Short Takes: October 19, 2011

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Short Takes

Published on October 19, 2011 with No Comments


Available to NIPSCO Customers

Despite expected cuts in federal funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) across the country, several options are available to offer much needed winter utility bill assistance for qualified NIPSCO households that are experiencing financial challenges. Anticipated federal cuts could mean a 27 percent shortfall this winter from last year’s available LIHEAP funds for NIPSCO customers. The company is currently working towards a solution to help fill the gap. “These programs are vital to the safety and well-being of individuals and families across our service area, especially to low-income, elderly and disabled customers, as well as those hit hardest by the economy,” said Cindy Jackson, manager of energy efficiency and energy assistance programs for NIPSCO. “Fortunately, there are still a number of options available to help customers falling behind on their winter energy bills.” IHEAP support is available to households falling within 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and is fully funded by a federal block grant offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Enrollment begins Nov. 1. Funds are administered by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and spread across northern Indiana through Community Action Agencies with outreach offices in each county. Last year, more than 46,000 NIPSCO customers participated in LIHEAP. The level of assistance is based on several factors, including family size, income status and dwelling type. Between Dec. 1 and March 15, natural gas utilities in Indiana do not disconnect service to customers enrolled in LIHEAP who are delinquent on their home heating bills. For customers just outside the federal poverty guidelines for LIHEAP, the NIPSCO Hardship Program offers up to $200 in gas bill assistance to households between 151-200 percent of the federal poverty level. Hardship funds are available through many of the same local Community Action Agencies where LIHEAP funds are distributed. Offices for the Energy Assistance Program: Porter County (NWICA), Northwest Indiana Community Action Corp 1005 Campbell, Valparaiso, 464-9736, weekdays 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Lake County Lake County (NWICA), Northwest Indiana Community Action Corp., Metro Corp of Gary, 839 Broadway, 886-3155 and Greater Hammond, 824 Hoffman St., 932-4800, weekdays, 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Lake Station Community Center, 275 E. 29th Ave., 963-0261, weekdays, 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Laporte County (NCCAA) North Central Community Action, Inc., 301 E. 8th St., Suite 109, Michigan City, 872-1201 or (866) 871-1200, weekdays 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Emmett Wise Center, 1702 E. Michigan Blvd., Michigan City, 872-3764, by appointment; Salvation Army, 3240 Monroe St., Laporte, 324-2345, by appointment; and Madeline & George Smrt Center, Westside Neighborhood Center, 301 Grant Ave., Michigan City, 872-942, by appointment.





Send Holiday Wishes To U.S. Troops


Lt. Governor Becky Skillman started her fifth annual holiday letter writing campaign, asking Hoosiers to write holiday cards to our country’s servicemen and women. “Hoosier Cheer For Our Heroes” provides an opportunity for Hoosiers to send their thoughts and prayers to U.S. troops spending the season away from their homes and loved ones.  “Though troop levels are not where they have been in recent years, we still have thousands of  U.S. servicemen and women serving overseas this year.  They should know Hoosiers appreciate the heroic work they are doing over the holiday season and throughout the year,” said Lt. Gov. Skillman. “A card or letter is a meaningful way Hoosiers can say thanks and bring cheer to our heroes.” Shipping costs will be defrayed with generous support from the Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, serving 39 electric cooperatives in 89 counties, and enGreet, an Indianapolis-based online greeting card company.  enGreet will allow anyone to use their website, located at, to personalize and send a card as part of Hoosier Cheer.  Cards ordered online will be printed and mailed for free and can include personalized messages and photos. All correspondence must be sent to the Lt. Governor’s office or ordered on enGreet’s website by  Nov. 18, as mail takes several weeks to reach the troops.  Visit and click on the “Hoosier Cheer For Our Heroes” link to learn more about the campaign and find mailing instructions. 




Latest Teen Trend Makes Its Way Here

Leave it to teenagers to take something as wholesome as Gummi bears and turn it into booze-soaked mischief. They’re sweet, cute and alcoholic. Drunk Gummi bear candy is now trending and slowly making its way to our area. The Internet exacerbates the problem. Tens of thousands of people have already watched a YouTube video that shows viewers how to make vodka Gummi bears, soaking the candy in vodka for several days and eating it to get a buzz. Both parents and teens are disturbed by the trend. One student commented, “It’s kind of scary, because I like Gummi bears, and I’m kind of scared because it’s something you have to really keep an eye on.” It’s a big trend, so popular that one police department has posted a warning on its Facebook page. Police say because teens are eating handfuls of candy, they don’t know how much alcohol they’re ingesting at a time. The teens get drunk fast without their parents finding a trace of illicit substances. “On Google alone there are over 59,000 hits, YouTube has over 80 hits on how to process this,” said Valparaiso police captain Dave Westrick. “Talking to teens is the best way for parents to stay ahead of the curve. Children need to feel comfortable to have open communication with the parent,” said Donna Golob, Executive Director of A Positive Approach to Teen Health. “But if the parent gets over emotional or angry or upset when that child’s sharing something, the child will stop sharing. Causing a child to feel uncomfortable will stop the conversation and the parent’s ability to offer suggestions and guidelines. It is important that this information be shared with your teens, school administrators, and other parents. Once you know the information, take a minute to talk to your tweens and teens. Letting kids know you know the latest trends can be helpful in keeping the communication channels open. That is one of the reasons we take the time to send out these Parent Alerts when we hear about this type of thing,” said Golob. For more information call 548-8783 or visit



