hamilton County, its “working poor” and how agencies were working together to accomplish a group goal and not individual ones at the awards, which included 600 Fortune 500 people.
“I didn’t want the light on me, that’s not the fair thing to do,” she said.
Following the luncheon, a businessman from Baltimore stopped Chance and handed her a $1,000 bill.
“I wasn’t intending on doing anything, but here’s a gift for you,” he told her.
Chance said Good Samaritan has received several cash donations since the Sept. 19 awards.
“It just keeps coming – it takes your breath away,” she said.