Past Entries & Winners

Check out our archive of past Keating Competition winning students and their entries. These students are the future of journalism, and we were proud to support them financially in their journalism education.

Past Keating Competition Winners & Entries

Erica Irish — 1st Place​

They were there for a moment and gone the next.

Lined outside their family RV at a row of fold-up card tables, David McConnell and his wife, Jennifer, are leading a group from their church in Ingalls, Indiana in a morning of service.

For the last eight years, the McConnells gathered what supplies they could from the congregants at REAL Community Church of God — clothing, travel-sized conditioner and shampoo, ingredients for hearty food — and drove 30 minutes to the American Legion Mall in downtown Indianapolis.​

“I believe we are the hands and feet of Jesus,” McConnell says as he looks out over the crowd, still forming around the four tables. “Faith without works is dead.”

He admits he doesn’t know everything about Indianapolis’ homeless. And he certainly isn’t doing everything he can to help them. He recalls times he felt shame as visitors begged for money. For some peace of mind, he now empties his pockets, just to make sure he doesn’t lie about not having cash to hand out.

He calls that trust the one gift he can give.

“I see the same people over and over,” he describes. A moment later, he points to a man, struggling with a short cane. He’s wrapped in a blue corduroy coat, hood up, and several paces away on the cracked sidewalk. The man makes his way to a table lined with buttered rolls and pickles. “But I don’t remember their names.”

McConnell, at the very least, is certain of one central mission that his team — for the one day a month they visit the city — can accomplish, even without all the right answers.

“God wants us to remind people that they have a name,” McConnell said.

It’s people like the McConnells who bring David Matthew, 43, from the space he shares with his cousin in downtown Indianapolis.

He walks on the Saturdays the McConnells visit to pick up sweaters and jeans for him and his cousin, also named David. It’s a bit of a haul, Matthew admits: 15 miles by foot from their studio apartment near the Benjamin Harrison home on the east side, followed by 15 miles back.

“But I don’t mind,” Matthew said with a laugh and a quick pat on his stomach. “I need it. I enjoy my walks.”

Matthew exudes joy and calm: It’s his duty as a newly ordained pastor, he said. Because he is currently unemployed, his daily work rests on the small kindnesses: Picking up donated winter clothes for himself and his cousin, for one, and thanking the veterans he often encounters on the streets.

That also explains why Matthew, a former state trooper in the DMV — an area that encompasses Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia — would rather not touch his past. He said he wishes every day to speak to the person he once was, to tell him there’s more to life: There is a needed empathy, McConnell believes, in a world far from it.

But he can’t revisit the past. He chooses to only name what, in part, gave his existence renewed meaning. That long journey started when, while conducting a routine traffic stop, a young boy shot him, twice, as part of a gang initiation.

“It was like my own personal 9/11,” he said. “It made me wake up.”

He pulls out a plain black wallet to examine the object that in many ways defines his new journey: A small rectangle card confirming his ordination as a pastor through World Community Church. He completed the program online after moving to Indiana to take care of his cousin, who lives with polycystic kidney disease.

With no job and only $791 a month coming in from social security and Medicaid, Matthew would be living on the streets if it weren’t for his cousin. It’s a process that’s humbled him, he said, as he works to scrounge up enough funds to move to live with his wife, Angelita, who currently lives in the Philippines.

Matthew admits he doesn’t have what many would consider a church yet. But that doesn’t matter.

He stares up at the ornate windows, tucked away in a reading room at the Indianapolis Central Library for warmth. Outside, dozens of men and women, wrapped in mismatched clothes and bearing for what many are the only possessions to their name in trash bags and shopping carts, move across the intersections of the mall.

“This is my church,” Matthew said. “It’s where I can talk with my people.”

It’s been close to two hours since the McConnell RV arrived.

David McConnell looks to the side, his eyes hidden from view by a pair of Transition lenses — now darkened in the early afternoon sunlight.

“I actually think we’re about to run out,” he says with a frown as another ladle of chili is handed off, another serving gone from the inside of the sunshine yellow Igloo cooler. “I hate it when we run out.”

His gaze stays trained on the table for a moment as more people make their way to the line.

“We’ll probably be leaving here soon.” The frown deepens.

Nearby, a woman shouts out to the crowd “there’s dinner rolls,” prompting another small group to branch over to the food bar. Two young men grab small styrofoam cups and fill them with black coffee, steam rising in tendrils around their wrists.

McConnell reasons the group was able to serve around 70 people in their two hours parked at the curb. But that’s not enough, and it likely won’t ever be.

So they will return in two weeks — an earlier date to make up for a visit the church was forced to cancel last month — and revisit more after that, leaving their mark on Indianapolis in the one way they can.

A pair of young boys start to fold up an undecorated card table and load it into the belly of the RV. Around them, the American Legion Mall is alive with laughter and conversation. In some corners, men and women trade clothes, checking for wear and tear and the right sizes. Others sit in silence and reflection — on concrete benches, under trees or just on the curb — over spaghetti noodles pooled in beef and red chili sauce.

Two heavy metal doors slam shut and the RV leans into the road, headed east on St. Clair Street. A black vanity plate emblazoned with a white cross shines on its face.


Cameron Drummond — 2nd Place

Inside the Circle Centre Mall, Austin Wethington is distracted.

The 18-year-old senior at North Central High School is perched atop a wooden bar stool as he mans the counter at the Collector’s Den, a sports memorabilia store on the third floor.

Wethington has just finished watching the movie “Stuber” on his laptop when the sound of a potential customer’s shuffling feet against hardwood echoes through the cavernous store.

His eyes dart to the door, then back to his screen. The shopper vanishes before he can greet them.

It’s a scene Wethington is accustomed to. In the two years he’s spent working at Collector’s Den he’s rarely seen people come and go from the store, with even less merchandise going with them.​

A normal six to eight-hour shift for Wethington is always the same.

“Basically, just sit here,” he said.

The Collector’s Den has existed in a brick-and-mortar form since 1990, but it’s location inside the mall has recently led to a steep drop in in-person sales.

Wethington said almost all transactions take place online for the store, and the teenagers and families who still pass through the mazy corridors and tile pathways of the mall limit their purchases to smaller items.

In a store which has autographed photos of Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods adorning the walls, the top-selling products are now lanyards and pop-culture novelties like $1 bills with the images of SpongeBob SquarePants, Bella Swan from the “Twilight” series and Bernie Sanders replacing George Washington’s face.

Wethington loves the interaction aspect of his job, but as it becomes more infrequent and correlates to less sales, he and five co-workers have explored new ways to get people in the door.

Live and silent auctions put on by the Collector’s Den take place daily on the lower floors on the mall. This is where the big-ticket items go — things like autographed Bob Knight and Peyton Manning pictures.

But even then it takes special events in Indianapolis, like this week’s Future Farmers of America national convention or Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers home games, to lure people inside.

The Collector’s Den has also made it a point of emphasis to conduct more publicity stunts and athlete autograph sessions to attract customers, hosting three in the last two months instead of the usual pace of just one every six months, Wethington said.

Just a few doors down from Wethington is Michael Roberts, a 21-year-old senior at IUPUI’s Kelley School of Business who also spends his Saturday’s behind the register inside a sparsely populated store at Circle Centre Mall.

The business dynamics at the GNC where Roberts works are slightly different from the Collector’s Den, but the overarching themes remain the same.

Customers come in fits and starts, meaning Roberts has plenty of time to complete homework and peruse the Internet during his shifts.

“This is literally the easiest job,” Roberts said straightforwardly.

But these shifting business dynamics have also forced Roberts to adapt.

Emails sent to customers now feature coupons only redeemable in-person at the store. Banners displayed in the storefronts are rotated frequently and five-pounds tubs of whey protein are rearranged weekly to keep up with the trends in the nutritional supplement industry.

There aren’t many direct parallels between Roberts’ work at the counter and his studies at IUPUI as a marketing and supply chain management major. But he’s smart enough to understand the numbers and young enough to know what mall culture is like.

“The smartest way to shop obviously is online, Amazon” he said. “There are stores in malls like Finish Line. I’ll walk into there all the time knowing that I’m not going to buy anything.”

For all the old-school benefits of physically shopping for goods at a mall, it’s also an ideal environment for window shoppers.

Stuck in a set, indoor location with distractions and food readily available, the American mall remains a cherished place for adolescents to safely spend several hours without spending money.

This week’s FFA convention proved a perfect example.

FFA chapters from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands descended on Indianapolis for the convention, bringing thousands of teenagers in tow.

With frigid temperatures outside and in need of things to fill their free time, the mall becomes the main hub of activity.

Jenna Gaessler, Olivia Gregg and Madi Owen are precisely the people forcing mall business to reshape their business practices.

The 15 and 16 year olds are part of an FFA delegation from Eagleville, Tennessee, about 40 miles south of Nashville.

They came to Indianapolis for five days, Tuesday through Saturday, for the convention, have come together to the mall at least once each day.

“It gives us something else to do,” Gregg said.

“I feel more connected, like you’re doing something,” Gaessler elaborated on their decision to return each day.

Doing something and spending money are not one and the same, though.

The teenagers have made many food stops in the mall, with Chick-Fil-A consensus favorite. But by their estimation, they’ve also wandered in and out of double-digit stores inside Circle Centre Mall, loitering without buying.

The one time the trio wanted to buy something, the party game Cards Against Humanity, it was sold out.

The economic and marketing changes experienced by the stories Roberts and Wethington work at hardly cross their minds. Instead they’ve focused more on the wide-ranging game of FFA tag that has broken out amongst convention participants.

With so many FFA delegations wandering the mall passageways daily, it’s become easy to lose track of whose in the lead. Gaessler said her Tennessee delegation was tagged by Indiana in the parking garage while walking to the mall Saturday morning, followed by Tennessee tagging South Dakota in the mall food court.

“It gives us a reason to interact with each other,” Gaessler said.

Interaction has long been the purpose of the mall-going experience. It was true when anchor tenants drew people in and it remains true now without them.

Quintessential mall elements like arcades and fountains filled with pennies still exist as the stores around them cease to do the same.

Roberts and Wethington have been on both sides of this parallel.

They work behind the scenes to help correct the economic imbalances of their businesses.

But they remember when they contributed to the problem, stopping in and stepping out of Circle Centre’s American Eagle and Forever 21 without making a purchase like so many teenagers have done this week.

A family walks into GNC with Roberts leaning against a step ladder by a display of energy drinks.

They entered after seeing a window advertisement for weight-loss products, which the mother and daughter look at half-heartedly.

The father wanders to a corner of the store and Roberts asks him if he needs any help.

“Just killing time,” he replies.


Riley Eubanks — 3rd Place

There’s a sign in Rocket Fizz, a soda shop on Monument Circle, that reads “Don’t see what you need? We are here for you.”​

Customers may need that reassurance when navigating the store, which sells over 500 flavors of sodas, hundreds of different types of candies, stuffed animals, gag gifts, gum, tin signs, umbrellas and, in the back corner of the store, water.​

“We had to have water somewhere,” joked Chetty Dunham, an assistant store manager who has been working at the store for three months.​

But the customers received service on Saturday, just as the sign promised, even when there were scores of teenagers who are in town for the Future Farmers of America convention, which hosts nearly 70,000 people from across the country.​

Dunham was working Saturday morning with Ken Vaughn and Makayla Thompson, both of whom were hired just a few days prior, right in the middle of the convention. Despite the short tenure of the staff, each employee assisted with organizing the store, assisting customers and, of course, selling product.

Dunham said a few of employees quit Rocket Fizz, which led to the three of them getting hired. This is a common problem in the retail industry, which has a turnover rate of over 60 percent according to the National Retail Federation.​

Dunham previously worked at DJ’s Hot Dog Company, which is owned by the same people that own Rocket Fizz. Dunham said he wanted to work at Rocket Fizz because he had a good relationship with the owner, who he’s known for six years.​

Vaughn, who has over 40 years of retail experience, said he chose to work at Rocket Fizz because he wants it to be his last job.

“I’m near the end of my career, so I wanted to do something for me,” Vaughn said.​

The usual existential dread and bad service that plagues a lot of retail stores is absent from the shop: the employees take time to crack jokes with the customers and recommend their favorite sodas, even there were nearly 50 people in the shop, most of them teenagers from the FFA convention looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.​

None of them broke a sweat when dozens of farmers were in line to buy a soda or candy, forcing Dunham and Thompson to work the two registers for over 20 minutes straight.​

“That was nothing,” said Dunham, an assistant store manager. “You should’ve seen last night.”​

Dunham said getting to talk with customers of all different backgrounds is his favorite part of the job. Human interaction was something he missed while working at his last job, which was in a warehouse.​

“At my last job I was always inside my own mind in a platonic sort of way,” said Dunham, who paused and then laughed at his own joke.

Rocket Fizz is filled with jokes: they sell fake poop, they have a custom made toilet seat that they use as a decoration, they even sell a line of soda based off of famous dictators (Dunham’s favorite, the Nuclear Orange Bomb, has a picture of Kim Jong-il on the bottle and advertises a “terrorizing taste”); however, what may be the most appealing thing about Rocket Fizz is that everyone is in on the joke.​

Hey, if I bought this would you eat it? one customer asked another while they held up a chocolate cricket.​

Probably.


Additional Keating Finalists

Mary Bernard​

Seemingly oblivious to the cold, Barry DiPatrizio and Karine Johnson leaned against a brick wall for their morning smoke.

Johnson flicked an imaginary lighter. Without a glance in his direction, DiPatrizio dug through his pockets and passed it over. Around the corner, a red neon sign lit the words “Jesus Saves.”

“God shut a lot of doors on me but he opened some new ones,” DiPatrizio, 54, said.

Both men are recovering heroin addicts. DiPatrizio has been sober for around five months, and Johnson for seven. Both began using heroin, sometimes together, in 2012.​

Around that time, in conjunction with nationwide attempts to curb overdose deaths, Indiana doctors began prescribing fewer opioids. For some people suffering from addictions, including DiPatrizio and Johnson, their only apparent choice was to replace the prescription pills with illicit drugs like heroin.

Statewide, opioid prescriptions decreased from their peak high of 107.1 per 100 people in 2010 to 74.2 per 100 people in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Indiana was still well above the 2017 U.S. average of 58.7 opioid prescriptions per 100 people, giving it the 10th highest rate in the country.

The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force wrote a pain management toolkit for healthcare providers soon after the group was established in Sept. 2012. The toolkit, “First Do No Harm: The Indiana Healthcare Providers Guide to the Safe, Effective Management of Chronic Non-Terminal Pain,” is a 183-page document providing options for safe and responsible treatment – which does sometimes include the prescription of opioids, although it is generally discouraged.

From 2013 to 2018, there was a 35% decrease in opioid prescriptions in Indiana, according to the American Medical Association.

Drug overdose deaths, however, have continued to rise for almost two decades. In 2017, the state experienced an overdose rate increase of 22% – the third-highest rate increase in the country, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

DiPatrizio began taking OxyContin and Percocet, both opiates, after he was in a car accident in 1997. When doctors cut him off the medicine in 2012, he had been relying on opioids for pain management for 15 years.

“Someone said ‘Hey, why don’t you try some heroin? It’s just like the pills you take,’” DiPatrizio said.

He did, and began a years-long addiction to heroin that only ended last June. Johnson turned to heroin under similar circumstances.

In June, DiPatrizio needed open-heart surgery because of endocarditis, a heart disease that he attributes to his drug use. DiPatrizio, who had been serving time for selling drugs, was released from jail for the surgery, provided he stay put afterwards.

That’s what brought him to the Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis.

“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” DiPatrizio said.

The Wheeler Mission, which last year celebrated its 125th birthday, is a Christian-based homeless and addiction recovery service on East New York Street. Often referred to simply as the Mission, it provides short-term shelter, meals, longer-term residential programs and an addiction recovery program.

Etched into concrete on the side of the is “Founded by WM. V. Wheeler, 1893-1929.” The “Jesus Saves” sign hangs above, as does the title of a Bible verse, John 3:16, which reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Fifty-two mats were stacked against the wall in the entrance hall, ready for the influx of overnight guests that the colder winter temperatures bring. At its busiest, the Mission will sleep hundreds, and even the chapel will be used as a dormitory.

Torrey Chew, a guest service coordinator at the Mission, began working at the Mission almost a year ago. He went through the addiction recovery program himself – three times, for a total of 15 months, until he stayed clean of drugs.

Now, he helps men and women who are in a situation similar to where he once was.

The addiction program is “for guys that are really having deep issues,” Chew, 48, said. “We all do. We don’t want to admit it, but that’s us trying to do it our way, not God’s way.”

With the drug use that’s been increasing in the area for years, the addiction program, and the Mission, stay busy.

In the chapel, a group of about 20 volunteers from a nearby church were preparing for the Mission’s annual Thanksgiving Day run, the Drumstick Dash.

The dedication and love he sees in the volunteers gives him hope, Chew said.

“That’s just the love that out here,” he said. “Cause if they ain’t out here helping, that means there’s no love in the world. Why even want to have a family or bring a child into the world when this is what they’re going to have to be raised up in?”

Longtime volunteer Libby Davis first helped out at the Wheeler Mission nearly 50 years ago, on a date with her now-husband Dick Davis. They’ve been returning to volunteer, on-and-off, since then.

“Lives are changed,” Libby, 72, said. “When they come through the programs … there’s a whole process they go through, and training, and lives are changed in Christ.”

Back outside the Mission’s brick walls, DiPatrizio and Johnson stamped out their cigarettes, grabbed the empty coffee cups and went inside, just in time for Saturday brunch.

Recovery has been grueling. DiPatrizio doesn’t want to go back to using drugs, but he still thinks about it. On tough days, he turns to prayer.

Tomorrow they’ll go to church – a requirement for residents at the Mission. And Monday, DiPatrizio is looking forward to getting lunch with his 18-year-old daughter, which they do each week after his cardiac rehab.

“I’m starting my life over,” DiPatrizio said. “I’m starting from scratch.”


  Lydia Gerike​

Rosemary-scented smoke wafted from the grill Saturday at Three Carrots in the Indianapolis City Market as manager Micah Jenkins prepared vegan-style biscuits and gravy for his waiting customers.

With specially ordered bread, a fresh stock of colorful veggies and meat replacements that even mimic bacon, Jenkins and his coworkers can create an authentic experience for both vegans and meat-eaters alike.

“It doesn’t have to have meat to be good food or nutritious food,” Jenkins said.

But workers at Three Carrots have also seen that behind the scenes, it still takes effort to sell the vegan food movement in Indianapolis, a city of people known for their love of pork tenderloin sandwiches.​

“If we’re just known for tenderloin that’s fine, I guess, but if Indy wants to be a world-class city, you need options across the board, not just vegan food,” Jenkins said. “Variety makes everything better.”

The tiny Three Carrots stand in a corner of the food hall considers itself to be the first all-vegan restaurant option in Indianapolis, one that has since lead to the opening of a full restaurant in Fountain Square and is a destination stop for vegans from all over the country.

Other restaurants may face the same challenges of brand awareness and catering to specific tastes, but Jenkins said it can be a challenge to get new customers to overcome their preconceived notions of veganism.

As soon as they hear the food is plant-based they immediately turn away, and some will even make bacon jokes to him.

Jen Harrison, who has worked in different roles for Three Carrots for about a year, said she hopes people will start eating plant-based even just once or twice a week.

“That’s what Oprah says,” Harrison said.

Harrison said she had trouble going vegetarian a few years ago because more food had meat in it than she realized, like beef broth in soup. She had to learn how to cook in order to continue with her diet, but she said it’s become easier and she’s learned even more with the transition to veganism and by working for Three Carrots.

“People seem to think that you can’t flavor food without meat,” Hrrison said. “You totally can

Three Carrots does have some customers who are not vegan, like ones who have found them because the location is close to nearby office buildings for lunch.

Others, like Mel Petkov and her husband Rob Vincent, are vegetarian customers who like the additional plant-based option.

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Petkov and Vincent said they were worried about not having many options when they moved to Indianapolis a few years ago.

They believed in the meat-based midwestern stereotype and were sure their options were going to be limited.

“I figured it was all meat and meat and a side of meat,” Petkov said.

When they finally moved, they lived just a few blocks from City Market and found Three Carrots on Yelp. It was their first vegan experience in the city, and they were excited to find some good vegan comfort food.

Though the restaurant is relatively well-known among their other plant-based friends, the couple said they feel it’s not known by the entire community because most people aren’t looking for something like Three Carrots.

But true customers know where they can come to get their fix of biscuits and gravy, buffalo wraps and

“It’s still a little bit of a secret,” Vincent said. “I don’t think people realize you can have something you like that’s vegan.”


Tierra Harris

“Good morning,” sisters Jane Jackson and Janet Bacon wave to a beeping car, as they sweep cigarette butts and stray trash from the street curb. Today was a normal Saturday for the two women, but they said doing their job for the city never held a dull moment.​

Twins, Jane and Janet have been close as long as they can remember. As children, they were always together, participating in any community activities and summer jobs that involved being outdoors. Now, their passion transcends into the entire city of Indianapolis.​

“We’ve been like this from the beginning,” Bacon said. “She’s my best friend and doing this together is a beautiful thing.”​

Thirty-nine years ago, Jackson started her career in the Department of Public Works. As a member of the management team, she said that she enjoyed the company, but wasn’t getting the pay or benefits she wanted.

Once a position in the same company became available to clean the environment, Jackson took her chance to get outside and help her home city. She hasn’t looked back since.​

“It’s peaceful out here and we’re at our own pace,” Jackson said. “I just love being outdoors and meeting so many people.”

Her sister originally started in the hotel business but felt that she wasn’t receiving the pay she wanted, either. After 17 years in housekeeping, Bacon decided to join her twin.​

“I applied for the opening, but I didn’t get it the first time,” Bacon said. “I was distraught, but my sister told me to be patient. I came back around again, so here I am now.”​

Always having a similar work ethic, the twins feel most confident working alongside one another, since they have been able to develop a routine throughout the years.​

After almost a decade in the industry, they said maintaining a positive attitude is the most important aspect of the job, though.

“We don’t have bad days,” Jackson said. “We don’t bring our own personal issues to work because it brings your spirit down and impacts other people, too.”​

With their positions, the sisters have been able to create relationships with an abundance of individuals, varying from Indianapolis natives, tourists, homeless people on the street, and even the mayor.​

“Everyone knows the twins,” both sisters said in unison.​

With retirement nearing, the sisters plan on “enjoying the rest of their years,” but they said the wave of technology and a new socioeconomic climate has greatly impacted the work ethic of youth, as well as the retirement plans for older generations.​

“When there’s young people having babies, nobody is teaching anyone, anymore,” Jackson said. “We need to open up more community centers with summer activities and counselors for both children and their parents.”​

Both said they are anxious to see what methods and ideas the youth will utilize to benefit the environment of their home city in the future. With the proper training and skills, though, they believe that the next generation is capable of creating an overall cleaner and safer Indianapolis.​

Both sisters are adamant in teaching their children and grandchildren the same core ideas they want the rest of the city to adopt, as well.

