by TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
When Ivana Fox was a human services student at Ivy Tech Community College–Bloomington, she worked as an intern at Centerstone’s Peer Run Recovery Center (PRRC). While she expected to learn a lot about the conditions of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction, what she didn’t expect to find were the many talented people who could sing, dance, write poetry, or who had technical skills that would easily transfer to a performing arts production.
Inspired by this wealth of talent, Fox decided to create an event to empower individuals through music and the arts, and in 2016 she organized the first Help a Hoosier talent show. The second show, held in 2018, was a packed-house event, and featured performers ranging in age from 6 to 83.
This year, the third Help a Hoosier talent show will take place at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center on December 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. By Fox’s design, only about half of the participants in the show are experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental illness, allowing them to keep that information concealed if they desire, or to self-identify during the performance if they choose.
For some participants, like Braden Wallen, the show has been a source of encouragement. Wallen, who has served as a sound and light technician for each of the shows, formerly experienced homelessness, but has now earned his high school diploma, gotten a job at Cook Medical, moved into his own apartment, and bought a car.
One of the emcees, Ricky Love, has six years of sobriety under his belt and volunteers for the PRRC. This year, Jeanne May of the Active Aging Coalition will co-emcee and provide some professional coaching.
Ivy Tech Vice Chancellor Jennie Vaughan served as a judge at last year’s Help a Hoosier event. “You don’t see a homeless person or a drug addict, you see these incredibly talented people who are able to show their art to us,” she says. “The pure love and joy you could see on everyone’s faces as they performed … it was a really moving experience for all of us.”
Originally from Madagascar, Fox, 34, is now a junior at Indiana University majoring in psychology and studying theater and drama. “Every year, I try to keep my mind open as I go and meet new people and try to engage them in this event,” she says. “It’s really open to what they want to offer, what they want to do on stage that day.”
This year’s show will feature music—from rap to pop to country—dance, poetry, comedy, and maybe even juggling. People from local service agencies will also be performing. Christina Murphy, a certified recovery specialist at the PRRC, will be singing a duet with Susan Quimby, a recovering alcoholic and graduate of Amythest House, where she now works as a full-time night tech.
Admission to Help a Hoosier is free, but donations are requested. This year, Fox hopes audience members will bring gently used items like backpacks, raincoats, and winter coats-—things that can help people experiencing homelessness this winter—which she will distribute locally.
For more information, contact Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.