Turkey Trot Planning Under Way

Portage Township YMCA’s11th Annual Turkey Trot takes place Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 a.m.  This 4 Mile Run/5k Non-Competitive Walk and 1K Kids Fun Run are on the new walking and running courses, starting and finishing at the Portage Township YMCA and utilize the Rails to Trails. 

Proceeds from the Turkey Trot go towards the Portage Township YMCA’s Youth Scholarship Fund which provides financial assistance for children and families that are not able to afford programs and services at the Portage Township YMCA. Awards will be presented after the race for the 4 Mile runners.  The event will feature computerized chip timing system.  Early registration is now open. Register by Nov. 10 to avoid late registration fee. Participants can register at or download a registration form on the YMCA website. Fees include a commemorative Wicking Event Shirt. Walk-up registration will take place Thanksgiving morning from 6:30 to 7 a.m.  For more information regarding this event please contact Amber Morris, at 762-9622 or at Additional Portage Township YMCA information is available at



Opportunity Enterprises Seeks Donors

Opportunity Enterprises is seeking donors for its Angel Tree program which provides Christmas gifts for OE clients with little or no family. “Without this program, the clients it helps would simply not receive any Christmas gifts,” said Sabrina Smith, Consumer Services Executive Assistant and Coordinator of the Angel Tree program.  “This program is a great way for a donor to directly affect someone’s life in a very positive, meaningful way.  It means so much to our clients to have Christmas presents to open.  Everyone deserves a joyful Christmas.” Individuals can support the program in one of three ways.  First, individuals may request to be assigned a client or clients for whom gifts can be purchased from a wish list.  Second, monetary donations, or donations of gift cards, can be made which will be used to purchase gifts for clients. Finally, individuals may purchase an Angel Sampler through Opportunity Enterprises’ Simply Amazing Market.  Angel Samplers are $32 each, and include two small bags of gourmet popcorn, a quarter-pound of fudge, chocolate-covered raisins, Gummi bears, and pretzel munch. For each Angel Sampler sold, $5 will support the Angel Tree Program.  Samplers may be purchased on-line at or by visiting the Simply Amazing Market at 2801 Evans Avenue in Valparaiso.  Store hours are weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., or Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Individuals interested in supporting OE’s Angel Tree program may contact Sabrina Smith at 464-9621, ext. 332, or by e-mail at



In Touch Pharmaceuticals Establishes Itself

A pharmaceutical company headquartered in Valparaiso has added more than 110 jobs and an annual payroll in excess of $3.2 million since it was established in 2004. In Touch Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was founded by local entrepreneur and pharmacist Rick Rondinelli. With the help of tax abatements, the company has expanded several times, and recently merged with another firm, relocating more than 50 high-paying jobs from Indianapolis to Valparaiso. “We’re so pleased to see companies like In-Touch Pharmaceuticals succeed and expand in our city,” said Mayor Jon Costas. “As a city, we’ve made it a priority to do all we can to foster this sort of growth, adding jobs and prosperity to our community.” In Touch provides patient medication management through pre-measurement and individual dosage packaging of prescription drugs, serving large medical/human services institutions in providing quality patient care. The jobs created at In Touch include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, administrative support staff and drivers. The company was recently named to the list of “Indiana Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation, chosen for its performance in the marketplace and its innovation. Valparaiso has been home to In Touch from our inception and Mayor Costas and the city welcomed us with open arms, when we didn’t have anything, not even one employee. Through their support and pro-business programs, we have been able to grow and thus create jobs. I’m very grateful for their support and the confidence they have shown In Touch over the years,” said Rondinelli. “Valparaiso is a great place to own and run a business. I can’t think of a better place,” he said. In Touch has expanded several times since it was established in 2004. At that time the City Council granted the company a five-year tax abatement on medical equipment and roughly $100,000 in real estate improvements with the goal of growing the business to about nine employees. Within six years, the company had grown to 60 employees and sought another tax abatement to expand operations. Just last year In Touch purchased another company, relocating more than 50 jobs from Indianapolis to Valparaiso. With this acquisition, the company’s sales are projected to reach $30 million. A holding company has been created to purchase new space at 1150 Eastport Centre Drive, leasing it to In Touch so that the entire operation can be housed under one roof. The City’s Common Council is currently considering an application for a new tax abatement to make this expansion possible for In Touch. “In a time when jobs are so scarce, it’ truly exciting to partner with local businesses out there creating new opportunities,” said Costas. “We look for great things to happen for In Touch and other Valparaiso companies.”

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