“Our mother and father always wanted us to value our work and responsibility,” Bacon said. “That came a long way for us, and we still live by that, today.”​

During the weary winters and the sweaty summers, the sisters are motivated by their families and faith to continue coming to work. After years of never missing a day, both said this job is everything they love and more.​

For the upcoming generation of passionate environmentalists, future actors, aspiring politicians and anyone in-between, the twins offered a piece of advice.​

“Don’t make yourself miserable doing something or being somewhere you don’t want to be,” both sisters said. “Doing this and being here is where we want to be. So, find your passion.”


Lexi Haskell

​Solo couldn’t see well.

The large black and white horse was wearing blinders, little pieces of leather that block his side view. They were intended to keep him focused on his job: pulling a cart.

But the young horse was new. He stood in Monument Circle in line with other carriage-pulling horses.

His trainer, Shelby Quillen had been working with Solo for a while now, desenitizing him to various stressors, such as ambulances and potholes. But Rocky hadn’t yet seen a mounted police officer.

Quillen doesn’t know why he spooked — maybe he was confused why the other horse had someone on its back — but Solo took off.

“He’s super sweet,” she said. “But his head isn’t quite there.”

This wasn’t Quillen’s first time behind a nervous horse. Horse driving has a rich history in Indiana, and she has spent nearly every day of the past seven years of her life continuing that tradition.

Quillen pulled back on Solo and the horse stopped. Calmly, she asked him to continue walking around the circle.

After a few laps, Solo calmed. It took nearly two years to train the now 7-year-old gelding, but Quillen has prepared him to carry out a long-held tradition in both the state and this city: horse-drawn carriage rides.

“It’s like going back in time,” she said.

Aside from basketball, Indiana known for its transportation. Hoosiers love to move.

Union Station stands as a historic relic, a reminder of trains past. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city each year to see the Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis also has a tradition of horses. Both its football and basketball teams come from these four-legged animals: the Colts are named after the area’s reputation for horse breeding and the Pacers after both horse and car racing.

This marriage of movement and horses is no better intertwined than the city’s horse carriages. Seven nights a week, horses and their drivers line up around Monument Circle ready to show people a different view of the city.

Even as Indianapolis has shifted from trains to cars to — in some cases — electric scooters, these carriages have remained. And they’re here to stay.

Shelby Quillen says horse abuse is not an issue in Indianapolis like it is in larger cities such as New York or Chicago.

Quillen works as the barn manager Blue Ribbon Carriages, a family-run business started in 1984. She’s been at the barn for nearly 7 years, teaching each of its new horses the ropes of city driving.

So much more goes into maintaining this Indianapolis staple than people realize, Quillen said. You can’t just get on and go. Months, and sometimes years, of training goes into each of Blue Ribbon’s 11 horses.

They must be fed, watered and cleaned up after daily. They’ve got a big job, and Quillen knows it.

“These animals are so spoiled,” Quillen says. “I treat them better than myself.”

The carriages, all lit up around Monument Circle, around Christmastime is iconic.

“You see those carriages in the circle and it’s just a staple,” Blue Ribbon General Manager Scott Ellis said.

“It’d be weird without them,” Quillen agreed.

But to pull back the curtain, you’ll have to walk.

Blue Ribbon is the only barn close enough to the city where the horses can walk themselves downtown. Still, it’s a half hour walk away, across the White River.

The tall buildings turn industrial, the cars turn to semi-trucks. Sidewalks eventually disappear completely, and bushes are so overgrown in some places it’s easier to walk on the street.

Their property is small, across the street from an Eli Lilly office building. Google maps doesn’t even have the address registered as the barn.

The horses are tucked away behind a run-down white building, and the only indicator of their existence is a mailbox and aptly named black dog called Barkley.

The driveway isn’t long, but Barkley uses his time efficiently to vet out a new visitor. The Labrador-like dog used to be a stray, but Blue Ribbon staff started feeding him. Now, he guards the horses and occasionally plays referee when they get into fights.

Quillen sometimes works here seven days a week.

“Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, it doesn’t matter,” Quillen said. “They gotta get fed.”

The 11 horses are split up into three pastures because, Quillen says, they don’t all get along. Bella, for example, hates any other female horse so she is in a pasture with other mares.

Just like humans, horses are creatures of routine. They know when it’s time to be fed, they know when it’s time to work. Quillen works each day to prepare them for that work. That’s why she tries her best to keep them in these fields as long as it isn’t too hot or too cold so they’re free to run and play.

She also invested in blankets a couple years ago, partially to keep the horses warm and partially, so they don’t get all dirty when they roll. Rocky, Quillen said, has the unfortunate combination of a light gray coat and a love for mud.

Quillen also has multiple dry erase and chalk boards inside the barn, noting if a horse looks sore or tired. If a horse is hurt or even isn’t feeling ready to work, Quillen won’t make them.

“Horses were made to work,” Quillen said. “And if they don’t like it, you can tell.”

When it comes time for work, the drivers also keep their schedule. They arrive about an hour and a half before it’s time to go to get the horses ready. Quillen pairs drivers and horses intentionally because a certain horse and driver might not work well together.

When the horses finally leave for the night, they’re carrying both carts and tradition behind them.

​Each time Blue Ribbon gets a new horse, Quillen gives it a special grooming session.

These horses often come from the Amish, who shun technology and still rely on horses for transportation. Yet the Amish lifestyle is different.

It’s much more “go, go go,” Quillen said. Some of the horses need a little extra love at first.

This is where Quillen first bonds with the horse and starts to brainstorm names. She is adamant a horse is not named until its personality comes through.

Some get new names, others get modifications. Al became Aladdin and Joe became Joey. Charlie, on the other hand, stayed Charlie.

“It fit him,” she said. “He’s so sweet and he’s got puppy dog eyes.”

Some horses get new names, such as Solo.

Like Han Solo? Sort of.

“I call him Solo Cup because I don’t like ‘Star Wars,’” she said.

General Manager Scott Ellis has been working at Blue Ribbon for about five years. He has another business on the side but works at Blue Ribbon in his free time.

Ellis mainly focuses on barn and carriage upkeep, he proudly installed heated seats last year.

“We’re not getting rich,” Ellis said. “But we can pay our employees and feed our horses.”

But it’s not about the money.

Blue Ribbon knows the legacy it’s making. They stay in business for the families lined up each Christmas, shivering and clutching hot cocoa. They’re in it for the history of transportation and horses. They’re in it for the tradition.

Without them, Monument Circle just wouldn’t look right.


Abigail King

​As each new customer steps through the door of Stout’s Footwear on Massachusetts Avenue, the general manager, Sara Klimenko, makes sure to welcome them with a smile and a personable, “Hi, how can I help you?”

With hundreds of shoes to choose from at Stout’s, the oldest shoe store in the United States, help is necessary. Clarks, Keens, New Balances, Danksos, Birkenstocks and more line the walls to create a sea of sneakers, sandals, heels and boots.

The historic store is located on Massachusetts Avenue, minutes away from Circle Centre and several other chain shoe stores like Journeys, Finish Line and The Walking Company.

But despite Stout’s close proximity to several other shoe stores, the store’s customers are loyal patrons, returning year after year for their footwear needs, according to Klimenko.

Robert Stapleton, the associate manager at Stout’s, cited the store’s charm as a reason for such loyal

customers: the black-and-white checkered floor take patrons back in time; the Baldwin Flyer System, which sends shoes upstairs for packaging; photos from the store’s 133 years of service; and the beloved store pet — a blue-and-gold macaw, Ripley, that occasionally screeches for attention.

“People remember us,” Stapleton said. “It’s not just a Payless Footwear.”

Klimenko said the store’s longevity can also be contributed to Stout’s employees and their dedication to service.

“We don’t let anybody go through without talking to them,” she said. “And trying to take care of them and really caring about our customers.”

Klimenko has been working at Stout’s for just over five years.

She applied for a position as a sales associate at Stout’s Brownsburg location in 2014 on a whim. In fact, she said she tried to “blow” her interview. She didn’t want to work in retail.

Cleary, it didn’t work.

Since that successful interview, Klimenko has worked at three of the four Stout’s locations: Brownsburg, Carmel and Indianapolis.

Today, she’s glad her interview went well. While she never expected to work in retail, she said she’s passionate about creating bonds with customers and serving them.

Klimenko said it’s typical at Stout’s to have customers request a certain sales associate, and to refuse service from other employees. Some of Klimenko’s regulars have even followed her from Stout’s Brownsburg location.

“It’s a privilege for us to be able to have that relationship with our customers,” she said.

Klimenko said she has forged a particularly close relationship with one of her customers, Chris, whom she met at Stout’s Carmel location where she worked as the manager.

Through supplying Chris with Keen and New Balance sneakers over the years, the two women bonded.

According to Klimenko, the women have served as support structures for each other through the years. When Klimenko’s father fell ill several years ago, Chris was quick to stop in at Stout’s to check on Klimenko and see how she was doing.

Now, Klimenko and Chris often grab lunch together.

“She’s a very close friend,” Klimenko said.

Despite the company’s close connections with its customers and longevity, the emergence of e-commerce has taken a toll on Stout’s Footwear, said Klimenko.

To put it simply, Stapleton said, “The internet is not our friend.”​

Klimenko noted that it’s been difficult to get younger generations to stop by the brick-and-mortar store due to the increase of online shopping.​

But Klimenko still finds ways to draw younger patrons in. She likened the store’s front window to social media. Filled with as many shoes as can fit, the window displays what’s trendy and popular in hopes of drawing in people from the street.

Ty Baldwin lives up the road from Stout’s. He said he’s walked past the shoe store at least 100 times, but Saturday morning was his first time inside.

While Baldwin and his wife, Jana, try to shop local as often as they can, both will admit they shop online more than they would like.​

“This is a small piece of Americana that [could go] away,” he said, referring to Stout’s. “You don’t think about shoe stores.”​

Baldwin said he understands the appeal of online shopping: “Why shop in-person when it’s so easy online?” he asked.​

Eric Walker, another customer, said that he finds shopping at Stout’s to be easier than shopping online due to proximity — like Baldwin, he lives nearby. In fact, he lives closer to Stout’s than any other shoe or clothing store.​

“It’s more of a live, work, play type of atmosphere where I can do it all right here,” he said, referring to Massachusetts Avenue. “It might be a little more expensive but I’m willing to pay for the experience right now.”​

Despite the company’s fierce competition with the internet, Klimenko, Stapleton and the rest of their employees continue to work seven days a week to supply the people of Indianapolis with shoes and “make them leave with a smile.”

“[That’s] really important to me,” Klimenko said. “And that is very fulfilling for me to do.”


Gabe Miller​

The man looked like he might have been sleeping.

Wrapped in a huge coat, his body was hidden to the world. It was morning, four or five years ago in the middle of winter, and the sun was just beginning to break the Indianapolis skyline when Alex Cardenas saw the prone figure.

Cardenas, who collects trash for the Indianapolis Department of Public works, said he assumed the man was asleep. He stepped carefully around the man’s body as he picked up receipts and cigarette butts with his mechanical grabber.

Cardenas didn’t learn until later that the man had been out all night in temperatures below freezing. “He was dead in the morning,” Cardenas said.

1,567 homeless people live in Indianapolis, according to a point-in-time count conducted by the Center for

Homelessness Intervention and Prevention on Jan. 30th. As temperatures fall, cold weather exposure

becomes dangerous for people without shelter.

700 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the U.S. die each year from hypothermia, according to a 2010 report from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Sherman Duncan massaged his right foot as he sat at a table in the Indianapolis City Market. Years ago, legal trouble left Duncan without his job, his car, and his home. He’s been homeless since, unable to see his two daughters as much as he wants.

Rain earlier in the week left his shoes soaking wet, he said, and now his feet hurt. A big man in his late 20s, Duncan walks slowly with a limp.

When temperatures drop, Duncan and his uncle Leroy head to Wheeler Mission, a homeless shelter for men on East New York Street, Duncan said.

The Mission is a non-denominational, Christian social services organization that provides food, beds, showers, clothing, and programs for mental health and addiction recovery. Between Nov. 1 and April 1 when the temperature drops below freezing, the shelter admits “anyone at any time,” said Justin, Guest Coordinator Supervisor at Wheeler Mission.

Inside the shelter, dozens of men sit in folding chairs watching network TV and football. The cinder block walls are painted in a patchwork of pastel colors. A mural of Christ wearing a crown of thorns looks out from one wall with the words “lay your burdens down.”

Some men talk and watch TV. Others sit in silence. One man lays his head on the table and sleeps. The building is heated, but everyone wears hoodies and heavy coats.

“I’ve been staying here for about three years,” said Willy Hunter, who was sitting by himself. Three years ago, Hunter lost his job as a custodian and had no money to pay rent, he said. He had come to Wheeler Mission for food when he had housing and moved in full time after losing his home.

At the shelter, Hunter sweeps and cleans the trash in the parking lot. He sleeps in his own bed and has access to food and a hot shower.

Men at the shelter aren’t required to work, but Hunter wanted to. “I want to return the favor,” he said. “Even if I had my own place I would come down here and visit.”

Hunter said the number of people at the shelter swells with cold weather.

“It’s cold now,” he said. “There’s a bunch of people here, 400-some. But they still get something, a bed or a mat on the floor.”

Duncan benefits from the shelter’s services too, but it can’t fix the exhaustion of homelessness.

“I wish everybody had to be homeless for two months of their life,” Duncan said as he looked into the distance, his eyes narrow with frustration. “They would be more compassionate.”

Duncan hates having to ask people for handouts on the street. “I wish people knew it bothers us just as much as it bothers them,” he said.

It’s the way that people look past him and walk faster, he said, “like I’m invisible.” It’s easier to go to the dumpster for food than to ask somebody, he said.

Walking through the streets at night, Duncan cries often, he said. He sees a therapist at Rising House, a social services organization on Washington Street.

He prays to himself for strength, and he sings. He said his favorite song is “Is a Change is gonna come” by Sam Cooke.

Ducan put his shoes back on and sat back in his chair. He began to sing.

“It’s been a long time, a long time coming,” he sang.

“But a change is gonna come. Oh yes it will.”


Kelli Smith​

The parking lot is located just east of South Street and Pennsylvania Ave. A rusted-over red arrow sign points to the lot – one of the last of its kind in the area. A rusted-over train blares past overhead with a screech.

“Every 15 minutes,” Monte Lopez, 63, says as he looks overhead with a smile.

He glances out at the parking lot in which he stands, taking note of the mishmash of orange cones reserving most of the available spaces. To anyone else, this would be any other parking area.

But for Lopez, this is his lot.​

Lopez spent 20 years working for Meridian South Parking, eventually being promoted as manager. He was there when the vacant lots were transformed into sky-high buildings, as businesses moved in and downtown Indianapolis transformed itself into any other center for a bustling metropolis.

He remembers the good old days, when downtown was transformed from the quiet, peaceful area it once was. It’s what brought him to Indianapolis from his hometown of _____, Indiana.

“It’s not the same here anymore,” he says.

He ventures out from an unassuming white wooden hut decorated with “support veteran” stickers. His highlighter-yellow vest stands out against the rusted-over hut he stands in until a new car enters the lot. He waves at the regulars who park in his lot – he calls them his “super-friends.”

With late hours and the hectic “Colt Sundays,” the job requires a toughness, he says. Not physically, but mentally.

“I’m tired,” he sighs, looking out at the downtown area he once knew.

Lopez had opportunities to retire, but he says loyalty goes a long way. Asked why he does it, he pulls out a wad of cash from his jacket pocket. Chuckling to himself, he gestures to it.

“To some, this is everything,” he says. “Not to me.”

Just a block away, Autumn Keown opens up the Slippery Noodle with an urgency, wiping down the bar and pulling out fruit to begin slicing.

It’s the oldest bar in Indiana, named on the National Register of Historical Places and family-owned for decades. The family’s what kept Keown in it for the last 12 years, working as a bartender in a hectic industry.

She recalls when the company came together to raise bond money after she was arrested for drunk driving, pulling together $1,000 from customers and employees alike.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog industry,” she says, reflecting on the people of all walks of life she often encounters.

She says harassment happens at times. She has late hours that require her to be out until the earliest hours of the morning. But to Keown, none of that matters.

“You just have to be aware,” she says.

Nakia Cheatam never expected to find herself at Lucas Stadium.

The 42-year-old sports a bright yellow vest with the words “SECURITY” emblazoned on top and a beanie pulled tight over her head to ward off the cold. Eight students meander towards her with their hands in the air, clutching their phones and looking at her hesitantly.

“Have a nice day,” she repeats eight times, peeking at their bags and ushering them through the gate.

Cheatam started the gig two years ago and works every event she can. This is her second job, but the only one that really matters to her.

“I just want it until I get straightened out, ‘til I get what I’m reaching for,” she says.

She dreams of owning a business repairing cars. It was a skill her father taught her throughout her childhood in Chicago, but it always seemed like a far-off dream — especially after she got involved in drugs as a teenager for “easy money” and veered off the wrong path.

She moved from Chicago to Indianapolis to change her life for herself and her seven other kids. They were begging her, she says, and that’s when she knew. She landed her first job working security at clubs, but she got tired of the fighting and killings she often witnessed.

So when a friend told her about the opportunity at Lucas Oil Stadium, she jumped on it.

She doesn’t even like the Colts, she says, but it pays the bills. She has a dream and seven kids to take care of, after all.

The area is located on one of the busiest blocks in downtown Indianapolis, a bustling street with Lucas Stadium and historical businesses drawing scores of tourists daily.

Not many notice the three going about their days, all working on the same populated street but still a world apart in their respective industries.

One calls out to his super-friends as he claims ownership of his lot, the other cuts fruit while chatting with the locals and the third ushers people in to Lucas Stadium with a dream in mind.

They work behind-the-scenes as the backbone of downtown Indianapolis, keeping the businesses running and the traffic flowing. It’s not always easy, they all emphasize.

“But it’s worth it,” Keown says.

Dana Lee – 1st place

Small and curious, her hands reach for the dreidel first. Her thumbs smoothing over its wooden sides, each face inscribed with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Nun. Gimel. Hei. Shin. Her hands clutch the dreidel’s stem, and when nine-year-old Kennedy Miller twists her fingers to make it spin, the wooden top drunkenly collapses on its side instead.

Her parents look on from behind, their hands full with pamphlets they picked up from previous tables, each one representing a different country as part of the weekend-long International Festival held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Larger hands reach for the dreidel. “Here, like this.”

Lian Bar Zohar leans down and twirls the dreidel. “Ask me about Israel!” Her pin reads. On another pin attached to her black blazer, Israel fits inside a white heart. Together Zohar and Miller watch the top dance over the Star of David flag draped across the table. It continues to spin…

Zohar wants you to know she believes in destiny. Her being in Indianapolis is destiny. She moved from Israel two months ago, the start of a two-year period during she will serve as an emissary from her home country to the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis.

Growing up, it was easy to believe in destiny. Her family was modest and religious. Shabbat dinners were prepared on Wednesdays and held on Fridays. When her mother prayed while lighting the traditional candle, Zohar always thought it looked like she was talking to God.

“Like texting God,” Zohar says.

She owes everything to her mother, and now, over 6,100 miles away from the house where the two would cook challah bread together, Zohar is bringing pieces of her life to Indianapolis.

“Try some labneh,” Zohar insists. It’s her mother’s recipe.

“Even if I could have just one impact on someone leaving my booth — if they could say, ‘OK, this is different than what I thought’ — then I’ve done my job,” Zohar says. “Even if it’s just one person out of 10, I’ve done my job.”

Some days it doesn’t feel like enough. Two weeks ago, when Zohar got a notification on her phone about the shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, it didn’t feel like enough. Her stomach tightened. She can’t find the words, so her hands clutch at her abdomen instead. Like I couldn’t breathe, she says. She was supposed to host a masquerade party that night. It was too late to cancel. When her guests walked in, Zohar’s heart was in Pittsburgh, and it felt a lot like everyone else in the room was still trying to breathe too. They would grieve together. No one felt like putting on a mask.

“We are trying to recover,” Zohar says. “We have a lot of wounds on our body and our soul. We are stronger together. We don’t let our spirits go down.”

One out of 10, she reminds herself. If she could help change the mind of one person and plant the seeds, it would be enough.

Can it be enough?

Forty-eight hours after the shooting, Lindsey Mintz, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, looked around her local synagogue. She saw doctors and teachers and engineers. Elected officials. Christians. After the shooting, leaders of different religious groups across Indianapolis — Hindus, Muslims, Christians — were the first people to call Mintz.

“We saw what happened.” “How are you?” “What can they do?” They all asked.

When she looked around her synagogue, there were over 2,000 people grieving with her. As executive director she always saw it as her job to equip the Jewish community with the tools they needed to have difficult conversations. It’s what she did after antisemitism messages were found in Carmel. Was that really just three months ago?

But now there were 11 victims dead, killed in a synagogue just like this one.

When it gets hard, Mintz looks at the poster hanging on her office wall. It’s a quote from Rabbi Tarfon, and she keeps his words on her phone too, in case she forgets like she is now.

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”


Laurel Demkovich – 2nd place

Alexandria Audritsh, 16, stands in the middle of a group of dancers dressed in traditional Chinese and Tibetan clothes.

It’s almost time to introduce the group onstage, but something’s not right.

Alexandria’s dressed in a bright blue and flowery qipao, a short-sleeved Chinese silk dress. Her shoes are silver and almost as sparkly as the large crown pinned to her head. Across her chest is a sash: “2019 Indy International Fest Queen.”

“I’m just waiting on my mom,” Alexandria says.

Her mom, Shirley Tang-Audritsh, runs over from the sound system. She unlocks her phone, sliding past the background set as Alexandria’s headshot.

“OK, we don’t have your music,” she says. “Does anybody have music on their phone?”

It’s the last day of the Indy International Festival, and as the 2019 Indy International Festival Queen, it’s Alexandria’s job to emcee the event.

But nothing is going right. The music isn’t connecting properly, the performances are out of order, the show is running 20 minutes late.

“Alexandria, Alexandria!” her mom whispers. “Get on stage and say we have technical difficulties.”

She does, and minutes later, Alexandria waits backstage again, anxiously pacing in the small area hidden by thin blue curtains next to the stage.

She picks up her phone and calls her mom.

“Where are you?” she asks, panicked. “I need a program.”

She opens the curtains and starts making her way to the stage, phone still pressed to her ear.

A Ukrainian singer finishes her last note. Alexandria rushes on stage.

She steps up to the podium with a big smile on her face and leans into the microphone.

“Now wasn’t that pretty!”

Alexandria has done pageants since she was 10, taking title after title. And for better or worse, her mom’s been there all along. Organizing contests, driving her everywhere, making final hair, makeup, clothing and song choices.

She started performing with the Indianapolis Chinese Performing Arts group when she was 5 years old and has been a part of it ever since. As someone who is half-Chinese, being a part of the group is the way that she connects with her culture, with the country that her mom grew up in. It was a way for Alexandria to learn about the diversity in the world.

But what she and her mom really love are the pageants.

Pageantry isn’t like “Toddlers & Tiaras,” Alexandria says. It’s more than that.

You have to be intelligent, she says. You have to be poised at all times.

She only does natural pageants, no crazy makeup or hair or bathing suit contests. She’s not in it to be the named the most beautiful girl. She’s in it because it increases her confidence both on and off stage. It teaches public speaking skills.

