Exchange Club faced a dilemma that has plagued many organizations since
COVID-19 was first diagnosed: How do you support the most vulnerable members
of your community safely? At stake was one of the club’s largest fundraisers
for child abuse prevention. The answer: Go remote.
“It Takes A Virtual
Village” will be held Friday, Nov. 6 on Facebook. Like the club’s preceding
fundraiser, “It Takes a Village,” the event will feature live music from
Eddie Strudas, Tommy Thompson, and Marcus Safirt (cq), plus a silent
auction. However, this virtual event also reflects the current reality:
T-shirts sold to help raise money will feature children wearing protective
masks. And, instead of the $10,000 raised in past years to fund the club’s
prevention efforts, Pam Strudas, club past president and “It Takes a Virtual
Village” committee chair, has less ambitious goals.
the world looks very different right now and businesses are struggling, we
hope to raise at least $7,000,” Pam Strudas said. “People are so aware and
so concerned about all of this. I hope they would like to use some of their
disposable money to address their concerns. I hope they say, ‘We are not
going on vacation, we are not eating out as much, maybe we should do
something about child abuse.’”
According to the
Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child
Maltreatment 2018 report, 25,731 Indiana children were abused, with 80 dying
as a result of that abuse. The 2017 Child Maltreatment report found that
Indiana had the second-highest number of abused children nationally, with
29,189 reported cases. In Porter County, four children died after being
abused, according to the state’s 2018 Annual Report of Child Abuse and
“Having the money
to support our prevention of child abuse programs is critical because we
know these programs are effective,” said Duneland Exchange Club President
Lorelei Weimer. “In 2019, a child sex abuser was arrested because a student
who saw the Body Safety program at their school, reported that they were
being sexually abused. This program helped the student understand that what
was happening to them was wrong and it gave the student the courage to
While awareness of
the dangers facing children has been growing recently, the Exchange Club has
long led a crusade against child abuse.
In 2008, the
Exchange Club started funding the Body Safety program taught in Duneland
elementary and intermediate schools and at the Discovery Charter School. It
began offering the Stewards of the Children program to teachers and
child-care providers in 2017. The following year, it increased its funding
to cover Safer, Smarter Teens for middle-school students. While plans to
expand the program this year were interrupted by COVID-19 quarantine, club
and school officials still expect to bring Safer, Smarter Teens to
Chesterton High School.
“We want to address
what could be a danger to them.” Strudas said. “The program for the older
students includes sexual harassment and Internet safety. Stewards of the
Children teaches the educators what signs to look for. We want to empower
everyone at every level to help keep kids safe.”
The club also
provides grants to organizations that address child abuse.
with different fundraisers, three years ago club members struck pay dirt.
“We wanted to have an event that would be fun and raise a lot of money and
give members of the community a way to be involved,” Strudas said.
Eddie Strudas and
Allgood agreed to provide the live music. The people at the Village Tavern
opened their doors. And Emily Strudas, Exchange Club member and Strudas’
daughter, came up with the name It Takes a Village, a play on both the
location and the popular saying.
“It was an all-day
fun event,” Pam Strudas said. “We had a cornhole tournament to start off the
day, a silent auction with lots of items donated. Live music and food and
While this year is
different, Exchange Club members hope the community will respond by
purchasing the T-shirts at Porter Bank’s main office and the Village Tavern,
participating in the online silent auction, and leaving a tip in Eddie
Strudas’ virtual tip jar Š which will be donated to the group.
information about the event, to donate to the fundraiser or the silent
auction, or purchase a T-shirt, contact Pam Strudas at (219) 508-0371.