From volunteer to president, Project A.N.G.E.L.’s McKenzie Crose helps Hendricks County residents through Avon nonprofit
By Stephanie Dolan
McKenzie Crose was looking for a way to give back to her community when she joined the team at Project A.N.G.E.L. about two years ago.
“Because I have my own business, I was looking to give back within Hendricks County,” the Brownsburg resident said. “I did a fundraiser myself and donated all winter clothing to them. Then I joined, and here we are.”
The A.N.G.E.L. in the nonprofit’s name stands for Area Neighbors Giving Extra Love, and their mission is to help Hendricks County residents have food, clothing and shelter through fundraisers they organize and manage.
The organization’s biggest push each year comes at Christmastime.
Every year Project A.N.G.E.L. takes applications from area families in need. Those approved receive a box of food per family member, a turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, gift wrapping supplies, a complete outfit for each child, four gifts for each child, including at least two gifts off of a wish list and items of necessity such as shoes, boots and coats.
“For Project A.N.G.E.L., what I think that we really strive to do and excel at is bringing the community together as a whole,” said Amy Friddle, director of programming for Project A.N.G.E.L. “We have everything from the families we want to serve through the Christmas outreach program, and then we have the people who want to lift people up through sponsorships or volunteering hours in sorting food or delivering.
“It’s a full circle,” Friddle continued. “I now have people who volunteer for our organization who say ‘I did this as a kid.’ We see that on the food sorting side and then on delivery day where families say this is what we do as a family every year.”
Crose, 30, owns her own Farmers Insurance agency in Brownsburg, and within two months of joining the board at Project A.N.G.E.L., she was asked to step in as vice president.
“Her agency makes a lot of connections within the community,” said Friddle. “Her priority is the connection with other small businesses. She’s a great resource in this way. She has a networking mindset.”
“It’s been a whirlwind because it’s technically only been two years,” Crose said. “But I had the VP position two months into it. Starting this year, I was in the position of president.”
The organization is more than 30 years old, and was originally founded by Rita Hodson. Hodson’s daughter Nikki Ford carried on with it for many years, but turned the reins over to Crose shortly after she joined the board.
“I was a little hesitant because I just got in,” Crose said. “It’s always good to change it up though and have different perspectives. Sometimes, when you’ve been in a position for so long, you do the same things.”
When Crose took over, Ford stepped down, she led a new board and two longtime volunteers had recently left the organization.
“We really had to step our game up,” Crose said.
Fulfilling these needs for so many people costs $250-$300 per child. In the past, Project A.N.G.E.L. has welcomed sponsors who have generously provided funds. This year sponsors are just as welcome, but Crose and her team are also doing something new: Project A.N.G.E.L. trees.
“With the world the way it is and COVID, a lot of our grants got denied,” Crose said. “We were wondering what we were going to do this year. We were projecting we’d get more people this year. Over the summer, we did more events that we ever have done. That’s where I started thinking about the Christmas tree we always have at Avon United Methodist Church.”
Crose and the rest of the board reached out to Hendricks County businesses to ask if they would allow Angel Trees at their locations from Nov. 5-30.
Since August she secured 22 spots where trees sit with angel wishes hanging from them. Find trees and help contribute at all Hendricks County Bank & Trust locations, Cabin Coffee Company, Avon United Methodist Church, Indiana Physical Therapy, Citizens Bank, Energy Spot, Danville Christian Church, Danville Chamber of Commerce, Danville Chiropractic, The Look and Outta the Shed.
“We’re a new business, and the community has really been there for us,” said Autumn Coffey, Brownsburg Energy Spot owner. “We’re excited that we can give back this way, and be a catalyst for people to be able to help.”
The trees allowed residents to help families without having to pay for the entire sponsorship, which is great when so many have lost their jobs this year, Crose said. Gifts had to be purchased and returned to the tree they were chosen from by Nov. 30 in time for delivery day Dec. 12.
A bonus this year came from WRTV who is donating toys and items for the drive, too.
Delivery day for the families approved to be recipients of the Project’s generosity will be Dec. 12. Beginning at 8 a.m., volunteers will convene at the former Ivy Tech, 7508 Beechwood Center Road, Avon, a change because Avon UMC closed to in-person worship due to the pandemic.
Volunteers can show up Dec. 12 and load their cars with goods and deliver them to homes. Last year 112 families with 287 kids received food and gifts. This year Project A.N.G.E.L. approved 155 families with 401 kids, Crose said.
“This year, it’s all new families, and I think that has a lot to do with COVID,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. Our community has helped out tremendously.”
Nov. 30 was food sorting night to organize boxes for recipients.
“It’s a great night,” Crose said. “A lot of organizations and clubs sort the items. It’s mostly non-perishable items, but each family also gets a ham or a turkey. Andy Mohr purchased all of the hams and turkeys last year, and this year they are doing the same.”
Anyone interested in helping with delivery or food sorting can sign up at projectangelofhendrickscounty.com.
“Last year, I delivered myself because you need to see what all your work has been going towards,” Crose said. “It’s impactful. You don’t realize it’s right here in your town. People have cried. They’re always very grateful.”
Not only has Crose been impacted by the people who benefit from Project A.N.G.E.L., she has also built lasting relationships with others on the board.
“For one, I love the relationship building and the fact that we’re doing something good for the community, especially since I grew up in this area,” Crose said. “You’re doing something impactful and don’t even know you’re doing it for. It’s just the right thing.”
Students councils and other young people make up the backbone of the food drives, Crose said.
“The fact that these young kids are wanting to give back to our community is great,” she said. The people I’m on the board with, we’ve all grown very close, all the new members having to figure out all this stuff on our own. We’ve figured out a lot together.”
Crose didn’t expect when she started volunteering that she would have gotten so involved.
“Now I can’t imagine my life without this in it,” she said. “It can be stressful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a part of me.”
Crose appreciates the cohesive board.
“Teamwork makes the dream work, and that’s the biggest thing,” she said. “If we weren’t all on the same page as a board, I don’t think we would’ve gotten even half the stuff accomplished that we have.”
What is your favorite Christmas memory? When my parents got us a pug they hid it in the cage behind all of the presents. We started hearing whimpering. Then we saw a little baby pug. His name was Bruno. I was at around eight or nine.
Besides Project A.N.G.E.L., what is your favorite Hendricks County charity? There’s a couple I’ve been learning more about. Family Promise is connected with Project A.N.G.E.L. They use the same facilities at Avon United Methodist. And then there’s Oinking Acre Farm Rescue and Sanctuary. I’ve always had a love for pigs. When we get food that’s expired we talk with them about what they can feed pigs. They will accept it.
Who or what inspires you? My family. My agency is in my dad’s office, and I work with my dad everyday even though we have separate agencies. I left for school for about six years, and I never thought I would come back to Brownsburg. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now I see them every day. My parents are my biggest inspiration.
Do you have pets? Two dogs. One is a corgi, Millie. One is a beagle, Mickey.
What is your favorite Christmas movie? “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “Elf”