For Tang-Audritsh, it’s all about giving younger girls confidence and a role model — girls that they can look up to when they don’t know who else they can.

Whenever they go on a road trip to a competition, Tang-Audritsh makes a girls’ trip out it. Just the two of them. She critiques her and they bicker, but it’s for Alexandria’s own good.

She’s won title after title, including Miss National Star Teen Miss, Miss National Pre-Teen, Miss Indiana Grand Supreme twice.

Sometimes, her mom’s criticism is worth it.

Away from the technical difficulties, away from her mom, away from attendees asking for selfies, Alexandria finds herself locked in a bathroom backstage. The room has the best acoustics, she says.

She needs just two minutes alone to warm up her voice. She takes a deep breath and hits a note on the piano app on her phone.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” she sings down the scale.

She heads back outside where her mom is looking for her. It’s almost time to go.

The Sreemala Veena Group, an Indian musical group, finishes onstage. Now, it’s Alexandria’s turn.

She’s not really nervous, but having only been told a few days earlier that she’d be performing, she didn’t have much time to prepare.

She slowly walks up the stairs to the center of the stage.

“Hello, everyone,” she starts into the microphone. “Today, I’ll be singing the song ‘Hui Jia.’ It means ‘Return Home’ and is about a loved one and wondering when they’ll return.”

As she speaks, Alexandria’s mom makes her way to the back of the audience near the sound system. Organizers asked her mom to introduce her, but Tang-Audritsh didn’t want to; she wanted to oversee the music.

Her mom holds up her phone, ready to record her daughter’s performance — one of the hundreds she’s seen. She motions to the sound guy to play the track.

Tang-Audritsh is a ballroom dancer herself and has performed and competed numerous times, but she’s always the most nervous when she watches Alexandria.

Nothing compares to how her heart beats watching Alexandria onstage.

At one point at the end of the song, it switches to English.

“Be here, just be there, my love and only love,” Alexandria sings.

She walks across the stage, with more confidence and grace than most 16 year olds. As she sings, she remembers why all the stress and criticism is worth it. She thinks of her mom and how much confidence and motivation she has. The reason Alexandria is able to do any of these competitions at all.

She stares out at the crowd ahead, past the empty chairs and the food stations from across the world.

She looks toward her mom — her role model — recording the whole thing on her phone with a huge smile across her face.


Shelby Mullis – 3rd place

Her face beams when she talks about dance — the beauty of purposefully selected sequences of movement and the messages conveyed by each choreographed move.

As each twist, turn and leap flows into another, these moves are what reconnected Maria Manalang with her homeland of the Philippines, the country she left at just 13 years old to explore a new life awaiting her in the United States.

Dance became Manalang’s outlet for expression. More than that, dance was a mode of education — a way Manalang, now 53, could reintroduce herself to the culture that raised her.

“I was lucky to be gifted with artistry as well as a passion for dance, so it was my way of sharing my gift,” Manalang said. “A friend of mine a long time ago said, ‘If God gave you a gift and you don’t share it, He takes it away from you.’ This is my way of giving back to my community.”

As a young child, dressed in her mother’s traditional Filipino Baro’t Saya, Manalang pranced around her home singing the songs of her people. She dreamed of a lifetime on stage, performing Philippine folk dances in front of thousands of people.

But people told her it would never happen because she was “too heavy.”

The critics couldn’t hold her back. She wouldn’t let them. Instead, Manalang promised herself she would learn the Philippine folk dances and teach them to others one day at her own company.

“We all may look different, however, we all only want the same thing: being loved,” Manalang said. “We all want the same thing in this world. We all have the same problems. We just look different. I wanted to create a community for all.”

And she did.

Manalang founded the Sayaw Philippine Cultural Dance Company 12 years ago, and she is using it to teach others — non-Filipinos and Filipinos, alike — about the Filipino culture. She started the company in her own backyard, and it has since evolved to its own building on the south side of Indianapolis.

The number of members varies each year. Ages range from six months old to 78 years old. This year, 12 people are involved, including 63-year-old Teresita Soliven.

Soliven, also from the Philippines, never danced a day in her life before joining the Sayaw Philippine Cultural Dance Company. She discovered the dance company in its early stages when they performed at a birthday party she attended.

“I like to dance, but I don’t know really how to,” Soliven said. “With Maria’s guidance, she teach me how and we practice.”

Soliven said Manalang is like a daughter, emphasizing her kindness and patience as two traits that make Manalang special.

But for Manalang, the kindness comes naturally. She said the community she has nurtured is built on generosity.

“I welcome everyone regardless of their ethnic background, as long as they have an interest in dance,” Manalang said. “This is my family. It has developed to more than just a company, but basically a community.”


Additional 2018 Finalists

Lauren Fox

An urgent “meow” from the living room called Thresa Crohn to the attention of her cat. The big, beloved and white-haired Mr. Kitty had a red burn lining the front of his neck. It was “real bad,” Crohn remembers, and she knew it was a lit candle that had injured him.

The next day Crohn threw out every candle in her home.

That was in the ‘90s. Today Crohn stood behind a booth at the Indianapolis Christmas Gift & Hobby Show selling what appeared to be candles and candleholders. But upon closer inspection electronic plugs came into view at the back of the jewel-toned containers. These warmers melt and release fragrances from wax “tarts,” as they’re called, without any flames.

Crohn wanted to find an alternative to candles after Mr. Kitty’s burn, so since 1999 she has been producing and selling wax tarts through her business, Lil Stinkers. This is her fourth year selling at the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show, the largest holiday shopping event in Indianapolis.

Christmas was quite literally in the air at the West Pavilion in the Indiana State Fairgrounds, where the show was held. Snowflakes hung from the ceiling. Exposed pipes were enveloped by garland. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played softly in the background while the cries of vendors called customers to their booths.

But at Crohn’s booth, it was the scent and not the sound that pulled passersby in.

Blueberry cobbler. Buttercream. These are the two scents Crohn uses to entice customers, and she’s got more waiting for them behind the counter: apple cinnamon, mulled cider, caramel crunch. She makes over 200 scents.

“That’s what gets everybody,” she said, “smelling it.”

Crohn’s husband Larry, who helped her sell on Saturday, likes most of the scents that waft through his house on a daily basis, but there’s one that he can’t stand.

“The one I have to leave the house for is hazelnut coffee. It’s way too strong,” he said. “Whew! She has to tell me when she’s going to make it.”

“It’s not that you don’t like it,” his wife replied, “it makes you sneeze!”

Crohn enjoys the friendly atmosphere at the Christmas show. She specifically enjoys chatting with the other vendors. John Raddatz from Scentsy, a rival company that started in 2004 and makes similar products to Crohn’s, asked why she didn’t sue them.

“I was just like, ‘Hey, that’s one you could’ve chased,’” Raddatz said. But Crohn wasn’t, and still isn’t, looking to be a big company.

“I’m a simple country girl. That’s all I want to be,” she said. Suing would have been too “petty.”

Raddatz said to enjoy the fair vendors have to have a good attitude towards competitors.

“I see people in booths who are so competitive and they just have bad experiences,” he said. “I like good karma in the booth. There should never be bad blood.”

Crohn has more scents than Raddatz’s company, so he encourages buyers to visit her booth as well.

“I’m actually sending a lot of business her way,” he said. “She’s got a great product. I’ve got a fantastic product too.”

While most vendors and visitors at the show embraced the Christmas spirit, the booth next to Crohn’s fought the likes of the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song with an individual speaker from which they played pop songs.

The Christmas music puts the vendors at the ProFashion booth to sleep, Jessica Levi explained.

“I like Christmas music, but the thing is it’s too relaxing. We put on this music to wake us up,” she said.

Crohn said she didn’t understand the “new style” music her neighbors were playing, but “we all carry on. Gotta have an understanding that we’re all here to make a few dollars.”

One of Crohn’s new products at this year’s fair were her aroma necklaces. The spherical jewelry pieces hold lava rocks in their center, which people can spray with their favorite scent for a nice smell throughout the day.

In the center of Crohn’s necklace collection was one in the shape of a cat’s head. Totally coincidental, she said. But she smiled.


Mary Freda

Nuzzled between more than 2,000 booths, stands booth 105, a 10-by-10-square foot space where John Marchal and his wife, Diana, sit anywhere from seven to 12 hours waiting.

In that time, they might have 75 people stop and buy something.

Over the next five days, shoppers scout the 147,040-square-foot building, looking for the perfect gift to put under the tree. The annual Christmas Gift & Hobby Show winds down the Marchals selling season and within the next week or so both John and Diana will return to their workshops, crafting their products for a new season.

Some booths tote Christmas gear, boasting every ornament, sign and sentiment imaginable. Others offer services like massages or hair styling. But the majority, like the Marchals’, offer unique items you wouldn’t see at your local Target.

Six years ago, John made his first pen for $1,000 (a majority of the cost came from creating his toolkit).

It started when Diana said he needed something to do. So, he took a woodworking class at Woodcraft of Indianapolis. He had never touched a band saw or a lathe and didn’t have any of the tools at home, but after the class was over, he was ready to commit.

“My wife said I needed something to do — she had no idea,” he chuckled.

Now, John, the owner of First Sgt. Woods, crafts banks, pens and puzzles.

However, before the Logansport-native became a wood worker, John was a radar technician in the Air Force for 23 years. He spent time in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Alaska, California, the Philippines and Vietnam.

After he went to the Air Force Reserve around 1988, John opened Pip Printing — a custom print shop — in Indianapolis and later a location in West Lafayette. After doing that for 23 years, he retired and moved on to the Department of Homeland Security where he worked for eight years, then worked with the Transportation Security Administration for six years.

When it came time for his fourth and final retirement, John picked up a hobby. Though is started with penmaking and puzzles after a class at Woodcraft, where he now works part-time, John expanded his craft to include wooden coin banks.

“I saw one someplace and it was just a square box for the door, and I thought, ‘I can do a little bit better,’” John said. “So, I put my own design on it.”

Each bank starts with a 4-foot-tall piece of wood — John doesn’t use pine or plywood — and is cut down to stand just a tad taller than a post-office box. Each bank comes with the same instructions, scrawled in John’s tight handwriting: turn to the right, turn left and turn right again.

The banks, whether they are shaped like a mail box or mail truck, don an old postal box door. Some date back to the late 1880s, while others teeter around the 1900s. Some have two-digit codes, while others have three.

“They’re all unique in their own way,” said John, who has made the banks for three years.

“Most people don’t realize the time it takes to get one of these ready, get the wood ready, get it all put together.”

Each traditional bank can take anywhere from six to 10 hours, while the mail trucks can take an upwards of 18. None of the banks are stained, rather are coated with lacquer to highlight the natural color of the wood, John said.

Though crafted on the same workbench, by the same pair of hands, each boasts a unique door, wood grain and, of course, code. The banks, however, only make up half of the Marchals’ inventory.

When Diana, John’s wife, was 12 years old her aunt taught her how to knit. After picking up the needle craft, she taught herself how to crochet.

Diana, a Madison County native, spent most of her career working in marketing, creating advertisements for companies. However, when she and John retired six years ago, she again picked up the needle craft she learned more than 50 years ago.

“I enjoy making animals that appeal to children,” Diana said. “Some of the pieces I make are more expensive, more time consuming, so I have to charge a little more for those, but I like to make the little turtles and things that are less expensive. [So] that when the kids want something, mom and dad can say, ‘Well, pick out a turtle.’”

During the couple’s off season — when they aren’t traveling to shows or markets every weekend — they each spend a few hours honing their craft.

Diana sits on the rust couch in front of the television, with either their white and tan Lhasa apso Oliver or their black and silver mini dachshund Sophie, while John heads to the cement floored, white walled two-car garage, which is carless by the way.

When evening comes, they eat supper, return to their craft and go to bed to start the routine over once again, Diana said.

Then when the time comes, they pack it all up and head to the farmers market in Noblesville and craft shows around the state.

However, each year they end their busy season in a 10×10 booth at the Christmas and Hobby Show, watching their inventory to dwindle as they prepare to trade their displays in for their workshops.


Lydia Gerike

The spirit of Christmas isn’t with Santa Claus at the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show or nestled among the salespeople trying to get onlookers to buy teeth whitener or aloe vera lotion.

The magic is instead at a booth in the back of the expo hall, tucked away behind the to the coat check and women’s bathroom, where a husband and wife have just bought a new book.

They hand it to the woman sitting behind the booth.

“To Debbie and Vern,” the wife tells the woman to inscribe. “It IS a wonderful life.”

For many people, Karolyn Grimes isn’t really the 78-year-old woman signing “It’s a Wonderful Life” books and silver bells in large, looping handwriting.

She is still Zuzu Bailey, the 6-year-old daughter from the 1940’s holiday classic who tells her father “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” after he realizes his life is important.

Grimes has embraced her role in her later years, traveling to events across the country to meet with fans who tell her just how much “It’s a Wonderful Life” means to them.

“To see how many people love this movie makes me think there’s hope for America,” Grimes says.

Everyone in line seems to want the movie to so. One man asks Grimes to dedicate a book to his unborn granddaughter. A couple wants her to sign the invitation for their wedding, which has an “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme.

There’s also tougher moments, like a woman who tells Grimes about the death of her husband around Thanksgiving 6 years ago.

“People project all kinds of things on her,” said Clay Eals, who is helping Grimes out at the booth.

But Eals, who became friends with Grimes after writing her biography years ago, said the movie became just as important to Grimes it is to millions of people across the country.

She was orphaned at 15. Her first husband died from a hunting accident, her second of cancer. One of her seven children died by suicide.

Grimes, who left Hollywood after her parents died to go live in rural Missouri, says the movie reentered her life when she was in her 40s and finally saw the whole thing for the first time.

When Target sponsored a tour for the actors who played the Baily children in 1993, she realized her calling was to go around meeting people. October, November and December are the busiest months of the year, but her only break is in August.

She says she doesn’t mind hearing people’s stories became she feels she can relate to them, and she wants to be able to help them with their own difficulties.

“I had to take this path to be able to communicate or commiserate to people who share their love for this film,” Grimes says.

By the end of the first two hours of the show, she hasn’t stopped signing. Her gluten-free coffee cake sits unopened on the coffee table next to her.

One woman hands Grimes a silver bell made by the same company that made the original one on the movie.

Before reaching down to sign it, Grimes raises the bell and flicks her wrist.

A high-pitch tinkling sound rings out, and somewhere far away, an angel’s wings have just appeared.


Emma Jones

Humbugs Beware: The Christmas Gift and Hobby Show

No one was in a hurry at the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show. The crowds – three abreast at least in the busiest aisle – were one reason for that. People would have steamrolled each other had they moved faster than a shuffling walk.

“I think what impresses me most is the patience of people who are here,” said Joe Stuteville, a former journalist and Vietnam veteran who attended the show with his wife. Tuckered out by the busy atmosphere, he took refuge on a bench near the ceiling-high Christmas tree in the center of the Blue Ribbon Pavilion.

“Most people are in such a rush to do anything these days,” said Stuteville. “I find it encouraging.”

The show is certainly not for anyone in a hurry. The festival started on November 7 and will end on the 11th. Even moving slowly, it would be almost impossible to see all of the Christmas paraphernalia on display.

Foot traffic might also have been slow because of the average age of the attendees: about 50 years old. Most of the vendors catered to their main audience.

“Do you ladies know anyone who has trouble hearing on the telephone?” called a woman’s voice in the 200 aisle.

“Come try a massage!” cried one man who was selling massage pads. Then, in almost a whine as he saw his customers disappearing, “Try out! Two minutes!”

“Good for joint pain!” bellowed one man with an Australian accent in an attempt to help his coworker.

The buyers might have been mostly middle-aged, but they brought plenty of babies along. One tiny girl looked like cotton candy with shoes, a pink-and-white knitted blanket swaddled around her with only her face and her black Converse peeking out. A small boy was nearly buried beneath a Marvel superhero-themed Christmas hat on his head. Another girl who wore a felt Christmas-tree hair bow turned down the corners of her mouth and asked her mother, “Where’s Santa Claus?”

There was hardly a happy baby in sight – unless you count the dogs. By the sunglasses stand, two tiny puppies slapped at each other behind netting in a stroller. Their owner, a thin blond woman in a white flowered sweatshirt, draped a towel over their faces, laughing.

That woman, Vicky Deckard, has been coming to the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show for as long as she can remember: at least 35 or 40 years, she said. She used to come with her mother before the latter’s death in 1990. Now, she comes with her dogs, Missy and Bentley, and her married daughter, Kimberly Black, but not her husband. He died about six years ago.

Black’s husband comes to the festival, too, said Deckard.

“Yeah, we started dragging him along,” said Deckard, laughing and pointing at her son-in-law. “He enjoys it.”

Susie and Kelli Bacon, who had the same smile and blue eyes, were another mother-daughter duo at the show. Susie, the mother, has been coming to the Christmas show for four or five years. She said she normally buys chocolate and painted wood ornaments.

Many of the goods at the festival, like the wooden ornaments, were Christmas-themed. Many were not. One woodworker, J.M. “Dusty” Rhodes, sold silk-smooth bowls, pepper grinders, and lamp stands that he made himself. The business is called “Wood Be Memories.”

“I’m here to make money, numero uno,” joked Rhodes, but clearly money wasn’t his only motivation. He spoke with vigor about his passion for woodworking, saying he had three basic rules for turning wood.

“Safety first, don’t waste any time turning bad wood, and don’t tell anyone what it is till you’re done,” said Rhodes. “Every piece of wood is different – uniquely the same, if that makes any sense.”

Rhodes wasn’t always a woodworker. He grew up on an Indiana farm and went to Indiana State University on a football scholarship. He studied English and creative writing and planned to become a sports reporter. But “a little thing called Vietnam got in the way,” said Rhodes.

That “little thing” kept Rhodes in the Air Force for four years. He played semi-professional football for the San Francisco Giants for three years after that. That stage of his life ended when he injured his elbow. He then went to live with his brother.

While staying at his brother’s house, he met a Texan woman who came to visit the family and later married her. The couple moved to Texas, where they opened two barbecue restaurants and cooked on site in several East Texas locations. Years later, they moved to Indiana and opened barbecue places in Muncie and Marion.

Rhodes sold the restaurants and planned to retire, but after six weeks, he said, he went nearly insane for lack of employment. He took up woodworking as a hobby and now has made it into a business. He also works at Lucas Oil as a health and food safety instructor for concessions.

“It’s a little different from cooking at home,” said Rhodes. “You’re cooking for 20,000 people!”

Food of all kinds was plentiful at the festival. One engaged couple, Jeremy Kendall and Allie Hatcher, sold homemade honey and maple syrup. The syrup flavors ranged from cinnamon to all-spice to star of anise. The last is a major ingredient in licorice, but Kendall and Hatcher’s version has a more forgiving aftertaste.

The couple’s favorite syrup flavor is vanilla.

“We like it on coffee, and also a little on sweet potatoes,” said Allie. “And of course your traditional waffles, pancakes, things like that.”

Visitors to the stand got nearly unlimited samples. Kendall always asked if customers wanted to try another flavor, and the answer was nearly always yes.

Hearing about the maple syrup vendors piqued Stuteville’s interest, but he said he wasn’t partial to any specific holiday food.

“No, wait, I take that back,” he said, recalling his love for balls or blocks of cheese.

“I wouldn’t eat them any other time of the year,” he said, “but around Thanksgiving I’m ready for them.”

Stuteville enjoys celebrating Christmas with his family, especially going to church and visiting his children and grandchildren. He isn’t as interested in the physical trappings of the holiday.

“I think in your heart, you should [celebrate] throughout the year. Many people here are really into it” – he indicated the people nearby, some of whom were decked out in blindingly horrible Christmas sweaters – “but personally, it’s not my kind of thing. I enjoy the pageantry of Christmas, but I also enjoy the spirituality of it.”

Stuteville paused to greet a fellow veteran who had seen his “Vietnam Veteran” hat, shaking his hand and thanking him for his service.

He then added that the gift and hobby show was a good way to “kind of jump-start the Christmas season” for those who were interested in crafts and gift-giving.

Many other visitors were adamant that Christmas celebration should not start until after Thanksgiving.

“It upsets me to go into Walmart and see all the Christmas decorations,” said Rhodes.

“[Christmas] keeps creeping up earlier and earlier,” said Susie Bacon.

When asked how early was too early to start celebrating Christmas, Deckard responded, “Halloween! It shouldn’t start until after Thanksgiving, no matter what anybody says.”

Kendall said it doesn’t matter much to him when people decide to celebrate the holidays.

“Whatever makes you happy,” he said.


Brynn Mechem

They greet visitors with smiling faces, women and men dressed in saris and kilts. Photos of foreign landscapes hang in every direction, commanding attention. Sounds of drums and pan flutes trill through the air as those walking by munch on churros and sip from coconuts.

In a giant whicker basket sits makeshift passports, waiting idly by until an unsuspecting visitor picks one up and begins their journey. More than 30 countries are represented at the 2018 Indy International Festival, reminding visitors that even in a time of cultural turmoil, there is beauty to be found.

In the corner, on top of an elaborate burgundy carpet, stand two players, brows furrowed in concentration. They are engaged in a game of towers, similar to modern day Jenga, each one trying to figure out which piece of wood to knock out with their sabers.

Behind them sit five women of the Tudor Rose Players, each one dressed more ornately than the last. It is obvious who is queen. She sits in a gold-adorned chair wearing a gold and ruby crown and red plaid sash. Women curtsey before her and don’t dare to look her in the eye.

She is Queen Elizabeth de Burgh, wife of Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots, come back to life. She tells people about the First War of Scottish Independence against England, which Robert the Bruce led. The wars against England began in 1296 and continued until The Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which restored Scottish Independence, in 1328.

There is a booming thud.

Sir Archibald has successfully knocked out a piece from the tower. The small crowd that had formed applauded.

“He’s not finished yet, though,” Elizabeth said, her Scottish accent strong. “He has to place the block.”

A 5-year-old girl works up the nerve to approach the queen. She is met instead by one of the servants who asks her name and teaches her how to properly curtsey.

“My queen, may I present Lady Charlotte,” the servant says.

Lady Charlotte curtseys and quickly runs back to the arms of her waiting mother.

Another roaring thud.

This time, it is Lady Agnes who has scored. By now, there is a larger crowd gathering. Two-year-old Emmett Griggs stands in the arms of his mother, wide-eyed as Lady Agnes nearly knocks the tower over.

“Careful now,” Elizabeth warned. “You almost got two for one on that turn.”

Emmett clenches his fists as Sir Archibald goes in for another piece. It is stuck. Sir Archibald begins lightly tapping the block of wood, demanding it come loose.

Emmett gasps.

The tower topples.

The crowd disperses.

Queen Elizabeth raises her chalice of wine for a toast. “Nicely done Lady Agnes, I think you’re having a rematch now.”

Emmett bows to the queen, stamps his passport and runs off, eager to see what other adventures the day holds.

In another corner stands an 18-foot tall teepee. Its 30-foot poles are expertly twisted, towering over all the other booths. The wrap, made from buffalo skin, is painted with red and black triangles, sending a message to all who see it.

