By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Frank Caldwell knows about loss. He lost his son Eric to a car accident in 2010. That’s why he’s decided to give back to others who have lost.
Caldwell, president of the Fire Rescue House of Madison County, was at Mounds Mall on Saturday representing his organization as part of the Season of Giving Alternative Gift Fair. The fair was arranged by the Leadership Academy of Madison County and featured 20 area nonprofit organizations.
Instead of letting his son’s house remain empty after his death, Caldwell filled it with the hopes of families who have lost their homes. He donated Eric’s house to Fire Rescue, which gives victims of house fires a place to stay while they try to get back on their feet.
The Alternative Gift Fair gave contributors an opportunity to donate to an organization of their choice, and the donation can be given as a holiday gift. Since all the organizations involved are nonprofit, donations are tax-deductible.
The organizations are mostly all-volunteer and receive no government funding, so donations are their lifelines, Caldwell said.
“This is the first year we’ve been at the fair,” Caldwell said. “We’ve helped a little over 50 families since we started in 2009, and we opened our third house in September. I donated Eric’s house because I knew it could give someone else hope.”
The goal of Fire Rescue House is at the heart of all the organizations at the fair, said event director Pam Shoot. She got the idea from other cities in Indiana and said the event has grown and become more successful each year. The fair is in its fifth year.
“It’s a unique way of making a difference for these nonprofits that work so hard and do good things for people that need it,” she said.
The Leadership Academy organized the fair and is one of the participating groups. The academy worked with Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, which is matching donations made up to $24,000, Shoot said.
“When you can make a donation of $25 and double that to $50, that’s great in these tough economic times,” Shoot said.
For donors, the fair offered a chance to show appreciation for a group. Randall Dougherty of Anderson said his money went to the Gateway Association, a group special to his family. Gateway is a child care facility that serves children ages 2 to 8.
“They’re very much in my thoughts,” Dougherty said. “They do a lot for the community, and that’s why I give.”
Other donors used the fair to teach about giving.
Daniel Stinson of Alexandria brought his 6-year-old son to the fair and let him choose the organization the family would endorse.
“We walked around and looked at each one and let him pick in place of one of his presents,” Stinson said. “He chose Gateway. He wanted to help kids out. They’re going to get plenty of presents, so I want to teach them they can afford to give up one to someone less fortunate.”
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