Meet February’s community hero of the month: Carissa Dollar/Sonny Day Community Center

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 18, 2015)-- A Warren Township school teacher is February's FOX59/Community Health Network "Community Hero of the Month" because she is inspiring hope in families and setting students on a road to success while also giving them confidence to excel in the classroom.

Carissa Dollar teaches at Raymond Park Elementary school. She noticed many of her students don’t have the basics when it comes to food, school supplies, clean clothes and resources.  She also realized many of the families were too embarrassed to ask for help so she decided to do something about it.

“It’s very sad that we have kids coming to school hungry, coming to school with clothes not clean or they don’t have the proper clothes to fit their uniform when they get to school. They didn’t have a jacket or toiletries so our students could come to school and be clean and confident and ready to learn," said Dollar.

Carissa went before the Warren Township school board and asked for support in starting a pantry to serve her school.  The administration gave her space in an the old Heather Hills Elementary School. Today Carissa’s pantry, The Sonny Day Community Center,  not only serves families at Raymond Park Elementary, but also serves families in all of Warren Twp. Schools.

Sonny Day Community Center now partners with Gleaners for fresh food and produce, Once Upon-A-Child for clothes, and people in the community donate other items to fill the gaps.

“It’s very humbling and very overwhelming when we see kids come in and see how grateful they are for simple things like toilet paper to take home and how excited they are when they can maybe get a little something extra when we happen to have things like cake and donuts that they otherwise wouldn't get," said Dollar.

For Carissa and her small army of volunteers, seeing the support they are giving to so many families and the seeds of success and confidence they are planting in so many students, just fuels their fire to continue serving in their community.

Jill McBride volunteers at the pantry and nominated Carissa for the Community Hero Award.

“The biggest reward I think is seeing somebody come in nervous and shy and they don’t know what to do. When they come up to you and say ‘Oh my gosh we can get this and this,' and seeing that smile on their face knowing that they’re going to go home and they’re going to have a dinner that night and provide for their children- that’s what makes it worth it,” said McBride.

Carissa hopes to soon expand even more and put pantries in other school districts around Central Indiana.  FOX59 and Community Health Network congratulate Carissa Dollar on being the February 2015 Community Hero of the Month!

You can nominate a community hero here.