“The colors represent Mother Earth and medicine power,” Tony Castoreno, one of the last Apache teepee makers, explained to a small crowd. “When I’m camping, it lets people know that I’m a spiritualist.”

Near the teepee’s entryway stands an eagle staff with nine feathers, representing warriors who have fallen in battle. Inside, 4-year-old Lucas Kincaid looks up in amazement, his play-worn Batman cape flowing behind him.

“Woah, look how super cool this is,” Lucas says to his mom. “It’s like a house in here.”

He chortles and romps around the 19-foot diameter teepee, touching the various pelts that are strung throughout.

“This one is from a bear and that one is from a moose,” Lucas tells his mother.

Outside, Castoreno, who is also president of American Indian Center of Indiana, Inc., explains Lucas had actually touched the pelts of a buffalo and coyote. He explains the meaning of his war bonnet, telling Lucas that leaders who have earned respect in their tribes wear them.

Lucas touches one of the feathers, stamps his passport and runs off, eager to get lunch.

Nestled among the rows of booths is a makeshift gazebo of flowing yellow, red and blue fabrics. In the tent rests a dhol, a two-sided drum made of bamboo and cane wood that is used for a variety of Indian celebrations.

A man in an ornate purple and gold turban explains the history of the Sikhs to a group of adults who are enjoying a Saturday outing. Sikhs are those who follow the Sikh faith, which originated in India more than 500 years ago, K.P. Singh tells the group.

“Most of the people wearing a turban in western countries are Sikhs,” Singh says.

He follows their eyes to a backdrop of a building, whose shimmering gold façade is reflected in the water before it. It is an image of Sri Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, located in the city of Amristar, Punjab, India.

“It is the equivalent of Vatican City for Sikhs,” Singh said. “It has the world’s largest kitchen that serves more than 100,000 people daily.”

The group tries to play the dhol, gets their passports stamped and head to the main stage to watch a performance.

A new family walks toward the booth and the saga begins again. Singh shows off the dhol, Castoreno teaches another child the semblance of his war bonnet and Queen Elizabeth raises another glass.

Families again mill about, taking in the sights of the Swiss Alps, smelling the aroma of an arepa and hearing the deft plucking of a sitar. They disperse back to their own reality, their own culture — the only physical semblance of their journey into other worlds is their stamp-filled passport.


Maria Mendez

The smell of tamales combined with Swiss espresso made it feel as if you were traveling around the world within the 70,000 square feet of the Blue Pavilion. As people walked in, the music coming from multiple speakers blended together to create one harmonious sound.

Indy’s International Festival gave over thirty countries the chance to share their culture, uniting people of all sorts of lived experiences. The festival celebrates the idea that being American does not look one way or speak one language.

Thirteen years ago, Fernando Cejas left his home in Mexico City to work at the Mexican Embassy in Indiana. Now he works as the director of community issues for the Embassy and educates the public while also promoting Mexican culture.

When Cejas came the United States he had to learn to adapt to American culture, while ensuring he did not lose his native culture or his language. He wants other immigrants to know that they can adapt without losing their Mexican identity.

Cejas knows that many come to work more than one job and said that immigrants have the dilemma of choosing between trabajar para vivir o vivir para trabajar (working to live or live to work).

Laura Uribe, who has been coming to the festival for three years, said that she combats this by enjoying her work. “I think the trick is to love what you do,” Uribe said.

She has owned her restaurant for sixteen years, and uses it as a way to promote Mexican culture while also making money.

She had to adapt when she came to the United States, but said “that’s what you have to do.” Uribe has four children and has taught them Spanish and made sure they know their heritage.

Cejas also works to promotes Mexican culture to defy the negative rhetoric against Mexicans and immigrants. “It is important to educate people so that they lose the fear and that feeling of animosity toward what is foreign,” Cejas said.

He wants to show people that immigrants are coming to work and contribute to the economy while also sharing Mexican culture. “We are not trying to impose our culture,” Cejas said, “just share it.”

As he mentions this, two little girls walk up the table and they look at all the documents on the table with curiosity. Their faces light up when Cejas gives them a Spanish book.

The older sister grabs the book with the utmost care and says, “Muchas gracias.” Cejas smiles as they leave the table, their arms full of Spanish books.


Emily Sabens

Alyx Kopie doesn’t like the color pink. But that’s hard to tell.

Her booth at the Indianapolis Pet Expo looks like an explosion of pink bubble gum. A rosy-colored, sparkly tablecloth. Glittery pink signs. Small metallic pink figurines shaped like balloon animals.

Kopie herself is a vision of pink. The pink sleeves of her baseball style T-shirt contrast with the intricate tattoos on her arms. The two stud earrings in her earlobes are pink. Her glittery eyeshadow is pink. Her nail polish is pink. Even her feathered, pixie-cut hair is pink.

But the most important piece of pink sits beside her.

Kopie’s dog, Bowie, sniffs her hand with his light pink, heart-shaped nose. His pink tongue lolls out of his mouth. He focuses intently on Kopie as she talks to passing visitors. But he doesn’t hear them: Bowie is a deaf dog.

Kopie is the founder of Pink Heart Rescue. The organization rescues blind and deaf dogs in the Indianapolis community and helps them to find homes.

Almost all blind or deaf dogs, such as Bowie, have pink, heart-shaped noses. Kopie thought the name fit perfectly, even though that meant using the color pink. However, this is just one sacrifice Kopie has made in order to better the lives of blind and deaf dogs in the Indianapolis community.

In August of 2017, Kopie saw an advertisement on Facebook for a Great Dane puppy. She fell in love with the dog’s bright blue eyes, speckled pink nose and long, wiry whiskers.

There was a catch, though. The puppy was deaf.

That didn’t stop Kopie.

After convincing her husband, Justin Kopie, the two paid the $100 adoption fee and brought the puppy home. They decided to name her Paisley.

Kopie wasn’t sure where to start when it came to training Paisley. She had dog training experience from her days in 4-H, but she had never worked with a deaf dog before.

She contacted the Forever Friends Great Dane Rescue, who placed Paisley with an owner experienced in training deaf dogs. The situation opened Kopie’s eyes, though.

Kopie says she realized many people do not know how to work with deaf or blind dogs. Because of that, dogs with these types of disabilities are often passed from home to home.

She began to read books about training blind and deaf dogs. She scoured the internet. She even became a certified dog trainer.

“I wanted to give them the best chances they could get,” Kopie says. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to do this to give them better lives.’”

Kopie has been fortunate to have the support of her husband, Justin. Even today, he wears bright pink camouflage pants.

“I was a cat person before marrying her,” Justin says, laughing. “But that’s all changed now.”

Kopie says she has always been a dog person. When she was 13 years old, her family adopted a dog named Josie. They bonded instantly, she says. Kopie trained Josie for agility, obedience and tracking down animals.

But two years after getting Josie, she was hit by a car and died. Kopie was devastated.

“Losing Josie made me realize how big of an impact a dog can have on your life,” Kopie says. “Josie is a big part in why I do all of this.”

Kopie is reminded of her first dog every time she looks at her left hand, which features a portrait of Josie.

Today, Kopie has helped find homes for over 27 blind and deaf dogs in the Indianapolis community.

She often sees blind and deaf dogs on Facebook or Craiglist that, because of their disabilities, cannot find homes. So she takes them in, caring for them and teaching them. Once they are ready, she helps the dogs to find their forever homes.

Sometimes, she evens trains the blind and deaf dogs she takes in to help others.

Bowie, for example, is currently being trained to be a service dog, even though he is deaf. Kopie, who suffers from PTSD, trained Bowie to warn her before she has a panic attack.

It can be challenging, though.

Last year, Kopie saw a deaf and blind dog on Craigslist located in Pennsylvania. She and her mother drove seven hours to get the dog, whom they later named Kora.

Kopie says Kora suffered many problems. She would bark continuously. She would lick objects compulsively. She would spin in circles.

Kopie wasn’t sure if she could help Kora. But she didn’t give up.

“None of us believed that that dog was going to be savable,” says Amira Dutra E Mello, a volunteer for Pink Heart Rescue. “But Alyx (Kopie) did.”

Kopie began to work with her, spending hours training her. She also took her to a veterinarian, who gave her medicine to help with the dog’s anxiety.

The weeks passed, and Kora began to respond to Kopie, learning basic commands and becoming more affectionate.

When Kora first arrived at Kopie’s home, she refused to interact with the other dogs. But one day, when Kopie went outside, she saw Kora romping and playing with the other dogs.

Kopie cried.

“That was a huge obstacle to overcome,” Kopie says. “I knew in that moment she was going to be okay.”

Once Kora improved, Kopie found a home for the dog in Ohio. She still gets regular pictures and videos from Kora’s new owners.

Kopie and her husband currently live in a three-bedroom home. One bedroom is for the couple’s own nine dogs. The other bedroom is for their rescue dogs. The third bedroom, well, they save for themselves (for now, at least).

During the week, Kopie works as a tattoo artist at Blessed Tattoo Studio in Greenwood. She is a part-time youth minister at Saints Francis and Clare Catholic Church. She also works part-time as a dog trainer on the weekends. Her husband recently began working from home so he could have more time for the dogs.

The couple is saving money to build a home near Martinsville or Mooresville. They want it to include a farm so the dogs can have more room to roam.

For now, though, Kopie will continue to help blind and deaf dogs in any way she can.

“These dogs just trust you so much,” Kopie says. “They rely on you and love you 110 percent, and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Kopie smiles, looking at Bowie, then looking down at her left hand. She sees the portrait of her first dog, Josie. And, right above on her middle finger, she sees another tattoo: a small pink heart, shaped just like Bowie’s nose.

First Place: Jack Evans – Indiana University

First they just asked men to go into the tunnels, to volunteer to head into the dank Vietnam earth. To take the nickname “tunnel rat.” It seemed like everyone had an excuse for why they couldn’t.

“I’m married.”

“I’m engaged.”

“I’m short.”

Moe Henderson was none of the above, and so into the tunnels he went. Sometimes he came face-to-face with an enemy soldier, and he did what he had to do. He’d promised his mama he’d come home after a year, and he never lied to his mama.

Sometimes, instead of soldiers, he’d find ammunition or medical supplies. Booby traps scared him more than soldiers. Spiders scared him the most.

He still remembers how it smelled down there, earthy and moldy, like the foundation of a flooded house.

But here, five decades later, the air smells only of cigarettes and, toward the back of the building, Craig Carr’s beef stew with hot peppers. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2839: elbows on the bar, Jell-O shots for a dollar, “Members Only” sign in the front window.

The tunnel rat, now a 68-year-old post commander, sits at the bar, a pack of Winstons tucked in the pocket of his camouflage jacket.

Three-and-a-half miles away, streets are blocked off for the Veterans Day Parade. The men here — mostly Vietnam War veterans in their 60s and 70s — have walked in their fair share of parades. But those things start to bleed together in memory after a while, and some of their bodies don’t agree with the cold weather anymore, and so they have decided to spend the day inside, with men who speak the same language.

Sitting at the bar, Rick Faulk — who joined the Air Force at 17, rather than wait around to get drafted into Vietnam — says something about an airstrike, and it sparks something in Carr’s memory. The stew-maker retrieves a box of photos he took during the war. Here’s him holding a monkey, a Pabst Blue Ribbon gripped in one hand. Here’s that hazy airstrike photo he recalled, napalm clouding the horizon.

“You don’t got any of the gooks, do ya?” Faulk, 70, asks. Carr flips through the photos and finds one of a Vietnamese soldier dead on the sand. He points out the places where fish had nibbled away at the flesh.

And here is a photo of Carr’s best friend, a New York City guy killed May 2, 1968. Carr has on his person the friend’s prayer card, laminated. He carries it with him every Veterans Day.

The human toll of war bonds these men. Of the 80 or so kids in Faulk’s graduating class and the one below, 28 went to Vietnam. Twenty-seven came back. A sniper’s bullet killed one friend, two weeks before he was set to come home.

Things were different when they came home. Guns and fear had turned them from boys to men. Faulk returned in the winter, and his tan marked him as a target for protesters who spit at him or yelled, “Baby killer!” He grew out his hair and beard. He reconnected with his high-school girlfriend, who had become an anti-war activist, and tagged along to one protest.

“Her friends and me didn’t get along,” he says. “They wanted to smoke dope, and I wanted to drink Budweiser.”

Over time, the men noticed what havoc war wreaked inside them. Faulk has diabetes. Henderson beat stage-three prostate cancer. Doctors linked both their diseases to Agent Orange exposure.

And for years, Henderson’s primary care doctor urged him to see a psychiatrist. He always said no, and the doctor always kept asking, and Henderson eventually reasoned that going would at least get the doctor off his back. The psychiatrist told him he had post-traumatic stress disorder. Now he sees a social worker once a week and realizes how angry he was before.

By noon, people flow into the building at a steady pace, veterans and their wives and children ready for lunch. By day’s end, two or three hundred people will come through, Faulk guesses. Carr breaks from the kitchen to retrieve a bucket of ice and Miller Lite from the bar. The hot pepper beef stew has simmered nearly enough.

“It’s called five-hour stew,” he says. “But this is more of a 10-to-20-hour stew.”

“It might burn your lips off,” Vietnam vet Don Jessee laughs, as he snaps photos of the room on a tablet.

For a long time, Carr says, this VFW didn’t do much for Veterans Day other than serve cups of chili for the five or six guys who showed up. Fifteen years ago, this lunch started, and now people drive from out of town for it, for a once-a-year reunion with decades-old friends.

“Hey, guys,” Carr calls. “Ron, you want to say a few words so we can get our chow line moving?”

Another Vietnam veteran, Ron McCann, says a quick prayer, but the buffet stays clear when he finishes. People linger in their circles, reluctant to break conversations. Nobody seems in much of a hurry.

The room still smells like stew, but they came for much more than that.


Second Place: Madison Dudley – DePauw University

Two blond toddlers sit in a red wagon at the bottom of the Indiana World War I memorial steps. The little girls are decked out in red, white and blue, their cheeks rosy from the cold. They snack on Nutri Grain granola bars and sway to the music of the Indiana National Guard 38th district band. They pause only to smile at the stoic figure looming over them.

Robert Shepherd, former Specialist E-4 in the United States Army, stands solid, arms crossed, wearing his army jacket, tinted sunglasses. His salt and pepper stubble surrounds the straight line that is his mouth, as he surveys the Veterans day parade route in concentrated silence over his daughters.

Shepherd served two tours abroad during his time with the Army, in Iraq between 2003-2004 and in Afghanistan between 2008-2009. Encouraged by his father and uncle, who were both members of the United States Army, Shepherd decided to enlist at the age of 29 before it was too late.

Currently, he works at the Marion County Sheriff’s office in the jail, a job he had before his deployment. Despite his civilian life remaining relatively the same, Shepherd said he was not the same man when he returned home.

“You know you don’t feel particularly safe because you don’t have your brothers or sisters to watch your back,” Shepherd said of his adjustment to civilian life. “Being in active combat and seeing the things that you do and doing the things that you have to do, it’s hard to come back home from that.”

For Shepherd, the biggest challenge has been realizing he is no longer in a combat zone. One of the difficulties of coming home was remembering to drive on the side of the road instead of straight down the middle. That was required when he was in Iraq because bombs were normally planted on the sides of the roads.

His trip to the Indianapolis Veterans Parade on Saturday was more about honoring those who served before him instead of praising himself and those who fought with him.

The veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, in particular, are important to Shepard. “(They) made it possible for me to serve my country, made it possible for me to live in this country and be free, for my family to be free,” he said.

Across East Michigan Street, squinting at the World War 1 memorial alone in the grassy field surrounding Obelisk Square stands Robert Whitson and his service dog, Kimmie.

“Dealing with people in crowds is hard, that’s why I’m standing back here,” Whitson said as he took a drag from his cigarette and tightened his hand on Kimmie’s leash. The young black lab was clad in a military green service vest. Her tail wagging and curiosity a sharp contrast to the somber aura surrounding her owner.

His eyes were pale and slightly glossed over, with dark circles under his lids. Whitson left the army last year, after 16 years of service starting when he was 18. He joined straight out of high school because he had nothing else going on. “It was pretty last minute,” he said.

Whitson is 34 and classified as 100% disabled by the VA. He moved to Indiana from Kentucky after being discharged. He wanted a change in atmosphere, and so far, he likes it.

He went to both Iraq and Afghanistan and did mainly infantry work. “Did a lot of recon, clearing cities, kicked doors in, all the fun stuff,” he spoke in a tone indicating he did not find it fun. “We were the first ones there. We had to make sure it was safe for everybody else to go in.”

Open about his post-traumatic stress, Whitson expressed the need for him to be present today, even though he personally finds Veterans Day a challenging holiday to celebrate. “I’ve lost a couple great friends. I think this day represents them as well.”

Over 40 motorcycle riding veterans, all wearing large leather jackets with American flag patches sewn into the arms, stood on North Pennsylvania Street waiting for the start of the parade.

Don Beabout walked the parade route bundled up as if he was heading on an arctic exhibition. Carrying two bags full of snacks, he made conversation with any person who showed him a smile.

Beabout is a US Navy veteran but only served for a year in 1976, having to leave the military because of illness. Since then, he has worked on and off with the US government, specifically with the Army Corp. of Engineers.

He has no children, is not married, and both of his parents have passed away. Beabout has decided to dedicate his time and energy to promoting positivity among others, in almost a manic fashion.

He posted feverishly on Facebook over the last three days about the importance of Veterans Day and his commitment to bringing positivity to all, encouraging others to do the same during the holiday.

“I am with my own organization, it’s called the battle to wipe out all negativity,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m the chief officer. I’m the general. I’m the admiral.”

Whitson finished his cigarette, not having moved from his spot in the grass since he got there.

Beabout walked through the cars lined up, revving their engines waiting for the start of the parade. He hands out Welch’s Fruit Snacks and fist-bumps the drivers.

Shepherd looked at his daughters in their wagon, smiles on their faces and American flags in their hands. He spoke quietly, but with conviction, “I want them to grow up knowing that people fought and died so they could have this life.”


Third Place: Taylor Telford – Indiana University

The city bustled with events in their honor, but they just wanted a quiet meal at Hooters.

On Veterans Day, as more than 80 units of their comrades donned uniforms and readied to march through the frigid streets, dozens of veterans found sanctuary beneath the neon signs and glowing televisions. Some wore markers of their service with pride — baseball caps with army insignias, pins and patches sewn to Carhartt jackets. Others dressed like ordinary civilians, bundled in overalls and Colts gear and plaid button-ups.

“Freedom isn’t free,” read the table-toppers, bearing military font and a bombshell-blonde in a sassy salute. “But all military eat free on Saturday November 11.”

This day was meant to be celebratory. Around the country, cities came alive with monuments to service and little gestures of gratitude for members of the armed forces — free haircuts at Great Clips, free drinks in bars, parades in the streets and special meals in nursing homes. But for some of those who should be at center of the celebration, the day was void of joy. Instead, it was full of longing for the ones they’d lost and the lives they’d left behind.

For a restaurant known for raunch and raucousness, the atmosphere in Hooters was decidedly tame. College football hummed on the televisions. Joan Jett gave a muted howl from speakers in the background. Beneath the glow of neon signs, patrons spoke in low-voices and referred to their shorts-sporting, glitter-dusted waitresses as miss and ma’am.

Behind the bar, Kourtney Robinson waited anxiously, thrown into her first-ever Hooters bartending shift. She fidgeted in her skin-tight tank top, that proclaimed “We salute our troops” in camo print across her chest. She tugged her shorts and straightened the bottles of flavored Smirnoff and Jack Daniel’s.

Her parents, both veterans, were heading up from Bloomington to see her in action and claim their free meals. Her mother spent more than 20 years in the National Guard.

“She got in it before I was born, then stayed to support me,” Robinson said, signing her name in sloping letters with a shimmering silver sharpie on napkins and handing them out to customers. Her father was in the Air Force was she was little, then became a stay-at-home-dad.

“He thinks he’s a veteran,” she said. “But he didn’t really do anything. We called it ‘The Cheer Force.’”

When her mother left for tours in the National Guard, Robinson was home alone with her father in fifth and sixth grade. It was like Disneyland compared to her mother’s strict rules — she and her dad ate Tyson chicken nuggets and guzzled Coca-Cola. They ate seafood, which her mother despised, and stayed up late.

Robinson’s mother transferred her GI Bill her to her so she could go to college at IU, where she studies biology. She knows she couldn’t have afforded it any other way.

As Robinson, 21, milled anxiously behind the counter, waiting to pour her first real cocktail, a smattering of veterans dropped into the barstools. They listened as she rattled off beers and cocktails, but all declined, responding with polite variations of “I don’t drink,” and ordering sodas.

Brian Crowder sat alone in an Army baseball cap and an American flag T-shirt. On this day of celebration, all he wanted was to avoid the crowds and enjoy his free boneless Parmesan wings in peace.

He removed his hat and ran a beefy hand over his bald head, eyes welling as the national anthem played before the Michigan State vs. Ohio State kickoff. Crowder thought of his grandfathers, long gone now, who’d braved World War II and the Korean War. His father had endured two brutal years in the jungles of Vietnam. He’d grown up watching his brothers and cousins go off in crisp uniforms, while he re-enacted their stories with little green army men.

“I always wanted to be a masculine man like that,” he said. “Going into the army was the manly thing to do.”

Crowder hoped the Army would bring him the glory the other men in his family had enjoyed. Instead he spent a handful of years stuck in Oklahoma as a cannon crewman. He endured grueling training and learned how to handle fickle machines that blasted four-foot rounds that could chew through buildings in a split-second.

When the deployment he dreamt of never came, Crowder waited out his time, returned to Indianapolis and became a handyman. Now he finds the honor he loved in the Army helping the elderly with yard and housework.

“I still miss it,” he said, picking the bread off his wings with a fork.

At noon, as the parade kicked off on the other city of the city, the veterans in Hooters sucked on Sprite and Coke and exchanged sober chuckles at the lewd bar signs.

“Warning,” one read. “Consumption of alcohol may lead you to think you have a chance with a Hooters girl.”

Ishmill Woods took a seat and removed his sunglasses. Beside him, his wife squinted at her phone beneath a baseball cap that screamed “SEXY” in bedazzled capitals. He chatted up another veteran about the freebies he planned to make good on throughout the day.

“Well, I figure we’ll start here,” Woods said. “Get some wings. Then later maybe we’ll head over to TGI Fridays and White Castle.”

Woods, 45, spent nearly 20 years as a cook for the Army and Navy, tracing the globe on aircraft carriers and big barges. An Indianapolis native, the military whisked him to places like Japan, Hong Kong and Hawaii, ones he’d wondered about as a boy in the midwest. He made meals for thousands and thousands of men, savoring the chances to serve them special meals on holidays — juicy ribs and steak, glistening lobsters and crab.

When he finally returned home, his body and mind were worn in ways he hadn’t expected. After years of scrubbing massive ovens and hauling heavy trays of food, his hands trembled. He couldn’t sleep, on edge after years of being constantly on guard on the fringes of conflict.

He tried school and work, but struggled to stick to either, grappling with mental illnesses he doesn’t like to speak of. Now he draws a pension and tries to find some joy in his free time.

“I’m 100 percent disabled,” He said. “Some days I work out. Some days I just sit at home at watch Scooby Doo.”

