“I am a product of the 1960’s, believing I could change the world. I soon found that to be unrealistic, but I can make a difference in scores of people’s lives.”
That was Jerry Pelz's response to a the question “Why I do what I do” for a professional profile that appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Business Journal.
For 50 years, Pelz touched the lives of so many people as the founder/leader of the Northeast Community Fund. His dedication to and compassion for the people the group served will be missed now that he is officially retired.
A ceremony was held Sunday to thank Pelz for his years of service and to open the new home for the agency at 839 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It's only fitting that the building was christened the “Jerry Pelz Center.”
Pelz started working for the group two days after graduating from Valparaiso University in 1969.
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Wagner Castings, Superior Welding and CB&Q Foundry, all of which were located in the northeast quadrant of the city, started the Northeast Community Fund in a rundown Decatur home to help a small bunch of needy families with food, clothes and other essentials. Those entities wanted to serve residents of their neighborhood, specifically, but services soon expanded to the whole city and then to all of Macon County.
During Sunday's ceremony, Pelz said his fondest wish would have been to be put out of business by an end to poverty and its attendant miseries.
“I wish need would end,” he added. “But it doesn’t.”
Northeast Community Fund currently serves 2,000 families a month.
For that reason, the fund's fifth home, a 17,000 square foot facility, and an army of volunteers, will be there to provide the necessary help. The new facility is dramatically larger than the 8,000 square foot building it moved from in the 800 block of North Water Street.
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The $2.5 million facility was made possible through private donations, a true testament to the value the community puts on the evolving list of services it provides.
In addition to providing food and clothing, special programs exist for both the homeless and veterans. Other areas of assistance include prescription medication, water bills, identification, birth certificates, transportation, education, work-related needs, infant and elder needs, short-term housing and other special needs.
It also provides a micro finance program, which assists families who have a car title or payday loan, and a family investment program that works with families who have goals and a desire to escape poverty.
Seeing the building project through to completion was a priority for Pelz.
“After almost 48 years, retirement is certainly on the near horizon. I definitely feel a commitment to the capital campaign and the new building to be up and running,” Pelz said in that same 2017 Business Journal story. “After that transition is complete I think it would be an ideal time to have new leadership. My skill set has taken the agency as far as I feel I am capable and gifted to do. It soon will be time for a person with a new skill set to lead into the decades to come.”
Enter Ed Bacon who was named as the new executive director of the Northeast Community Fund last year. He came to group from God's Shelter of Love, which offers shelter to homeless families, women and children.
"Ed is a man of high character and integrity with a servant heart. He has the skill set to take Northeast Community Fund to great heights," Pelz said of Bacon when his hiring was announced.
High praise from a man who has spent the majority of his life serving others.
To Jerry Pelz we offer great thanks for the work you have done to improve the lives of so many people and wish you the best as you enter the next chapter of your life.
To Ed Bacon and the staff and volunteers of the Northeast Community Fund, we congratulate you on your new facility and offer our support in your continuing mission to make our community a better place for everyone to call home.