By Todd Travis
Wendy McClellan, founder of UpLift Johnson County, had been searching for an opportunity to give back to the community that helped build her career and life. A graduate of Center Grove High School and Franklin College, she considers herself a “Johnson County person.” A few years ago, her sister-in-law suffered a debilitating stroke, and her brother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer shortly thereafter. “You realize quickly that there are services available to the wealthy; there are safety nets for the poor, but there is so much need in average everyday families who are working to put food on their table and something terrible happens – all of a sudden it’s financially devastating,” McClellan described. Out of these events, UpLift Johnson County was born.
McClellan, a member of 100+ Women Who Care Johnson County, realized how many grassroots, small nonprofits there are that formed from something that touches their heart in the community or a tragedy they’ve experienced. This helped McClellan develop her mission for UpLift Johnson County. “We identify projects that either other nonprofits are doing or a need that individuals bring to our attention. We then partner with them to provide the financial resources and to help recruit volunteers to do projects and help serve these people in the community,” McClellan mentioned. To allow for a range of needs to be met, she left her mission statement broad: “See a need, seek to fulfill it.”
McClellan gathered a group of friends and colleagues within the community to discuss different groups that must be served. “The list just kept growing. We brought up first responders, seniors, the homeless, caregivers, those in recovery, community influencers, families of all kinds, those living with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, and more. … Our goal is to have a project for each of our categories and to complete them by the end of 2023,” McClellan shared. The organization officially launched in early 2021 with a home rehab project and a diaper drive for Afghan refugees at Camp Atterbury.
Most recently, they raised money to provide support for the Greenwood shooting victims. They raised $6,500 and the organization matched those donations so that they could provide $6,500 to the two families who lost minor children in the shooting. Other projects they’ve completed include a food drive for families assisted by the Children’s Bureau, a senior drive delivering care packages, a giving tree for kids in need for Christmas and stocking Johnson County Senior Services’ food pantry.
UpLift has been a passion project for McClellan. “One hundred percent of every donation that comes through the door goes directly back out. I fund all of our overhead through my real estate company, Builder Resource Group. If someone donates $10 to uplift, $10 is going to whatever project they choose, not $8, not $9.50- $10,” she pointed out. McClellan receives no salary as executive director.
McClellan is starting an initiative called “Do it for Donna” which will serve stroke patients and their families. The initiative is named after her sister-in-law who recently passed away after experiencing multiple strokes. Her brother is currently in remission from lung cancer and has been over the last three years. The “Do it for Donna” initiative will be partnering with stroke rehab centers and stroke support groups to help people recovering from a stroke. “The thing with stroke victims is that you can become all consumed with getting them through rehab, and during that time you have lawns to mow and dogs to walk and normal day-to-day life. Then when you get ready to bring someone home if you’re not prepared, you need grab bars and handicap ramps and possibly temporary assistance with removing steps from your garage. So we’re in the process of gathering contractors who can help with that,” McClellan said.
There are various ways to get involved with UpLift. Either visit their website, upliftjoco.org, or go to Facebook; you may donate using PayPal or drop off donations at any Citizens Bank location. All donations are 100% tax deductible. Uplift welcomes ideas for needs in the community.