Woods loosed a sigh and clenched his fist, staring at his half-eaten buffalo chicken sandwich. He fiddled with some curly fries.

“I don’t like it here,” he said. “I miss the travel.”

The televisions played commercial after commercial of proud, uniformed men advertising Veterans Day deals at Denny’s and IHOP. Outside, the din of the parade could be heard down the street. But inside, the veterans sat without any bluster or bravado. They didn’t indulge in war stories or talk about the good old days. Instead, they ate sandwiches with names like “Strip Cheese” and avoided eye-contact with the perky, silk-haired waitresses.

By the time he’d finished dissecting his sandwich, all of Woods’s enthusiasm for the day had withered. He didn’t want to watch the parade. He didn’t even want the freebies.

“I don’t think I want to go anywhere else,” he said softly to his wife. “I just want to go home and watch football.”

Woods jammed his hat back on his head and gave a weak smile when Robinson bid him goodbye as he headed out into the cold, as she’d done to the other veterans who’d quietly come and gone.

“Thank you for your service.”


Other Finalists:

Sarah Bahr – IUPUI

Thousands of veterans and their families clutched coffees, pulling hats down over red-tinged ears as they braved the 20-degree temperatures to honor the service of their comrades and family members in downtown Indianapolis Saturday afternoon. Although legions of black- and white-capped men and women in blue-and-yellow striped pants were honored as they marched along Meridian Street, Veterans Day is not just the thousands who come from all over Central Indiana to march in the annual downtown Indianapolis parade. It touches everyone, from 90-year-old World War II veterans to the more than two million female fighters who prove on a daily basis that women can be more than typists.

Even the 28-year-old Claire’s Boutique clerk with a silver-sequined bow in her long, brown hair once rushed along the lines of fire as a medic at Fort Bragg.

Ashlin Zamudio couldn’t feel her feet.

She tried her legs.

Her knees. Her hips.

Nothing.

She’d been threading her way across a one-rope bridge during a training exercise at Fort Bragg in North Carolina when she lost her footing.

She fell seven feet. She knew something was wrong when she didn’t feel the landing.

“The doctors thought I was paralyzed,” she said. “It turns out I wasn’t, but I spent two days in the hospital.”

After entering the Army in 2008 at age 18, she was discharged in 2010 with permanent back and hip injuries that made her non-deployable. But not by choice.

“I fought it,” she said. “But I lost and had to leave.”

Even knowing that her stint in the Army would lead to lifelong injuries, Zamudio said she’d enlist all over again.

“In a heartbeat,” she said. “I’d do it all over again, 100 percent.”

As an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, Zamudio didn’t want to be mired in a dead-end desk job for the rest of her life. She wanted to see the world, and she figured the Army was her ticket to travel. Plus, her entire family–”my mom, dad, grandpa, brother, all my aunts and uncles”–had served in the Air Force.

“My entire family was Air Force, so it was kind of just one of those things,” she said.

Though her sequin hair bow and hot pink nails belie that Zamudio is a medic trained to give IVs and shoot weapons, she knew what she was signing up for.

“I knew that it was going to be hard,” she said. “The sole purpose of basic training is to break you down as a civilian and build you back up as a soldier.”

“But I craved that.”

The 28-year-old mother is now working on completing the Medical Billing and Coding program at Harrison College in Indianapolis. After working as a nanny and then stay-at-home mom for five years, she turned to Claire’s because she needed an outlet.

“This was the first place I applied to,” she said. “And here I am.”

At the moment, her two-year-old son is still more interested in dinosaurs than guns, she said. But if he wanted to follow in her footsteps, she’d have no reservations.

“If he ever chose to do it, I wouldn’t stop him,” she said. “I’d be proud of him for it.”

Zamudio flies in the face of the stereotypical veteran–the older, white man. But even these men have wives, daughters, sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren–the impact of their service extends far beyond themselves.

And it’s hiding in plain view.

It is the Arts Garden cultural concierge who recently traveled to North Belgium to see the site where her father served during World War II.

During his time as a prisoner of war in Germany, 64-year-old Debbie Moore’s father developed a taste for German Black Bread–“a pumpernickel-like, thick, rye loaf.” Growing up, her family would seek it out at German restaurants during trips to Cincinnati and Chicago.

It’s still her go-to order at German pads today, though she hasn’t yet discovered it on any Indianapolis menus.

It is the gray-haired man hunched over in a folding chair in front of a Convention Center elevator, glasses fogged and smeared so he can hardly see through them.

Excuse me, sir, have you served?

“I haven’t,” he croaks. “But my son and my father have.”

Wanna talk about it?

His eyes light up. But there’s an obvious conflict.

“I’d rather not,” he said. “I’m working.”

He looks genuinely disappointed as the elevator doors close on his regretful face.

But beneath the thick, clouded lenses, his eyes are shining.


Courtney Becker – University of Notre Dame

It’s a day to serve those who have served their country.

While free food might not make up for years of putting one’s life on the line in service of the United States, businesses and volunteers in and around Indianapolis thanked veterans in the best way they could on Veteran’s Day.

Veterans who visited food and coffee chains such as Applebee’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks to have a meal or a hot cup of coffee on a cold day Saturday were served free of charge in honor of their service. People around Monument Circle, where volunteers — many of them veterans themselves — strung Christmas lights from the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, passed out small American flags and offered veterans free coffee, hot chocolate and donuts.

Charles Dodson, who served in the military for six years, stepped into Starbucks wearing a Navy veteran’s hat for a free coffee on his way to the Veteran’s Day parade in downtown Indianapolis. Dodson, 53, comes from a military family. His brother and sister are also both veterans, and he has two daughters serving in the Air Force and Army. While most veterans would never think to ask for free service, Dodson said, he is grateful to business and volunteers for deciding to give back to veterans on a day dedicated to recognizing their sacrifice.

“I just think it’s kind of nice that after serving we can at least come home — and not that many veterans expect them to just give us anything, but it’s nice that they show their appreciation that we did something,” he said. “So I certainly appreciate it.”

Veterans who live outside Indianapolis, such as Antoine McKinley, who served three years in the Army, were blown away by the show of support throughout downtown Indianapolis. McKinley, 29, grew up in Gary, IN but has lived in Oklahoma for eight years. He happened to visit Indianapolis over Veteran’s Day weekend, and the festivities, he said, far exceeded anything he had ever seen back home — particularly the free service.

“Veterans Day, it just felt like another day [in Oklahoma],” he said. “Here, this is more life. I feel a little better being a veteran out here. … I feel proud and special.”

Kayla Dowe, 19, who spent Veteran’s Day collecting donations for veterans’ funds with local radio station WIBC in Monument Circle, said while the city’s recognition of veterans was more pronounced on Veteran’s Day, Indianapolis has always featured causes on their behalf.

“I spend all my time downtown and there’s always something for veterans going on,” she said. “There are food pantries to help homeless veterans, and just money [collections] for whatever they might need. They’re always collecting something.”

Dean White, who stopped by Monument Circle before attending the parade, echoed Dowe and said this show of support was emblematic of the feelings those native to Indiana have regarding veterans.

“I believe Indiana is a strong supporter of our veterans,” he said. “We’re behind them 100 percent and we thank God for them.”

In addition to a USA jacket from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, White, 50, wore a blue and white hat for the occasion. White said he and his 29-year-old son Josh, decked out in an American flag jacket and Uncle Sam hat, dressed up because of how important Veteran’s Day is to them.

“It means men who fought for our country, for our freedom,” he said. “ … My pastor’s a Vietnam veteran, and it’s just my way to say welcome home to all our veterans — especially those who didn’t get to get a welcome home.”

After serving on the Board of Commissioners for the Indiana War Memorial in the 4th Congressional district, Dodson said he has seen people “rally around the veterans” in other ways, and he views the free service on Veteran’s Day as just another show of appreciation for them.

Frank Arnold, 33, said he usually attends the Veteran’s Day parade with his veteran friend every year, but she opted to stay out of the cold and go to Texas Roadhouse for her “free Veteran’s Day gift” of a meal from a special menu this time. Arnold said these gifts, along with the show of pride the Veteran’s Day parade offers, are a way for grateful Americans to thank veterans.

McKinley, who wore camouflage pants and carried his service backpack to mark himself as a veteran, became overwhelmed with emotion as he tried to express how it meant to him to see people give back to him for his service. After years of thinking of Veteran’s Day as “another day,” he said, McKinley was excited to embrace what the celebration in Indianapolis had in store for him.

“Besides the free stuff they’re handing out, this is awesome. This is just awesome and … we’re definitely going to check the parade out,” he said. “After we get a cup of Starbucks.”


Austin Candor – DePauw University

Sitting in a downtown Indianapolis Starbucks on Veterans Day, Tammy Anabell Harrison carefully watches a woman wearing a light coat and blue pajama bottoms make her way to a back table. She appears lonely. More importantly, she looks cold.

Harrison has seen enough as she approaches the woman.

“I don’t know you, but here’s a $5 gift card. Go get yourself something,” Harrison kindly says as she places a warm hand on the woman’s cheek with a smile and the comforting eyes of a mother.

A 58-year old marine veteran herself, Harrison remembers being taught one thing: To take care of one another.

“We just roll like that,” Harrison says simply after returning to her table. “It has to come from your heart.”

Having been stationed in both North Korea and Germany throughout the 1970’s, Harrison has seen her fair share of conflict and hatred in the world, likely more so than anyone packed into the coffee shop on this cold November morning.

But it is the generation of tomorrow that has Harrison more concerned than ever. With a number of homeless veterans scattered around the Indianapolis community, Harrison fears the younger crowd doesn’t carry the respect for the people who have kept them out of harm’s way in past years.

“We know what we’ve been through. We see people out here making fun of us,” Harrison says as her kind face momentarily turns into a scowl. “It’s easy to go to bed angry.”

But only a few blocks from Harrison is a beam of sunshine that sits on a street curb. Decked out in camouflage pants and an army cap, 4-year old Brystun Smithhart anxiously awaits the Veterans Day Parade.

Though generations removed from Harrison, Smithhart already knows what it means to look out for his fellow Americans. After all, he was raised on it.

His grandfather, Terry Lawrence, is a Vietnam veteran. Lawrence, along with his wife Lisa, have been bringing Smithhart to the American Legion, headquartered in Indianapolis, since Smithhart was a baby. As a family, they understand the urgency of taking care of their own.

“We all join together to make sure that the homeless veterans are sheltered, have food and clothing, whatever they need,” Lisa explains. “I’m raising (Smithhart) to thank all veterans and to appreciate the American Flag.”

And Smitthart has had plenty of opportunities to show love for his country.

Whenever the family eats at McDonalds in their home town of Brownsburg, Indiana, Smitthart makes a point of approaching veterans to shake their hand and thank them.

This past September, Smithhart bravely sang “My Country Tis of Thee” in front of 400 people at a veteran’s reunion.

Today, he waves a small American flag as his eyes fall on a group of police motorcyclists who are set to begin the parade’s festivities.

“As a four-year old, he has a lot of respect,” says Terry, who also carries Harrison’s mentality of looking out for one another.

“If you don’t take care of each other, nobody’s going to,” he says as he stands over Smitthart, who looks up at him with the smile he’s given to countless veterans. “And you can’t let everybody forget what got us to the point today.”

Harrison and Smithhart may never meet, but it’s people like the four-year old, along with his unwavering patriotism, that will hopefully one day allow Harrison to go to bed at peace with the world.


Laurel Demkovich – Indiana University

Heather Elson, 24, stands at the corner of Michigan Street and Pennsylvania Street staring at a line of 12 motorcycles.

“One minute!” she shouts.

It’s the start of the Indianapolis Veterans Day parade, and in one minute, Heather will have the most important job all day: signaling the start of the parade.

She takes off her American flag-patterned cowboy hat and waves it in front of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team.

“Ready, set, go!”

The drill team’s radios buzz, and they take off, riding in formations up and down the block. Two even stand on top of the seats as they ride – Heather’s favorite part.

Heather has been the assistant parade coordinator for three years, getting the opportunity to decide the lineup and makes sure nothing goes wrong the day of the parade.

She clutches her walkie-talkie. So far, so good.

To Heather and her family, the Veterans Day celebrations are a family affair. Heather helps coordinate. Her dad, Tim, 67, is the vice president of the Veterans Council. Her mom, Nancy, 55, walks with the American Legion Auxiliary where she is the district president.

The Elson’s are an American Legion family. They have all been a part of the veterans association for years. The local post is their second home and its members their family.

Tim served in the army during the Vietnam War, and afterward, became an active member in the Legion. Nancy, too, has been a part of the American Legion Auxiliary for years. Six years ago, Heather decided to join, too, first as secretary before shortly becoming her post’s president.

Tim became the vice president of the Veterans Day Council three years ago where one of his biggest jobs would be to put on the annual parade. He soon brought on Heather as his associate parade coordinator.

Heather was happy to take the position, knowing how important it is to honor veterans. To Heather, Veterans Day celebrations seem odd since she recognizes how important veterans are every day. Growing up, she learned to respect the flag and to honor those who served or are currently serving.

While Heather and her family are happy to take part in the celebrations every year, they still remember that to them, Veterans Day should be every day.

After starting the parade, Heather and Nancy start the walk back to the American Legion floats.

As they’re walking, Nancy stops to hand any veteran she sees a picture. The pictures were drawn by preschoolers that Heather substitute-teaches at St. Philip Neri Catholic School. Each one has a red-white-and-blue handprint and a poem on red construction paper. The first line reads, “Although my hands are very small, I made this flag to fly for all.”

“Thank you for your service,” Nancy says. And to those who recently returned, “Welcome home.”

The two know everyone.

“Hi Georgie!” Heather says as hugs a veteran waiting to walk in the parade.

“Morning guys!” she says to another.

Someone compliments Heather’s hat as she walks by. The American-flag cowboy hat is what she calls her “Legion Hat.” On it, she has two pins. One depicts Betsy Ross sewing the American flag; it’s this year’s American Legion Auxiliary pin. The other supports military kids. It’s purple and has a soldier holding an American flag drawn on it. It reads, “KEEP CALM and PURPLE UP!” Purple, Heather says, symbolizes the color of mixing all the branches of the military.

But her hat isn’t the only place she shows her support. She’s wearing three layers: her Uncle Sam shirt, a Myrtle Beach sweatshirt and on top, a read American Legion Auxiliary zip-up. She says she tries to wear something red, even if it’s small, every day to support veterans.

She encourages her students to wear red on Fridays to support troops at home or currently serving.

“I have the utmost respect for them,” Heather says. “I want to serve them.”

Heather joined her Auxiliary six years ago as a freshman in college. She started out as secretary of her post, moving up shortly after to president.

“I didn’t think we were doing enough to help veterans,” she said. “As president, I wanted to change that.”

As president, Heather focused the auxiliary’s efforts on what she is most passionate about: post-traumatic stress disorder. She raised money for PTSD awareness. She worked to get training dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD. She worked on an Auxiliary auction that sold paintings made my veterans suffering from PTSD.

“It’s a terrible thing to know they went over, fought for me and came back more damaged than before,” Heather said.

That was one of the biggest reasons why Heather said veterans should be treated with respect every day.

Nancy said she’s seen how veterans have been treated differently. She said from Thanksgiving to Christmas, everyone does a lot for veterans, but by the time June comes around, they are forgotten again. She said people should spread that giving out throughout the year so veterans understand how appreciated they are.

Heather tries to remind her students about veterans every day in the classroom. If they have free time, she makes them write letters to those who are serving. If a student misbehaves, she makes them write a letter to those overseas.

But Nancy said it’s getting better. More people have started to recognize veterans every day and thank them for their service every day.

“It means a lot to the veterans,” Nancy said. “It shows that what they did fight for mattered.”

When the two arrive at the parade route, they are greeted by hugs and smiles.

“Hi, baby!” someone says to Heather.

“Hi, Nancy! Thank you!” another member says, thanking her for all her work during the day.

The two get situated on the golf cart that will travel the parade route. They pile on top of other members of a local post. Even though Nancy and Heather aren’t a part of this post, they know everyone in it; they know almost everyone in the local American Legion community.

There are at least 10 auxiliaries in Indianapolis, but Heather says it’s important to find the one that feels the most at home.

“The Legion is a family,” she says. “It’s become another home for me.”


Tyler Fenwick – IUPUI

On the back of Tom Barnes’ truck is a torpedo. Or at least a replica of one. It’s sitting on a float for U.S. Navy submarine veterans, and they’re getting ready to roll it through the Indianapolis Flanner and Buchanan Veterans Day Parade.

The float was made in 1999 and, thanks to maintenance, still looks noble. The wood construction sits atop a red trailer frame. Lining each side of the float are eight miniature U.S. flags. Up at the front left of the float is the Indiana State Flag, and to its right is the U.S. flag, raised about six inches higher.

The torpedo is propped up in the middle of the float and is a model of a Mark-14. The real thing would be 21 feet long. This one is 18. Its head and tail are yellow, the body blue.

Barnes served during the Cold War and spent time on a fast-attack submarine outside Russia. These submarines are designed to get up close and personal with whatever it’s tracking or targeting, which made Barnes feel like a spy in those days.

“We know more about the Russians than Donald Trump does,” Barnes says laughing.

Shortly after they start getting the float ready, Joe Battista, who served in the Navy from 1965-69, shows up.

“Better late than never!” shouts Patrick Mann as he adjusts the state flag.

Battista immediately starts helping with the flags.

Battista’s father was aboard the USS Indianapolis in 1945 but got off at Guam before the ship sank in the Philippine Sea. Decades later, his son is dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in Iraq.

“War is a terrible thing,” he says. “I don’t understand why we have to have it.”

But Battista might be the most passionate submariner out there. He has no reservations about that.

“In the Army all they teach you how to do is march,” he says. “In the Marines all they do is teach you how to kill.”

And what about submariners?

“We got whatever we wanted,” says Battista. “We were the elite.”

And there was a certain toughness in submariners that he thinks is missing today.

“We didn’t wear life jackets or any of that crap,” he says.

Battista now spends his days working for bands as they tour the country. He was even a stage manager for KISS in 1979.

Meanwhile, Mann, who served from 1979-91, is reminding everyone that the U.S. flag is to be raised higher than the rest of the flags on the float.

Mann spent the 1980s on a submarine outside of Lybia during a period of uncertainty and unrest in the region. He signed a non-disclosure contract at the end of his service and has details of his work that he won’t be able to share unless he makes it to about 115 years old.

But these former submariners seem content to not attract the brightest lights and most fanfare.

“We don’t show off that much,” says Mann. “It’s something you’ll never hear us talk about because it’s just who we are.”

It’s a business-like approach that doesn’t admire distractors.

“We’d come back home, do our thing, and be done with it,” says Barnes.

The float has been ready for some time now. They’re waiting for the parade to begin and wondering why it needs to be 30 degrees outside, but this is also the perfect time to reflect on their lives at sea.

“Our sole purpose is to remember submariners,” says Mann, “those who came before us.”


Dana Lee – Butler University

Maybe it should be strange, that he feels a connection to her, a woman he’s never met. Him, a black man in his forties. Her, a white woman in her seventies, marching in the Indianapolis Veterans’ Day Parade.

Two strangers separated by single street.

She would probably never call him Junebug, the nickname his parents gave when he was younger and continues to stick today. His real name is Junior. Maybe, if they met, he would insist, and as formalities give way to familiarity, Junior would give way to Junebug.

Separated by a street with a parade of veterans lined between, it seems unlikely that Junebug and Penny Smither will ever meet. But when he walks by the Vietnam War Memorial like he does everyday, he also passes the name of Penny’s brother, etched into stone. Right now, Junebug is sitting just thirty feet away from the memorial, a span of grass separating his spot on the bench and where his finger points.

“I’ve read all the names over there,” Junebug says. “I can’t remember any of them now, but I’ve read all the names.”

Damn. He can’t remember the names. He’ll walk by again to read them again, maybe on his way to the library.

Walking towards the Indiana War Memorial, every stroke of Penny’s arm brushes across the patch embroidered on the right side of her vest.

All gave some. Bobby Joe Likens. Some gave all.

Her brother’s name is hand-stitched in white, as if each needle pierce into the fabric could punctuate the loss she felt — and still feels. Everyday is veterans day, she says.

“We were in Charleston because I was with him,” Penny looks over at her husband Bill, an Air Force veteran. He was stationed in Charleston at the time. “My mother called me and told me. I said, ‘Those sons of bitches.’ I’ve never been the same. My family was never the same.”

Every day is veterans day. Between her and her husband, they know five people on the wall. Penny’s brother is one. Some were classmates, or a classmates brother. One is MIA. She uses present tense, but Bill doesn’t correct her.

He doesn’t — can’t know what war was like. Junebug doesn’t try to. So he respects the troops he sees, every one. “Salutes them to death,” he says. He knows a few people who fought, but he doesn’t see them in the park today.

“I do feel a sense of peace, but it breaks my heart that they lost their lives,” Junebug says. “They gave their life for hundreds and millions of people. I do feel a sense of peace, but I don’t.”

Sometimes, he says, he thinks the world is going to come crashing down on him. 9/11. Las Vegas. And yeah, that most recent shooting in Texas too. What’s with people these days? He’s sure he’ll get stuck in the middle one day.

“I feel like the world is going to come to an end because of all this going around,” Junebug says.

He likes to think about the wall with all the names he can’t remember — likes to think about what kind of lives they would’ve had if the Vietnam War never happened. Hell, if none of the wars existed. Maybe one of those soldiers would’ve called him Junebug.

“It saddens me right now talking about it,” he says. “I love everybody. I love every color, every race — everybody. I don’t discriminate. No nationality, none of that.”

Across the street, Penny’s husband Bill is talking about their granddaughter. He fought for this country, the same way his brothers did, and the same way his father did in World War II. But this country his granddaughter is growing up in? This isn’t the same country he fought for.

The division is worse, Penny adds. Worse than Vietnam and the 60s, and that was when Bill was called a baby killer by someone who assumed he fought the Vietcong. He didn’t.

“There’s going to be a civil war, that’s what I think,” Bill says. “Between the right and the left, the extreme Democrat and the extreme Republican. They ain’t compromising.”

When Bill received a letter a month before his 18th birthday in 1966, it was the result of his mandatory physical for the military.1-A, it read, available for military service.

His father told Bill and his siblings the same thing: “Whatever you do, don’t let them draft you into the army.”

“That was my dad’s advice and that was all he ever said about it,” Bill says.

It’s more complicated now, in ways it never was before.

Bill didn’t vote, but he’s glad Donald Trump is in the White House. He’s shaking things up, he says, and when he nods in approval, his veterans hat dips his eyes in shadow.

“They need a shake up,” he says of congress. “They’re starting to see the light a little bit. I hope they are.”

The parade is almost starting, and when the band starts to play, he looks across the street.

Junebug is throwing his hands in the air now, and when he does, the name Cindy Marie does too, Cindy and Marie tattooed across the top of his left and right hand. An ex-girlfriend, he says. The hand with Marie tosses a middle finger towards the sky, directed towards Calvin Briggs, a friend sitting at the end of the bench. Calvin seems to catch the gesture and fires back with a verbal spar.

