KOKOMO — Each month, WRTV awards someone in the central Indiana the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good. It is awarded to a person who is making a difference in their community, helping make central Indiana a great place to live.
This month's award winner was not expecting to receive this honor as we joined her to kick of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in Howard County.
Dennine Smith was surrounded by volunteers, family and community members to kickoff a big week for Kokomo C.A.M. which stands for Coordinated Assistance Ministries.
The organization unifies local churches and organizations in an effort to meet the needs of under-served populations in Howard County and surrounding communities. They provide shelter in some cases, food, hygiene items, assistance with housing applications, transportation arrangements and more.
It is a cause that started by in the 1990s, but since the pandemic and under the leadership of Jefferson Award winner, Smith, it has expanded its services and moved into a bigger building. She serves as executive director.
"She has a charisma that draws people," said William Gary about Smith. Gary is the President of the Board and also served on the board with Smith before she took on the role of executive director. "We often said it was the best kept secret."
Gary says services have not only expanded under Smith's leadership but he says she has done a great job marketing what they do to the people in need of their services and to donors, so they can help more people in need.
Smith tells WRTV, on an average month, they serve nearly 1,000 people in need of their help. Some days they help 80 people in a single day.
"Generally improve the lives of people, help them with problem solving, that's what we are about," said Smith. "It really does go a long way in making an impact in the lives of just our community in general."
Smith took on her role in November 2019, right before the pandemic hit Indiana and the country.
As the pandemic quickly took hold, Kokomo C.A.M. was chosen to be the COVID-19 shelter for people in need in the region.
Before leading C.A.M., Smith worked in public health, so she was in the right place at the right time to be able to help.
"I was able fortunately to use my skills set to be a blessing to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community," says Smith. "One of the biggest things that has impacted our ability to expand our reach was Covid, which is a strange thing to say."
Their ability to reach people and serve a need during the pandemic led the organization to move into a newer, bigger building.
The organization believes in giving people a "hand up" by giving them access to resources and a community of support to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness and help them move into a better life.
Right now, C.A.M. could use monetary donations to help pay for the new building and programming. They also are in need of donations of things like common hygiene supplies for their pantry.
To find ways to get help or get involved with C.A.M. in Kokomo, visit CamHope.org