“The same soldiers that go over there fighting for this country, when they come back all f*cked up, what does the country do here for them?” Calvin is standing now. “They’re out here homeless and shit. They should be awarded a house, a car, a bank account.”

This is a different Calvin from before, when he was sitting on the bench and saying “It is what is, stressing about what’s going on isn’t going to make anything better.”

When he’s saved up enough money from working his janitorial job at the convention center, Calvin wants to own a house. Everyone should be able to, he says. Least of all the veterans. And this country does a piss poor job of making it happen.

“Nah,” Junebug says. He lays blame on the same man Bill was just praising for “shaking things up.”

“I really feel like they have to impeach him,” Junebug says. “He’s trying to start wars. He’s trying to cut off everything for the people — what we need — he’s trying to cut it all off.”

The band starts to play and the parade is about to start, but across the street from Bill and Penny Smither and thirty feet away from names etched into a wall, everything else seems distant. There’s a sign in the park that says no alcoholic beverages, but sipping from beer cans in brown paper bags, Junebug and Calvin don’t seem to care. No one else does either.


Sarah Verschoor – Indiana University

He’s used to helping out, helping the poor, the disaster-struck, the veterans, whoever is in need. More than 30 years with the Salvation Army, Major Keith Petrie, 64, is hardened servant of the people.

So Saturday morning was no different than most his days. He and a squad of volunteers from the Salvation Army brought a white disaster relief truck to the Indianapolis Veterans Day service.

They served hot chocolate, coffee and pastries to the veterans, their families and those who came to support and celebrate the military.

The truck usually heads out to floods or other places to help communities struck by disasters, but Saturday it was briefly converted to the Salvation Army Coffee Canteen.

Four volunteers inside served those who came for a warm drink or a snack, and Petrie stood outside greeting them. He chatted with a woman in the 38th Infantry Division Band carrying a brass horn. He joked with the four inside the truck.

“Whoops!” he yelled at a teenager who sloshed her hot chocolate as she walked away from the truck.

His scruffy white beard and round belly, subtly resembling Santa Claus, welcomed all.

Across the country, not enough is done for veterans, Petrie said.

So he has dedicated his life to help all.

But it hasn’t always been this way, Petrie said. For a decade, he ignored God’s call to serve others.

A Hoosier-native and then a Husker by choice, Petrie said he was born into the Salvation Army. Both his parents were officers in the organization, ordained-ministers who traveled around the country working for the Christian organization.

He was born in Muncie and moved with his family to Nebraska a few years later.

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, commemorating Nov. 11, the day the World War 1 armistice was signed, he said.

Petrie remembers in elementary school standing up beside his desk for a moment of silence on the day at 11 a.m., the time exact the armistice was signed.

Now, he dislikes that students in class don’t say the pledge. He doesn’t like to talk politics, but the kneeling gets to him, too.

One of his favorite songs is the national anthem, he said. At football games and elsewhere, it always brings a tear to his eye.

He loves the United States, how the country always seems to be the first one to fight for freedom here and abroad. He cares for the people who live there.

Bare and gloved hands reached into the truck’s window for hot chocolate and coffee. It was all free. Some tried to hand volunteers donations, but they directed them to red kettles.

The crew Saturday acted as modern-day donut girls, serving packs of Uncle Wally’s muffins, Svenhard’s pastries and Honey Buns to everyone who came by the truck.

During World War 1, Salvation Army workers, women known as lassies, traveled to France to help soldiers and started to make donuts by hands for them. They used bottles as rolling pins and knelt over the wood fire stove to fry them, according to the Indiana Salvation Army website.

The donuts comforted the exhausted soldiers during war. Serving hot drinks and sweets at Saturday’s was an ode to the past.

“It’s the best thing they could do,” said Lisa Lawrence, who was at the service with her grandson Brystun and Brystun’s grandpa who served in the Vietnam war.

It wasn’t like God spoke to him and gave him specific directions. Lines from Samuel, Jeremiah, the still and small voice persuaded him to answer the call to serve.

As a major in the Salvation Army, he is a pastor who works at the Salvation Army in Indianapolis. He sits diagonal from Bert Williams in the office The two joke around and poke each other as they work.

Petrie would be the first one to come rescue him in a disaster, Williams said.

As the ceremony began across from the truck, the band played the national anthem. Petrie sang along. When it ended, he took off his sunglasses and wiped his eyes. The national anthem always brings a tear to his eyes.

“God doesn’t call you to have an easy life,” he said.

But what God called him to do is a satisfying life, he said.

By Taylor Telford – First Place

She leans on them and they lean back.

These are violent days, but Jane O’Connor, 60, finds solace in the people who come through her doors at Krieg Brothers Religious Supply. They are like-minded people, clutching their faith with both hands. They worry about their country, which they fear has lost its way, and for their values, which they fear are under attack.

O’Connor bought the store on Meridian Street two and a half years ago, when it was about to go under. She knew nothing about retail and had no qualifications, except that she is a lifelong Catholic. But all her life, she said, she prayed for a business, and here was God sending this one right to her.

It isn’t about the money for O’Connor. To her, the store is a ministry she simply runs like a business. Any money there is, she puts right back into the store. She has to work a second job, but she doesn’t mind. She is paid in what she learns from the people who come inside.

Right now, she said, people are scared, and when they come in to buy pocket saints and rosaries, they tell her so. They fear the “far-reaching liberal agenda”, which they believe threatens their standards for marriage and the sanctity of life. They worry about being exposed to attacks from enemies. They worry about losing jobs and homes and their sense of security.

Many, she said, put their faith in Donald Trump.

“Most people who come in are pro-Trump because they feel like he will save the Constitution,” O’Connor said. “They were fearful of what would have happened if someone liberal were in power again.”

Most of O’Connor’s business comes from the hundred-some churches that buy the supplies that line her walls — icons, altar cloths, votive candles and paper wheels to catch the leaking wax. Father Rick Nagel works at St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church, which gets supplies from O’Connor’s store. He’s seen the same fear in people who come to pray, not only about the election but the unrest it has revealed in the heart of the country.

“It’s been ongoing, pre and post-election,” Nagel said. “Some people are praying in thanksgiving and some are praying in fear. We are all praying for the conversion of our nation.”

For some, all the pieces of God in O’Connor’s store inspire rage and hate. She said the front window is shattered from when someone threw a stone, like they were trying to hit the statue of the Lady of Guadalupe that stood behind it.

Sometimes, people stand outside and yell at the towering crosses and paintings of saints in the window. Once, a middle-eastern man, who O’Connor thought might be mentally ill, got into a shouting match with God, haranguing at the cross behind the store counter. She said he railed against the Christian faith, flailing his arms.

“This is why we want to kill all you people,” he told her.

When he left, she called Nagel’s church to warn them, just in case.

Despite the ire she sees in some, O’Connor knows how faith can tame people’s fears, how it can give them strength. She saw it in the eyes of a man who came in and told her he had just been released from prison. He had no money, but he fell in love with a Bible and told her he’d come back for it when he could afford it.

She gave it to him for free.

“Just promise me that you’ll really read it,” she told him. “Promise me it’s not just something you’ll leave lying around.”

She’s sure he reads it every day.

She saw the joy in a teenage boy who came in during the dead heat of summer, when her doors were opening and she was burning incense that wafted out into the street.

“Smells like Jesus in here!” the boy yelled, and then he walked away smiling.

Sometimes, O’Connor feels like Gideon, who was ordered to fight in a holy war but felt afraid, and wanted encouragement from God. He laid a fleece on the grass overnight and told God to make dew appear on the fleece instead of the grass if he should fight. God did, so Gideon asked him to reverse it, just to be sure. God did it again, so Gideon fought.

Customers are the dew and fleece for O’Connor. She thinks God sends special people to her when she needs encouragement.

“They might not know that’s why they’re here, but I do,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor tries to give that strength back, too. She tries not to be too forceful, but for those who will listen, she preaches the values of the Catholic church.

On Saturday afternoon, she stood in the center of her store with a couple from Illinois, who looked for gifts for their son while he performed in a marching band competition. They started browsing through guides for confession — tiny booklets detailing all the things that count as Catholic sins. O’Connor jumped in to tell them how handy the booklets were.

“I keep one in my purse, because I always need reminders,” O’Connor said. “You think you know all the sins, but then there are the little things. Like, have you ever voted for someone who doesn’t uphold the values of the Catholic Church?”

The couple nodded, eyes closed, as O’Connor listed politicians she had voted against because they weren’t pro-life.

“I changed from being a Democrat to being a Republican because the Democrats lost their values,” O’Connor said.

Later, Audiel and Maria Flores, a Latino couple, came to buy candles for a wedding ceremony they were about to attend. Maria spoke little English, but Audiel swapped stories with O’Connor, telling her they were referred to her store by a friend at a neighboring church.

O’Connor wrapped up their candles with newspaper so they wouldn’t chip and asked them about the ceremony, smiling patiently while Audiel searched for the English words to describe their role in it.

He stared at the ceiling and squinted. “How do you say it?” He asked himself. “Maybe best man and lady?”

All three chuckled and O’Connor wished them luck, extolling the beauties of a good Catholic wedding. As they left, Maria and Audiel murmured to each other in Spanish, and O’Connor shouted as they crossed through the doorway and into the street.

“God bless you!”


By Carley Lanich – 2nd Place

Rogerio Tregnago’s kitchen travels with him. Hitched to the back of a purple GMC Sierra 2500 HD pickup truck, Tregnago’s Gaucho’s Fire Authentic Brazilian Food truck lands in a new corner of Indianapolis everyday.

Tregnago travels with his two associates, Komal Sheth and David Reyes, serving beef skewers, sausage sandwiches, grilled steak salad and more out of the window of a black trailer hitched to Tregnago’s truck.

Tregnago specializes in Brazilian cuisine. Born and raised on a farm in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Tregnago discovered his love for all things culinary while serving in the Brazilian Army’s food department. When he finished his service he went to school in Brazil to study food, and shortly after took a position with the Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão.

The steakhouse asked Tregnago to help establish their first restaurant in Miami, Florida. A few months later, he was asked to start another Fogo de Chão branch in Indiana. Not knowing much about the state, Tregnago said he expected to stay only a couple of years. However, he said he fell in love with Indianapolis, a smaller city where he felt everyone was friendlier.

In its seventh month, the Gaucho’s Fire truck is a drastic shift away from Tregnago’s former position as a chef at Fogo de Chão. Tregnago worked at the restaurant for 15 years, alongside 67 other employees. Now there are never more than four people in Tregnago’s truck. He said he likes it this way. The trio has become close.

“We all get along very well,” said Sheth who decided to continue working on the Gaucho’s Fire food truck, despite having recently completed requirements to become a registered nurse.

“The three of us try to keep serious,” Tregnago said. “When it’s time to work, we work. When it’s time to play, we play.”

With a goal of starting his own restaurant, Tregnago said he looked to the food truck first to help spread his brand. He and his wife are now looking at locations on the south and northeast side or Indianapolis.

The Gaucho’s Fire truck serves between 60 and 120 customers on any given day and the days are long. Tregnago wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning to begin preparations for the truck. He cleans the kitchen’s trays, buys fresh meat and vegetables, and cuts the onions, tomatoes and lettuce, saving the meat for last. Meat is best freshly cut, Tregnago said.

The Gaucho Fire menu has changed several times since it’s creation. Now including more vegetables and vegetarian options, Tregnago takes pride in his Brazilian dishes.

From beneath a black baseball cap donning the Brazilian flag, Tregnago makes portions of a customer-favorite, the Brazilian Steak Sandwich, to share with other food truck drivers in a lot. Today he is parked outside the J.W. Marriott serving high schoolers between sessions of a national journalism conference. Next week he will travel north to Castleton and Carmel.

“The Northside, Carmel, Fishers, I’m everywhere,” Tregnago said.

At noon, the peak of Gaucho’s Fire’s typical lunch rush, Sheth calls out orders. As the requests come in Tregnago and Reyes, his quiet partner, fire up beef on the grill and French fries in the deep fryer. Moving seamlessly through the truck’s tight quarters, the men fill Styrofoam boxes as Sheth calls out numbers; “48, 59, 61, 65.”

The truck’s lunch rush has only just begun, but Tregnago said this is when it is easiest. He spend anywhere between five and six hours on preparation and tear down each day.

But now, during lunch hour, he gets to enjoy his favorite part, talking to customers. Some are regulars and look for the truck at parks in Carmel or at events on Georgia Street. Others just want to try out their Portuguese with a native speaker. Tregnago said he loves it all.

“I like everyone,” Tregnago said. “My customers are number one. It doesn’t matter what color or religion.”

Being on the road six days a week can be hard, Tregnago said, so he looks for balance in his life. His wife, who he met as a customer at Fogo de Chão, supports him and creates the schedule for the truck, while working a second job. He said his 6-year-old daughter likes the truck more than he does.

On his days off, typically just one a week unless the truck is busy, Tregnago likes to take his family camping and visit his friends’ farm, reminding him of his days in Porto Alegre.

But food is never far from his mind. Even with friends over, Tregnago said he loves to barbeque and grill for his guests.

“I’m not special,” Tregnago said. “I just like to cook.”


By Hannah Alani – 3rd Place

INDIANAPOLIS – Downtown storefronts displayed their sales while people sipped warm drinks from red Starbucks cups. But four small metal wheels worked harder than anyone else to prepare for the holidays.

Whirring and whizzing at 284 feet, two pulley systems sat adjacent to each other inside the tiny lookout room at the top of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, hoisting two miles of green garland and over 4,000 colorful lights into the air.

The wheels began spinning at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, electrician Mike Reneau said. By the afternoon’s end 52 strands of lights will drape the monument, and on the day after Thanksgiving, the lights will illuminate downtown during Indianapolis’ “Circle of Lights” celebration.

Most people who come to “Circle of Lights” may not know about the work that goes into the symbolic tree-lighting ceremony. About 200 volunteers from the local #481 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers put the lights in place, with the help of the wheeled pulleys.

The results of Tuesday’s state and national election added a bit of anxiety to a usually fun and momentous day. IBEW #481 is a democratic union, and its members have suffered from recent Republican labor legislation. They worried Saturday about how another red Indiana would affect their livelihoods.

But the lights went up like usual, Reneau said inside the lookout room.

“We all look forward to this day.”

The “Circle of Lights” began in 1962 and this is IBEW #481’s 54th year making it all happen.

The wheel-like tuggers are essential to the process. They spin rope attached to wheel-like “sheaves,” which raise the wires holding the garland and lights.

In the lookout room, behind the tuggers stands one worker who holds the rope as it flows into the tiny room. On the other side of the tuggers, facing the steep near 300-foot drop, a worker lays out on the ledge of the building, holding the wire in place.

In 1962, the electricians’ work on the “Circle of Lights” was much different. Workers then stood in the lookout room raised, by hand, each of the strands of lights. The modern wheel-like tuggers and pulleys are not only standard in this project, but a staple of all modern-day engineering projects.

The 4,000 lights are colored blue, yellow, red, green and clear, representing the five colors of the branches of the United States Military.

The incandescent bulbs themselves are becoming a relic of the past. While better for the environment, LED bulbs are heavier and, in the midst of ice, wind and snow, often swing and slide out of place, affecting luminance, Downtown Indy spokesperson Bob Schultz said inside the lookout room.

A group of local artists helps to repurpose the incandescent lights by turning them into holiday decorations and selling them to Carson’s for $20 each. But the celebration is still no cheap feat. To replace all of the wires, lights and cables would cost about $500,000, IBEW #481 business manager Steve Menser said.

“Pretty soon we’ll need to replace everything,” Menser said.

People down below may never look up and notice the labor or consider the costs of the ceremony, Reneau said. But he enjoys being behind the scenes.

During the rest of the year, Reneau spends his days wiring and lighting hospitals, schools, offices and other Indiana buildings. He’s currently finishing up Taylor Hall, an academic space at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“Most people, all they see when they flip a switch is that a light comes on,” Reneau said. “There’s a lot to make that happen.”

Just before noon, the tuggers had lifted over half of the lights into the air. Menser and IBEW #481 member Michael Rose stood on the ground together, looking up at their work.

“Our society, in a lot of ways, is revolving like a wheel,” Rose said. “The holidays. The political cycle…”

Menser sighed.

“It sure rolls over us,” he said.

IBEW #481 is a Democratic union, and in the last four years its members have suffered from Republican attacks on organized labor. Changes in “Right to Work” and attempts to eradicate “prevailing wages” – the minimum threshold for laborers for state-funded projects – are disturbing, Menser said.

The “prevailing wages” issue is important because when public projects do not have a minimum threshold for paying local union wages, cheaper laborers from other states can swoop in and do the work instead. Essentially, Menser said, local Indiana laborers are victims of outsourcing.

The IBEW #481 workers would have benefitted from Democratic leaders such as John Gregg and former Senator Evan Bayh to protect their wages and opportunities, Menser added. But the citizens of Indiana – the people whose daily lives are lit up by the work of electricians – voted to make the state red.

“We seem to always be under attack,” Menser said.

President-elect Donald Trump promises federal infrastructure projects and, under the 1931 Davis-Bacon act, local prevailing wages are federally protected. But presidents past have used their executive power to violate Davis-Bacon, Menser said.

A President Trump could potentially violate Davis-Bacon with his pipeline and highway projects. Or, with determined Supreme Court appointments, get rid of labor laws altogether.

“It’s a vicious circle that doesn’t make any sense for us,” Menser said. He looked toward the lights.

“It’s kind of like the cycle of the holidays,” he said. “Take the lights up, take them down…”

Standing at the top of the tower in Monument Circle, Reneau worried about the election.

“I don’t think anybody in America knows what’s going on right now,” he said.

But as the wheels continued to spin, hoisting lights into the air, Reneau took comfort in the fact that the “Circle of Lights” would bring people together.

In a few weeks, thousands will gather at the steps of the monument. The IBEW #481 workers will watch from the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel in Monument Circle.

“You’ll see the community gather,” Reneau said. “And watch the whole circle of lights.”


By Amanda Belcher

Indianapolis’ Greyhound bus station isn’t very busy for a Saturday. People filter in and out, lugging duffel bags and suitcases. Some sit on the floor, waiting for their phones to charge at a conveniently located outlet, others pass the time reading and texting while they wait for a bus.

Though everyone that cycles through the station come from different walks of life and have different destinations, they all have one thing in common. Each are counting on the large, eight wheeled vessel to take them where they need to go.

Journey home

Andy Fuller sits on the hard plastic bench chair at the Greyhound station, a brown leather messenger bag at his feet.

Fuller is deep into Earnest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a black fabric bookmark, hanging out the top of the pages. He glances upward occasionally to read the LED powered sign above him, ensuring he hasn’t missed his bus. Tufts of dark hair peek out of the newsboy cap on his head each time he lifts his eyes to the sign.

For Fuller, Indianapolis is just stop on the way—the bus he’s waiting for will take him back home to Chicago, after a short trip to Louisville for a friend’s birthday.

Bussing isn’t his favorite mode of transportation, but he finds it provides more leg room than a plane and is quicker than traveling by train. However, this is his first bus trip in eight years.

While in Louisville, he and friends stayed at an Airbnb and visited whiskey distilleries. A friend of Fuller’s knows a relative of Jim Beam, and was able to get the group a free tour. While there, they were introduced to Baker Beam, Jim’s grandson.

“They’ve given him his own bourbon, called Baker’s Bourbon. So, he autographed the bottle and talked to him for a while. He’s like eighty years old,” Fuller excitedly recalled, smiling at the fresh memory.

While Fuller enjoyed a “lowkey weekend” with the guys, he is clearly excited to get home to his wife and her family, who are visiting the couple in Chicago this weekend.

Though he was distracted from the LED sign, Fuller didn’t miss his bus, his head shot up once again as a loud beep came over the speaker, alerting him that the bus back to Chicago was arriving.

Fuller quickly stowed his book in his messenger bag and slug the bag over his shoulder, weaving through the crowd to make the trip back home.

Weekend getaway

Mattie Taylor passes the time scrolling through Facebook as she awaits the arrival of a friend. Her shoulder length brown hair falls around her face as she sits patiently, legs crossed, with a purple Jansport backpack on the bench beside her.

Taylor has just arrived from Bloomington, where she studies business and Indiana University. The friend she’s meeting, Jacob goes to Purdue University. They decided to meet in Indianapolis as a central location between the two schools for a weekend of catching up and exploring the city.

Taylor loves traveling, and particularly enjoys bus trips because they are affordable and convenient, though that’s not the only appeal.

“I like to just kind of look out the window and see what’s going on because a lot of landscape changes tend to happen,” Taylor said. “You can actually physically see the changes happening around you, while like on a plane you can’t really see.”

Along with the scenic aspect, there is a social atmosphere that comes along with traveling by bus.

“Busses force you to be more social. You’re sitting next to another human being. I know there’s a lot of different people I’ve talked to just on this bus trip because I was really confused about the bus stop,” Taylor said. “You talk to all these different people and everyone just genuinely wants you to have a good trip.”

When she travels, Taylor said she likes to get to know the culture of the place she’s in. Talking with locals and visiting all sites she can are top priorities. She also savors each trip as much as possible.

“A lot of people go just to take Instagram pictures, but I like actually staying there and feeling what it’s like to be there and imagining what it would be like if I stayed longer than I did. It’s cool to see how all of the [people in] these places live and see what their lifestyle is like.”

While waiting for Jacob, she continues checking her phone, growing only slightly impatient while Googling sites to visit during their short trip.

With a final glance at the screen, Taylor adjusts her jacket steps out into the crisp November day.

A fresh start

It’s been a long day at the bus station for Zanetta Grays.

The Grays missed the bus they initially intended to take. Zanetta and her two sons, Zalyn and Zalatheo have been at the station since 9:30 in the morning, and won’t be able to catch their bus until 3:30 p.m., which will take them to Evansville and then on to Mississippi.

Zanetta looks tired, dried vomit stains her sleeve, a casualty from one of Zalatheo’s episodes. She also looks put together. No short, purple hair is out of place and sparkly earrings dangle from her lobes, makeup intact.

The three have claimed a row of four chairs, one of which is puddled with sticky, orange soda. Crumbs from a bag of Lay’s Biscuit and Gravy flavored chips clutter the floor at their feet.

Despite the long waits and juggling two young children, Zanetta has the travel bug.

“[I like] the scenery, you get to see new things. Different place, different vibe,” Zanetta said of her trips.

Before she had Zalatheo, Zanetta and Zalyn traveled together frequently, usually by bus.

So far, she’s gone to Mississippi, Detroit, Nashville, Colorado, Kansas City. Above all, Mississippi has been her favorite.

“I like Mississippi, I like the ride and I like the countryside, it’s just a slower, more relaxing lifestyle.” she said.

Zalyn is three years old and though he’s used to traveling with his mom, he grows antsy throughout their six-hour wait, using some of that time to walk around the lobby and talk to others who also waiting on busses. When Zanetta offers him candy, he jumps out of the chair and does a happy dance.

Zalatheo, who is six months old, is fastened to his mother’s torso and rarely cries, perfectly content with a bottle of milk.

Zanetta, a single mother who is used to taking care of both boys, is traveling to Mississippi to live for a while. Her boyfriend is there and their goal is to stay while they save up money for a car.

Though she isn’t married, she calls her living situation in Mississippi ‘the housewife life,’ and hopes to tie the knot in the future.

The Grays still have four hours left to wait at the Greyhound station, which will undoubtedly be filled with vending machine snacks, diaper changes, and laughs.

The boys always keep Zanetta on her toes.


By Alan Hovorka

Four tiny wheels sailed through the air and up five concrete steps. They spun freely as they came to meet the ground.

The rider skidded to a stop and stepped on the edge of his board to pop it into his hand. Another rider followed suit. Dropping their bags, they scoped out the spanning plaza-like area of West George Street, looking for places to do tricks and record themselves. A chance to get better.

“With everything around us, people might see it as simple architecture, we see it as a place to have fun,” said Damjan Hartle, a 15-year-old Lebanon, Indiana, resident. “Everything has a sense of energy that we can release through it.”

It’s Hartle and Preston Parks’ first journey to Indianapolis for skateboarding. Their goal for the day? The same as any other: skate.

The two are products of their family histories, where skateboarding has held a special place. Coming to Indianapolis gives them an urban landscape, which is the most diverse canvas for their craft, they said.

Finding fellow skaters and a space to skate hasn’t been easy for the two rural Hoosiers. To their knowledge, they’re the only regular skateboarders in their town of Lebanon.

Hartle’s love affair with the sport came from looking at photos of his father when he was a skateboarder. His father died a month after he was born. One day he saw a skateboarder do a basic trick, an ollie, and was set on pursuing the sport. He treated himself on his next birthday by buying a skateboard at Walmart.

“(My dad) was really good at what he did, but he screwed up a lot. Did a lot of bad things,” Hartle said. “What I want to do is take skateboarding from him and not screw up the way he did. Maybe make something of myself. It’s a longshot.”

Parks, a 14-year-old Lebanon resident, spent much of his childhood watching his father and uncle skateboard.

“He would do all of these awesome things and I would be like, ‘I want to be able to do that.’ He gave me my first board,” Parks said.

They haven’t been friends long, three months to be exact. They happened upon each other during their homeroom period at Lebanon High School. Parks had a skateboarding t-shirt on and Hartle had his board.

“I went up to him and asked if he wanted my board and I gave it to him,” Hartle said.

Of course Hartle wasn’t serious about him keeping it.

After class, Parks gave it back to him and the two clicked over their passion for skateboarding and the freedom it brings.

“It’s all we do. We don’t have anyone else to stop us,” Hartle said. “We skate everyday – don’t stop.“

Part of what drives their friendship is the dynamic of always challenging each other to do the better trick, to be better. If one of them learns something, they teach the other. It’s a core piece of what makes skating successful, they said.

Without a partner to skate with, it’s hard to stay with the sport. Parks has had an off-and-on relationship with skateboarding before he met Hartle. Their friendship is the reason he’s back into it.

“If it weren’t for skating, I don’t think we would have started talking or even been friends for that matter,” Hartle said.


By Brody Miller

This night began with tears. Bernice Alford picked several drunk women up late one night from a bachelorette party at Cadillac Ranch. The bride-to-be was already crying as she entered Alford’s Chevrolet Sonic.

She didn’t want to marry her fiancé, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him. That’s where Alford was supposed to come in.

Alford likes to begin driving for Uber at 3 a.m. It’s when people are ready to go home. They are lingering around bars or walking out of strip clubs. It’s a good time for business.

This night, she had an opportunity for a little extra business.

The woman, sobbing in the back seat, offered Alford $500 to drive to her fiancé’s house and tell him that the woman he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with did not want to marry him.

“No, no, no,” Alford, 40, said. “Can’t one of your friends with you do it?”

“They feel too bad for him,” the bachelorette said.

Regardless, Alford was in for the ride at that point. She drove the woman around as she made efforts to solve this problem. Alford watched as the bride-to-be flirtatiously offered $1,500 to a police officer and asked if he wanted to come home with her. Alford simply put her head down and shook it.

It’s an example of one of the many off-the-wall nights Alford has experienced in her two years as an Uber driver in Indianapolis. Other drivers throughout the city have similarly nonsensical stories of the people they pick up from night to night, but the drivers themselves have taken many different paths to get here.

They come from big cities on the coasts and rural towns in Indiana and plenty of places in between. Some are scraping by and need the money. Some are retirees. Some just don’t want to be housewives.

The Uber drivers of Indianapolis are a diverse bunch. There are the talkers, the quiet ones and those who just want to listen to some music. Most have their talking points down after getting asked their stories several times a day.

When did you start driving? What did you do before this? What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen?

They are polite. Most enjoy the company. But in the long run, Uber has created an industry for those who need flexible schedules and some extra cash. It’s a growing field because it gives people the opportunity to work on their own time and not have a boss looking over their shoulders.

The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., published a study in October that said the number of independent drivers for Uber and Lyft increased by 48 percent across the United States from 2012 to 2014. In Indianapolis, the number increased by 60.5 percent.

Tim Peacock started driving six months ago. He ran a courier business for most of his life, making good money in those days, but he says he didn’t manage that money well enough.

“It’s going to be a while til I retire,” he said. “I had a little too much fun during those earning years. I was under the idea of enjoying it while I had it.”

Peacock, 58, is a white bald man with a shaved head and a southern drawl. He grew up in Shelburn, Indiana, but now lives in Crawfordsville. He wears large, dark sunglasses and a denim jacket with fur around the collar.

He has kids and grandchildren. His children went to college and got good jobs. But Peacock now needs some money. He had his second hip replacement this year, and he says he isn’t the type to want to sit at home or go fishing anyway.

So now he wakes up early and starts driving at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays and 6:30 and weekends, driving strangers across the city or business people to airports.

When someone is about to get a ride from Andrew, an alert pops up on their phone saying the driver is deaf or hard-of-hearing and turn by turn updates will be provided via text.

When you enter the car, he turns around and holds up a small dry erase board.

“Hi, my name is Andrew. How are you?” it reads.

He stares back at you with his kind eyes and waits for you to respond to the question. He reads your lips, nods his head, turns back around and begins the trip.

Andrew is a middle-aged man with shaggy, reddish-brown hair with a thick mustache. He wears a navy sport coat with tan elbow patches and jeans that appear to have been around a while.

While driving, Andrew has his neck tilted back and his eyes up to make sure he has a broad view of the road. When he needs clarification on a direction, he puts his hands up in a confused motion and waits for you to direct him. His car is spotless. Both hands are always on the wheel at 10 and 2.

Andrew isn’t an outlier as a deaf Uber driver. The next driver that popped up was another deaf driver named Williams. There is even a Facebook group called Deaf Uber Community.

The Communication Service for the Deaf says seven out of 10 people hard-of-hearing in the United States are either out of work or underemployed. Uber has teamed up with the Communication Service for the Deaf to create opportunities for them.

Andrew got an opportunity.

Alford was a human resources accountant. She began with an entry level assistant job and worked her way up. She liked her job and made what she considered good money.

Then carpal-tunnel syndrome took control of her hands. She had to eventually get surgery and took a year off work. The ability to type well never came back. Her skills dropped from 85 words per minute to 25.

Alford needed a new job in which she wouldn’t have to use her hands. That’s where Uber came in.

There are good weeks and bad weeks. She said a good week can earn her as much as $700. The worst week she can remember was last Thanksgiving when she only earned $140.

Her and Peacock both usually begin driving in the wee hours of the morning. There are certain areas Alford tends to drive around, like around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the north side of Indianapolis.

She said some drivers are scared to go to the east side because of bad neighborhoods. Alford doesn’t mind as much.

“Just cause they are in a bad area doesn’t mean people don’t have a job or somewhere to go,” Alford said laughingly.

There are certain areas she won’t go to, though. Sometimes she will drive up to a location and keep driving because it looks frightening. Other times it comes from experience. There was one man who started smoking weed in the car. She never went back to that area again and didn’t drive anyone for two days because of the smell.

The drivers often have repeat customers they continuously pick up. Alford had one couple she used to always pick up off Massachusetts Avenue. The couple would fight every single time they got in, Alford said, and she eventually became sick of being the referee. These fights would be over trivial thing such as who was supposed to feed the cat or whether one left the television on. So she snapped at them.

“I may be overstepping my bounds,” she recalls saying, “but you guys argue about everything. Don’t you have anything else to do?”

The couple started laughing, then continued arguing. The man in the relationship opened the door and walked out of the car mid-ride. Alford never picked them up again.

Alford, though, is someone who doesn’t need to continue driving. Her husband has told her she can stop working.

“I’m not a housewife type,” she said. “I tried it for two weeks. I went crazy.”

Peacock likes to think he knows his way around Indianapolis by now, but he said he finds himself lost at least once a day.

He thinks Uber has some benefits that normal cabs do not. He said some of the equipment in cabs are not as good, and he mentioned there can be more of a language barrier with international cab drivers.

The amount of people using Uber is rising for things like a trip to the airport or a ride home from work at odd hours, he said, but concierges at hotels still recommend cabs. Outside the Omni Severin Hotel on Saturday, there were still several AAA Indy Taxi’s waiting out front and people were still taking rides.

But Uber is creating work for those who need it because of changing financial circumstances or a need for more flexibility.

Peacock doesn’t see an end to his working days. At least Uber gives him a job that’s not too physically taxing.

“I’ll likely be one of those people who work until the day I die,” he said.

And as Peacock drives around in his Nissan Quest, he hears on the radio that there will be an anti-Donald Trump rally in Indianapolis tonight. He was surprised people in Indiana would be protesting since it’s such a red state.

Peacock primarily listens to talk radio throughout the day. He makes sure to bounce around from conservative to liberal stations to ensure he sees different sides of the topics.

He said he understands why people would protest, but he just hates when it gets out of hand.

“But what do I know?” he said. “I’m just a dumb Uber driver.”


By Grace Palmieri

Like clockwork, the man arrives on the corner of Meridian and Monument Circle, as he has for a good part of the last two years. Today, on the day after Veteran’s, he’s wearing his old uniform with “U.S. ARMY” scripted over the left pocket. Everything on him looks worn – a dark grey 101st Airborne hat, the burnt orange blanket covering his legs, a makeshift Plexi Board sign.

It says, “Have a heart. Help a vet who’s hungry. Donations appreciated. Thank you. God Bless.”

Rocky Carter sits out here in his red-rimmed wheelchair, the only form of transportation he has, almost every day. He isn’t homeless, but he figures this is his best option. After his time in the military left him disabled – nearly paralyzed in both legs – Rocky couldn’t work. These days he can’t walk 20 feet without becoming too tired to continue.

So this is how he gets by. A small plastic bucket hangs off the side of his wheelchair, decorated with a print-out American flag, asking for donations.

By now, people working around the circle know the man.

“Hey Rocky, you want a bagel? Hot chocolate?” asks a woman popping her head out from inside Au Bon Pain.

“Not today,” Rocky says. “Thank you.”

Another employee comes out to hand him a cigarette.

It isn’t just any other day for Rocky. Today, they’re installing the Circle of Lights around the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument to decorate downtown for the holiday season. He arrived earlier on this Saturday than he normally would, just so he can watch.

“I do every year,” Rocky says.

The military was Rocky’s escape. Whenever he grew tired of the mundanity of everyday life, the service always brought him back.

He first entered the Navy right out of high school in 1978, where he served in the construction battalion for four years. Rocky helped build an air strip near Diego Garcia used for the transfer of supplies.

In his time after serving in the Navy, he lived in Houston – the only time he’s resided outside his home town of Indianapolis – working as a diesel mechanic and a truck driver. But he soon became tired of the long hours.

“I wanted something more interesting in my life,” he said.

He jokes the decision to go back was easy because once you serve, you don’t have to go through training again. So in 1986, Rocky joined the Army, during which time he fought in Desert Storm.

Not long after, he was involved in a secret mission where everything went wrong.

“The thing was, it wasn’t too secret,” Rocky said. “I can’t say much more than that.”

It left Rocky with two unusable legs, an injured back, and a life ahead of him that would always be uncertain.

Months passed before Rocky even had a wheelchair to use. At the time, he could walk but couldn’t feel his legs, and it’s only become progressively worse. Then he found wheelchair at HVAF (Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation) in Indianapolis.

Rocky would sometimes visit there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he still does. They give out food and clothes and hygiene products to those who need them. The wheelchair he found was good for the time being, but it was later burned during a house fire.

Things then only became more difficult as Rocky and his wife were in and out of homes and apartments for weeks, their main priority being to find one that was wheelchair accessible. Rocky, a father to four kids, had his youngest daughter taken from them for adoption after they no longer had the means to care for her.

But still, as he sits in his wheelchair – now an official paratransit vehicle – he can see the good.

He’s always been a religious man. He owns three Bibles. He attends church every Sunday with his friend Dana, who works across the street from where Rocky’s wheelchair sits each day. He has never lost faith.

“I know the good Lord has plans for me. That’s why I’m still here.”

On this day, four young men who attend Indiana Bible College walk up to greet Rocky.

“Can we pray with you, sir?”

“Of course,” Rocky says, as they join hands and bow their heads.

Before they leave, one man offers to lead Rocky in a bible study someday soon. “We can take you in and get you hot chocolate,” he says, gesturing to the nearest café. “We’ll do a bible study with you if you’d like.”

Minutes later, a man drops a couple dollars in Rocky’s bucket. Gifts from other visitors sit in his lap – a Nature Valley granola bar and a box of Mike and Ike’s candy.

“Thanks, brother,” he’ll always say, shaking their hand.

There’s rarely a day Rocky isn’t here. He’ll take off holidays, and the two days a year he gets to see his daughter – on Christmas and on her birthday. But with his wife on disability and low on food stamps, Rocky needs every little bit of cash he can muster.

Across the street, workers continue to string lights from the top of the monument to the ground. Soon, they’ll light up the night.

For now, Rocky will just sit here and watch.


By Casey Smith

A lot of people like to sleep in on Saturday morning, but the school bus drivers from South Pointe High School aren’t big fans.

The drivers – three men – sat staggered along the steps at the bus’s entrance all morning, telling jokes and sipping coffee without pause. It’s to be expected after nearly a decade of friendship.

It took the buses five hours and more than 300 miles to make their way from South Point, a village in the southernmost tip of Ohio, to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The students were in the marching band – making their way onto the field at the 2016 Bands of America competition, but the bus drivers still sat outside, doing what they love most – sharing memories.

Buddy Burton didn’t start his career in transportation – and he didn’t want to, either.

The 39-year-old father of two was an electrician for over a decade, but once his daughters were born, he needed a change.

“That job – being an electrician – was horrible,” he said. “I wanted something safer, somewhere where I could be in more control.”

Burton wanted to spend as much time with his kids as he could. When he learned about the outcry for bus drivers in his daughters’ school district, he was hesitant, unsure about working with so many kids.

But he gave it a try, and within a few weeks, he felt like it might work – maybe even long-term.

“I’m a kid at heart, really, so I can pretty much fit in with them,” he said. “A lot of people think it’s stressful because there’s so many kids involved, but it’s not that bad – it’s only as bad as you make it. I had to learn that.”

The longer he sat behind the wheel, the more Burton said he learned – not about driving the bus – but instead, about how to spend each day with the same, young faces.

“You get to know your kids on the bus, and you know that a bus driver is with the kids longer than any teacher,” he said. “You’ll find out a lot about them and you’ll learn more than you bargain for a lot.”

Some things he hears are sad, and others are flat-out overwhelming.

“I’ve heard so much about their lives, what good things are happening, what bad things are happening,” he said. “Sometimes I hear just awful things – things I don’t even want to repeat – and it makes you want to reach out to these kids and just be there for them.”

And the kids can tell if something’s wrong with him, too:

“Are you okay, Mr. Burton?”

“Is there anything we can do?”

“Give us a hug, we haven’t hugged you in awhile.”

It makes Burton question who’s more important – him or the kids.

“I don’t think people realize how much responsibility bus driver’s really have,” he said. “We’re hauling the most precious cargo in the world. We take responsibility for their well being, for their emotions, for everything. This job isn’t something to take lightly.”

Sixty-three-year-old Keith Roth has been behind the wheel since he was just 19 years old.

“I’ve been driving this thing for 44 years. Good grief, I’m pretty old,” he said.

Roth never had a desire to be married, and he never ended up having kids. A lot of girlfriends, he said, but no rings.

Sometimes making friends was hard for Roth – his speech impediment sometimes turning people away – but on the bus route, it was easy. He saw people every day, and most kids were energetic when they ran up the steps, excited to see him each morning.

But not all the kids greeted him the same.

Some were bad apples, too far gone to benefit from his kind words or encouraging gestures on the ride to and from school. Others had problems they couldn’t overcome on their own, Roth said, and those were the kids he tried the hardest to help.

“It’s been so bad a couple times that I saw kids crawling around on the bus floors, searching for crumbs or any food they could get,” he said. “Or kids just need someone to talk to, someone to listen to them and help them through things they don’t understand.”

Each Christmas, Roth said he wants each student on his bus to be familiar with kindness and love. He buys the students pizza and cans of soda, hoping that they’ll feel the holiday spirit from at least one person in their lives.

“You do what you can to try and make it better. Bottom line – you’ve got to love kids,” Roth said.

But not everything that happens on the road is positive.

“You’ll see accidents, sometimes there’s kids involved,” Roth said. “I’ve seen three people die in my years doing this. That’ll stick with you.”

While driving his bus in 1992, the Ross witnessed a car pull out in front of another school bus. The car, in an attempt to avoid hitting the child, spun out of control and off the road.

“I secured my bus and went out immediately to that car,” he said. “I saw some clothes and stuff moving over on the floor in the car. A little boy came up and started shaking the guy at the wheel and started yelling, ‘daddy, daddy.’ You could tell he was scared to death.”

Roth said he was scared, too. Although he was calm in the moment, the memories still haunt him today.

“It changed both of our lives,” he said. “But it reminds me about why this job is so important and why we have to watch these kids with so much passion. The world is moving so fast, and they can’t possibly pay attention to them like we can. We love them, and we never want anything to happen to them.”

On his first day behind the wheel, Rodney Bowman realized why no one wanted his bus route.

Wearing his captain’s cap he still wears today, then 34-year-old Bowman opened the school bus doors to his first entrants, only to find out that they had no desire to listen or cooperate with any of his requests.

“I had to train them since they were little and were in elementary school,” Bowman said. “We got to know each other over all these years, and eventually, the mutual respect became routine.”

At the time, Bowman was raising his three kids alone. He owned a garage, but when his parental responsibilities became too demanding, it just wasn’t working out.

“I was gone all the time, I had to close the garage down and started working at the school,” he said. “There were job openings for bus drivers, so I jumped on the opportunity. I’ve been on the road – on four wheels – ever since.”

As a bus driver, Bowman could go home and clean his house while the kids were at school. His kids were excited to have him home, and he was more than happy to have been able to do it.

He’s a fifty-nine-year-old grandpa now, but Bowman said his relationships he’s developed over the years still stick with him, and they’re what encourage him to wake up long before the sun each and every day.

“The relationships on and off the bus are my life,” he said. “I’ll see the kids at Walmart sometimes, they’ll come over to me and hug me or wave – it’s because they know who I am and know that I care.”

Over the years, Bowman said he’s driven generations of families to and from school.

“You haul mommy and daddy, then the next generation comes through,” he said. “You get to know more than just the kids, you get to know their families.”

But last January, Bowman realized that nothing could bring him any closer to the kids on the bus than the fear of losing them.

“A car came out in front of me and my bus went off the road, we were tumbling and turning,” he said. “When we stopped, I fell nearly six feet just getting out of my seat. The kids were okay, but we were all shook up.”

The tragic incident was eye opening for Bowman, and although no one was injured, it reminds him that no matter what, his student’s safety is what matters to him the most.

“These are God’s kids. God isn’t going to put someone behind that wheel that doesn’t care about them like they would their own,” he said. “I have enough faith to know we’re going to take good care of them.”


By Briana Susnak

Abdaoul Ismael started driving with Uber in Indianapolis earlier this year as a way to make extra money. While he’s made a home in Indy for the past seven years, he never stays in one place for too long.

Ismael grew up in Niamey, which is the capital of the West African country Niger. “I moved to the United States when I was really young,” he said, “so most of my life in Africa was spent helping my family.”

That sense of family was Ismael’s favorite part about growing up in Africa. The oldest of five siblings, Ismael laughs when he talks about being the one in charge and how strict his parents were when he was growing up.

“Now I know that it was just another way of them showing love to us,” he said. “They just wanted to help us be the best we could be and help us reach our potential. There was no joking around when it came to us and our education.”

When Ismael wasn’t focused on school, he played soccer with friends. He also developed a passion for traveling. He recounts the first time he left Africa at age 15 to see Paris.

“It was such a shock,” he said. “The city was so beautiful, especially being able to see it at night.” He later went traveled to Morocco, and his desire to see the world led him to study in the United States.

While Ismael wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to study, he knew he had an interest in finance. He left home for New York City, where he attended Hostos Community College in the Bronx and later Baruch College in Manhattan.

As someone who grew up speaking French, learning English presented its own set of challenges for Ismael. “The two languages are totally different from one another,” he said. “You have to fully invest in each of them to understand them.”

Ryan Lidster, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Second Language Studies at Indiana University, attests to this difficulty. “International students who are in an English language university have to simultaneously learn all of these different skills, each of which requires significant effort and different types of learning and studying,” he said.

Aside from learning English, Ismael says one of the hardest parts of adjusting to life in the United States was acclimating to the weather. He remembers arriving in New York during the winter and seeing snow fall.

“The city was also much more crowded compared to where I had lived,” he said.

While pursuing his education and career were both priorities for Ismael, he does miss his family back home and not being able to see them as often as he used to. He hasn’t been with them since his last visit to Africa in 2015.

“I can remember being with my family, and how any difficulty I had I had someone to go to. I don’t have that luxury now,” he says. “I can call them on the phone but it’s not the same as being with them in person.”

Despite the sacrifices he’s made, Ismael remains confident about his decision to move to America. He especially likes Indy because of its affordability. He plans to visit other states, including Florida, and start his own business.

“I’m absolutely optimistic about the future of this country,” he said. “A lot of people think there are issues here, but I always say, if you think things are bad in this country, look around. I’m very positive that things will work out.”

Although Ismael’s future is uncertain, he knows he’ll always be on the move in search of his next adventure—whether that means he’s flying across seas, opening his business, or just helping others get where they need to be.


By Matthew VanTryon

Every single day Craig Reinhardt comes to work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he gets goose bumps. Two-and-a-half years ago, he worked for John Deere in Tampa Bay. Now, retired, he’s living his dream as a tour guide for what he calls the most iconic venue in sports.

By the end of the year, he will have given 1,000 tours to over 18,000 people from 80 different countries. But before he gives tours, before his voice fit for radio informs and entertains, he can’t help but stop himself.

“Look where I am,” Reinhardt says. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I work here. Who could have a better job?’”

He attended his first Indy500 early in the 1950s, but guesses he probably had a radio in his crib when he was eight months in 1946. The race was on, after all. He’d guess he’s been to around 25 Indy 500s, though he can’t remember them all. And every time he went, he went with his dad. Reinhardt and his dad, James, didn’t share much in common. But there was always Indianapolis.

“My father and I were not real close when I was growing up, but the one thing we had in common was the Indianapolis 500,” he recalled. “We would come just about every year, sleep in the car outside the gate, and spend a day and a half together. It meant a lot to me. It still does to this day.”

To this day, on the back of Reinhardt’s Indy 500 ticket holder, is a picture of his father.

“There are many families in today’s world that are scattered all over,” he said. “Kids and parents move around, but it is not unique that the only time a family gets together is for Memorial Day weekend and the Indianapolis 500.”

On this day, as the bus going around the Speedway stops at the iconic yard of bricks, Reinhardt stops to inform his audience.

“Guys, this is something you want to do,” he said. “This is one of the few times in our lives that we get to kiss something without having to buy dinner and a show.”

Jeremiah Stump gets out with his three-year-old son Benjamin. Stump has lived in Indianapolis since 2007 and has been to every Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 in the past three years. His wife was out of town for the weekend, so he took the chance to introduce his son to racing history. He can’t put into words what the moment means as his son kneels down with him and lays his lips on the dusty piece of history.

“I can’t even describe it. It’s history. It’s indescribable,” he said. “It’s a good family thing. Everything about it is good.”

His son hasn’t been to a race yet. Stump says maybe in a few years. But he’s already preparing.

“You should see his room,” Stump says with a proud smile. “Cars. Posters. Keychains.”

The racing tradition lives on, from generation to generation.

As the tour rolls on Reinhardt continues to tell his audience stories. The story about how drinking milk became a tradition. And the story about that tradition was broken, if only for a short time.

Emerson Fittipaldi won the Indy 500 in 1993, for the third time in his career. But he’d become invested in the citrus industry. So, instead of drinking milk, he drank orange juice.

“I’ve got to tell you, these people were not happy,” Reinhardt said with a chuckle. “They were yelling, cursing, throwing stuff. If there’s any place in the world where you don’t mess with tradition, it’s the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“A few years ago they invited Mr. Fittipaldi back to be the honorary pace car driver. They announced him. They booed him. He’ll never get over it.”

The tour rolls on, and so do Reinhdardt’s memories. He recalls how, when he was a child going to the race, they would bring up newspapers at the halfway point with the results.

“The race used to take so long,” he said. “At the halfway point, they’d bring newspapers into the stands. ‘VUKEVICH LEADS AT LAP 100!’ Huh? That’s how big and immense everything was. ‘I’ll take a newspaper!’”

Reinhardt is a big race fan — he used to make binders filled with 700 pages worth of information for his guests that were coming to Indianapolis to visit the Speedway — and isn’t afraid to call out those who aren’t true fans of the sport.

“They say race fans want to see wrecks,” he said. “No, those aren’t race fans. Those are crash fans. Race fans want to go and see a clean race. They want to see the fastest that there can be.”

As true as the fans are, so are the drivers genuine.

“In the whole IndyCar series, you will not find a friendly group of people more accommodating,” he said. “Unless they’re busy doing something, the drivers will come out and talk to you. Pictures. Autographs. ‘Do you have any questions? Can I help you with anything?’ They’re genuinely honest, caring people. They know who pays the bills.”

He admits he favors the Andrettis — his dad grew up a fan of Mario, so he followed suit — but above all, he has one wish.

“My only wish is that they all go home at night,” he said. “That’s all I care about. I would not root against of them.”

It always comes back to family for Reinhardt. He recalled a race in 2006 when it looked like the Andrettis would finally get a win — but that’s not why it was memorable.

Michael Andretti was in first, his son Marco was in second and Sam Hornish Jr. was in third. Michael’s tires gave out, then “Hornish, like he shot out of a cannon, pulls out behind him and drafts him and shoots past him right in front of where we were sitting,” Reinhardt says. “He ended up winning the race by 63-thousandths of a second.”

He remembers it because of the race. But he also remembers it because it was the first race his two sons and daughter-in-law had been to.

While Reinhardt has his own memories, he also sees other people make their own. He recalls another tour guide directing a tour and seeing a man kneel to kiss the bricks. The man stayed on the ground. The guide was worried he was ill. Instead, the man was overcome with emotion.

“Finally the guy got up and he had tears running down his face,” Reinhardt said. “This place means a lot to a lot of people. I’ve never been more proud to put on that shirt that says, ‘Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’ and that logo. It means the world to me.”

As the tour finally rolls to a stop, Reinhardt offers a word of thanks to the members of the tour and says he hopes they come to the Indy 500 in the spring. But last, he issues a word of advice about what their futures might hold. If they come once, they’lll come again. And again. And again. And then?

“You’ll retire. You’ll have a nice cushy job in Tampa Florida, making a lot of money and then you’ll retire and then you’ll move to Indianapolis, and then you’ll become a tour guide,” he said. “So before you come, is this what you want to be?”

First Place: Grace Palmieri — Indiana University

Ivy Estep takes out a small, pink tube of paint. She rests her right elbow on the table to steady her drawing hand.

Two girls have come into Brow Art 23, a cosmetics shop in Circle Center Mall, to have henna designs painted on their skin.

Estep begins painting the flower pattern onto the hand in front of her.

A thin line for the stem.

A half circle for the flower’s center.

And then she begins on the petals.

Estep likes to fashion many of the patterns herself, but admits she gets some inspiration from Pinterest. The 19-year-old is a makeup aficionado and loves working with cosmetics; the henna painting is just a small perk, something she and her friend do for fun.

“I just like making women feel beautiful,” she says.

This is Estep’s second job. For about a year now, she has also waitressed at the P.F. Chang’s downstairs. But she needed more income after moving into her own apartment in August.

The move was by choice, but Estep almost felt she no longer had a choice.

The uncertainty of living with her stepdad, who was constantly being laid off and could never keep a steady job, was wearing on her. She felt repeatedly abandoned.

Estep decided to leave.

She was a senior at Arsenal Tech High School. And now, she was homeless.

Estep remembers the mountains of Oregon as her happy place. She remembers being able to drive down the street and see both Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood at the same time, one on either side of her. She remembers the fog setting in every morning and being able to find beauty in the simple things. For some time, the valley between the two volcanoes – located almost directly on the Oregon-Washington border – was her home.

Estep was preparing for her freshman year of high school when her stepdad, an iron worker, decided to move the family out west in hopes of abundant opportunity.

“He kept hearing rumors that everything was booming out there, that there was a whole bunch of work,” she said. “In reality, there wasn’t a whole lot of work, especially for someone who was going from local to local (business).”

They sold almost everything they owned and drove out to Oregon with the only money remaining — $500 cash, just enough to cover the cost of gas. Other odds and ends – pillows and clothes – were strapped to the top of the car, with a big, blue tarp covering it.

Estep recalls driving through the windy plains of Nebraska. A string would snap, and one item would fall off the top of the car.

Then another.

“You could feel the car about to tip over,” she said.

Through 11 months in Oregon, Estep’s stepdad was always between jobs. Estep says she spent 6-8 hours per day traveling from one job to the next – her dad would be on Mount Hood one day and the deserts of southern Oregon the next.

Estep, along with her two younger siblings and her parents, lived out of the car.

Her mom always tried to stay optimistic, constantly reassuring her kids that they were just “camping.”

“I was like, ‘I know what’s really going on here. You can’t fool me,’” Estep said.

She was enrolled in a brick and mortar school, which involved sitting down with two other students while all three tried to use the same computer.

Despite being miles away from her friends back home, Estep was happy. Happier than she had ever been. She loved the traveling, and the mountains, and learning about herself.

Then her parents got divorced, and Estep was forced to move back to Indianapolis with her stepfather.

Most kids’ lives consisted of going to school and soccer practice – or maybe band or dance – and then home to eat dinner and finish homework. Estep never lived that way, she said.

For her, high school was four years of moving in and out of homeless shelters, motels and friends’ houses. She was never in one place for longer than a couple months. When she turned 18, her stepdad expected her to start paying bills.

“My first check was like $97,” she said. “And he expected me to turn on the electric, which is a $300 bill.”

Estep’s stepdad is living in a motel with her younger brother and sister.

She’s still working on her high school diploma.

Estep has always considered herself an independent person. Now, she’s putting that to good use.

She’s living by herself and working two jobs, while trying to balance online classes – she only has a few credits left to complete. Because she doesn’t have enough money to pay for school, Estep is taking class through the Excel Center, a program funded by Goodwill.

Her life is finally settling down enough that she can begin to think about the future.

Estep wants to become an occupational therapist so she can help children who have been through similar experiences.

That’s a long-term goal, though. At the moment she wants to do what makes her happy, a feeling that was missing from her life for too long.

She still thinks about Oregon. Aside from the beauty, it’s the people of Portland that make her want to go back.

“It’s so artistic,” she says. “They have a street performer downtown on almost every corner. They don’t care what you think of them. They’re just like, ‘I’m gonna show you what I’ve got.’”

In July, Estep is going back.


2nd Place: Anicka Slachta — Indiana University

If you’re not looking for her, you might miss Tina Johnson. It wouldn’t bother her, though —

she’s never been the type to want to be found.

Johnson, 54, sidles along the interior edges of the Circle Centre Mall, pushing her mop

across the black tile in front of glossy storefronts.

Past Forever 21, where fluorescent lights shine on styled front-window mannequins. Past

GameStop, Francesca’s, Roshini. Past Andrews Jewellers, with its limitless cases of

expensive, shiny trinkets. Diamonds blink from thousand-dollar engagement rings.

Fourteen-karat gold stares back at her.

The only jewelry Johnson wears is a simple band on her right ring finger. Its silver isn’t as

bright as it used to be; the garnet birthstone that used to shine in the middle has grown

darker over time. Her mother gave it to her when she was twenty-one.

Johnson pushes her cart across the empty floors of the mall, four minutes before stores open. She wipes down the lampposts. She cleans the leather massage chairs.

She can still hear the sound of the cart’s smooth wheels against the tile. When her radio crackles, it’s a little too loud for 10 a.m.

Johnson’s been a maintenance worker here for a little over two years, she says, after having scrambled for a job and favoring looking after her grandchildren as a pastime. Her son helped her out — he’s a manager at this mall.

She’s been back in Indiana for almost six years now. Six years since she ran away, back to what used to be home. Six years since she left her ex-husband of 23 years, who threatened to find and kill her if she ever left him. Six years since when she went looking for something better.

Circle Centre Mall transformed Indianapolis in the mid-1990s, saving it from being a city plagued by crime, violence and unemployment.

Now, it’s saving Tina.

Johnson can’t quite remember how old her children are. There are five of them, after all, she says, leaning against her maintenance cart.

Her long hair is loose around her shoulders, straight-cut bangs falling over her eyebrows. Her face is worn and most of her top row of teeth are missing, but that doesn’t keep her from smiling.

She wears thick black eyeliner under electric blue eyes.

“Ah,” she says, remembering. “The oldest was born in ‘83.”

Johnson loves her kids, loves them more than anything. They’re all clean — no drugs, no alcohol addiction — like she is, despite having Randy as their father.

She never tried to hide him from them, she says. She never tried to hide anything.

“Kids are nosy,” she says. “They’re going to find out anyways.”

She shielded them, tried to protect them while they grew up in and out of motels along the U.S. Route 40 highway, somewhere in between Greenfield and Indianapolis.

Sometimes, when they ran out of money, they’d go to Florida, where Randy had family who could help.

But she couldn’t always protect them. Johnson didn’t hear the horror stories until much later, when her children told her about the times he would shake them awake at midnight and throw them against the wall.

When they were still little, and Johnson had just given birth to her youngest, he stumbled through the front door, drunk and angry.

He pulled his family out of their beds and into the car, where he started hitting Johnson.

Her children sat in the backseat and watched.

They sat smallest to tallest, she says, like stairsteps.

As the mall fills closer to noon, it’s harder and harder to find Johnson.

Wearing black from head to toe — save the bright pink stripe on her sneakers — she blends in among swells of people, working quietly, contently, in corners and across the food court floor.

She cleans up after messy children who have lives she could only wish her children had. While she works, she passes bored dads sitting in mall lounge chairs, waiting for their 12-year-old daughters to come out of Claire’s. She passes groups of teenage girls and stylish single women, all swinging brand-name bags at their feet.

She isn’t like them. They don’t acknowledge her.

She’s thorough when she cleans, but thinks aloud while wiping down the aluminum elevator doors of level three.

She blames herself for not being able to get a job fast enough for her children to stay with her in Indiana. They all started moving to Florida when they met their boyfriends and girlfriends, who eventually became fiances, then wives.

She was living in an apartment with her son for some time, but had to move out.

“He went and got married on me,” she says with a laugh, a smile brightening her tired face. She reaches for her strawberry-flavored vitamin water. “How could he?”

She lives with her dad now, in Greenfield, where it all started.

“Am I happy?” she says, spritzing Renown Air Cleaner on a gray rag. It doesn’t take her more than four seconds to answer.

“No.”

It was never a love story, not with Randy.

Johnson’s sister knew Randy and had convinced Johnson to get out of her usual pajamas for food stamp night at Marsh Supermarket. She met him there, in the grocery parking lot.

“I wish that I didn’t,” she says. “I married him out of fear.”

She was scared for her life and scared when he got out of jail — domestic violence charges, this time — and forced her to marry him so she wouldn’t be able to testify against him in court. He drank, too much and too often, and eventually turned to crack cocaine.

He and Johnson worked in the same job in the beginning, putting up drywall for new buildings. He kept making her quit, worried that she would find someone else at work and leave him.

And his work hours didn’t count, Johnson said. It all went toward drugs and alcohol, anyways.

“I told him that once the kids were grown,” she says, “I’m out.”

And when she got out, just like he promised, he found her.

She was at work, in the long gray corridor behind the Colts Pro Shop, when she was radioed that her husband was there to see her.

“Instant fear,” she calls the immediate feeling. He found her cleaning the ladies’ bathroom.

“Just answer me one thing,” he said. “Is it over?”

She told him it was, she says. It was the wrong answer.

Randy pinned her neck against the cold, tiled wall. Her mouth strained, she says. The blood vessels in her eyes burst. She fumbled for her radio, but he was too strong. She thought she was going to die.

“He was throwing me around like a ragdoll,” she said.

A security officer found them, too late. Johnson’s face was swollen and bruised.

Randy should have been in jail for up to sixteen years, she says — for nine felonies — but only served his time for a year and a half.

She never once told anyone in her immediate family about the abuse. It was too embarrassing, she says, since she was supposed to be the strong one. Of four children, she was always to go-to for helping someone through a rough time.

That included when her mom was in a car crash on the way to Bingo more than two decades ago. It put her in a coma and killed Johnson’s niece.

It was her dad that kept her mom alive for fourteen months, Johnson said. She calls him a healing man — he once visited a sick girl in Kentucky who was cured by the touch of his hand. Still, her mom slipped away from them.

Johnson straightens her fingers to look at her faded garnet ring.

“I’m never taking it off,” she says. “Not ever.”

Joy comes in small moments for Tina Johnson.

Sometimes they take the form of talking to her siblings, all of whom she’s close with, but lives far away from.

“Facebook, calling, texting…” she says. “All of that.”

The mall isn’t necessarily something that she loves, but she likes her job, she says. She’s earning money. She misses having her own place.

Still, people walk right by her. Later in her shift, a teenager in a bright blue hair ribbon settles into a massage chair on the second floor of the mall.

Does she think about the woman who ran a rag over the leather cushions an hour earlier?

Johnson isn’t one to mind. She doesn’t gravitate toward attention, doesn’t even pick up her phone when someone calls because she’s worried it might be Randy.

“I never know,” she says. “I really don’t.”

But still, there are good moments.

She recently visited her son in Florida and got to see her granddaughter, who she hadn’t seen in years.

“I have this thing,” she said, “Where, instead of kissing my grandbabies, I kind of lick the tips of their noses.”

Her granddaughter is six now, she thinks, straining to remember, and tried to give Johnson a gift when she arrived. She tried one hard plastic bracelet made for tiny wrists, then two, before giving up and handing Johnson a thick pink bracelet wide enough to fit her hand.

It’s right there, on Johnson’s right hand, bright next to her black sleeves.

It’s like the ring from her mother — generations of women who have dealt with too much too young, feared too many people, but were able to find light in their family relationships.

Johnson smiles and fiddles with the bracelet given to her months ago.

“I haven’t taken it off since.”


3rd Place: Annie Garau — Indiana University

Jada Elkins and her friends are inspecting a pair of cheetah-print high heels. The shoes could be helpful for Audrey’s cat Halloween costume, they muse, but they’re not certain she would be able to walk in them. Plus, they figure the four-inch, bedazzled stiletto is out of their price-range, seeing as they’re sixth graders.

Today is Jada’s twelfth birthday and her three best friends are her party guests. Jada’s mom, Shelly Elkins, has brought the girls to Circle Centre mall in downtown Indianapolis for a shopping expedition.

It’s a fitting activity, Shelly explains, for girls who are just reaching the age when they start to care about fashion.

The birthday celebration began last night with a surprise slumber party. Shelly remembers having a sleepover with her friends back when she turned twelve, but she doesn’t remember twelve seeming as old as it does today.

A mom of four, Shelley has watched as technology has changed the way children grow up. She thinks that constantly knowing what their friends are doing, wearing and saying has created an environment where it’s hard for kids to feel fully confident.

“Especially with social media today,” she says, watching the girls pick out earrings and bracelets. “And the things they see on TV and in magazines. It’s just all around them; this pressure of what you should look like.”

All of the girls have Instagram accounts, filled with selfies and song quotes. Without looking at their screens, they can each recite how many followers they have on the photo-sharing app. At 523, Jada has the most. But she humbly admits the number isn’t that important.

Brooklyn, 11, says she doesn’t take selfies because she’s not photogenic. She says she thinks makeup helps a bit and points to the mascara that makes her round and unblemished face seem older than her years.

Unlike most of the girls at her school, Jada doesn’t feel the need to wear makeup yet. Her wide brown eyes aren’t lined, her dark brows aren’t plucked, her long lashes aren’t coated in goo and her freckled cheeks aren’t smeared with blush.

Her hair, however, is another story. Though her friends say her natural waves are beautiful, Jada either straightens or curls her sandy blond locks almost every day.

“My normal hair makes me look like a homeless person,” she laughs.

Stepping in unison, the girls make their way down the shiny, kiosk-lined hallways. Shelly trails behind, giving them the space that preteens treasure. Out of the mom’s earshot, the girls discuss clothes, boys and middle school drama.

The sixth grade social hierarchy is determined by where you sit at lunch, they explain. Jada and Brooklyn used to be in the popular group, but aren’t anymore. They say they’re not too upset about the change.

“The popular girls are super rich and they go around wearing pink clothes,” Jada says. “They bring their perfume, and hand sanitizer and their other beauty supplies to school just to show off.”

This pink-clad group always has the most expensive clothes and the latest technology, the girls say.

Though Jada has a laptop, a tablet, a phone and an iPod, she still gets made fun of for not having an iPhone.

Even so, Shelly and her husband think a flip phone is best. They feel the skewed beauty ideals aren’t the only negative consequences of the smart phone culture.

“We’re getting to the age where there’s the added complexity of boyfriends,” Shelly says. “Younger and younger girls feel like they need a boyfriend and like they need to have done certain things with boys by a certain time.”

Jada had a boyfriend last year, in fifth grade. They went to the movies together and he was nice, but she wasn’t too sad when they broke up.

Now she has her heart set on Paxton, a boy from her church.

“He’s a fourth grader but he’s supposed to be a fifth grader,” she explains, slightly worried about the age gap.

“That makes it so much better,” Brooklyn says, adding that she’s heard of adult couples who are more than six years apart.

This seems to make Jada feel better as she turns a set of fake pink nails over in her small hands. She will see Paxton at the church Halloween party tonight and she wants to look perfect.

There are different things girls do to impress boys, the girls say. Some of their classmates wear push up bras to try and make their boobs bigger.

“People are afraid to be themselves,” Lydia says. “Everyone says that they’re ugly and fat and it’s so annoying cause they’re not.”

It’s comments like this that make Shelly feel better about the world her daughter’s growing up in.

Though she sometimes feels she’s fighting a losing battle with technology, she hopes that the people her daughter is surrounded by will influence her more than anything she sees on a screen.

The family stays very involved with their church, hoping the children realize that God’s standards are more important than those of the girls at the popular table.

They don’t let their girls watch a lot of TV and she makes sure they know that the women in the catalogues aren’t real.

“It’s just like you’re always working backwards, trying to undo what the world says to do,” Shelly says.

The girls pass store after store filled with slight mannequins and sleek dresses. The only store they squeal at though, is the one stacked with boxes of twizzlers, chocolate, jelly beans and lollipops.

Watching Jada fill a bag with sour watermelon gummies, Shelly smiles. In the midst of all of the clothes and gadgets, the candy store is still her daughter’s favorite.


Additional finalists:

Dakota Crawford — Ball State University

Smoke swirling around in a pipe bowl mesmerized a 15-year-old Kylie Ann Pratt.

She was at a party, drunk and on xanax — or at least she thinks it was xanax — when a couple guys pressured her to take a hit. Pratt didn’t know what it was swirling around in there, but the gentlemen convinced her she’d like it. “Just take a hit,” they pleaded.

“That was it right there,” she says now, working a seven hour shift at Subway. “I started to sober up and my buzz went away, then all of a sudden I was high. That was it, that night.”

The guys at that party didn’t tell her it was meth swirling around in the bowl. As the sensation from alcohol and that lighter drug slipped away, Pratt started to feel the isolated rush from the methamphetamines that had entered her body.

Those two guys convinced her she’d like it, and they sure were right. For the next five years she rarely went one day sober. Pratt was addicted. The meth made her feel alive, awake. Awake, sometimes, for 18 days at time.

Pratt has been counting the days of late, as she’s just made it through 97 sober. She is about one month into a six-month recovery program through Indianapolis-based Seeds of Hope, a transitional home for women recovering from addiction.

Subway customers at the Circle Centre Mall walk up to Pratt all day and put their orders in, but they’d never notice the GPS device strapped to her ankle. It tracks her location at all times. She’s only allowed so much freedom at this point in her recovery.

She wakes up, she does chores, she attends a daily Narcotics Anonymous meeting, she even helps cook. Every woman chips in to keep the house ticking — it’s a tight, regulated community.

“I have my shit together today,” Pratt said. “Just yesterday I was telling my boss ‘I’m so proud of myself. I know what I’m doing.

“I feel like I’m an adult now, finally.”

She gets just $40 dollars per week to spend for herself, and another $105 goes toward rent at the transitional house. The rest goes into a savings account that will help pay for a place to live when she graduates from the program.

She’s 21 years old now, and headed in the right direction. Finally.

A little more than three months ago she was pulled over and charged with operating while intoxicated twice in an eight-day span. That scared her, not because she was afraid for herself, but for her children.

“I love them, and I don’t want to go to prison,” Pratt said. “I love my kids more than I love the dope. I’ve got to do it for them.”

She has two sons, a one-year-old and a three-year-old, that are living with their fathers as she completes the program. Though she’s sure her babies are comfortable, and in a good place with their fathers, she wants to sober up for them.

A desire to be “the best mom possible” is always in her thoughts. She recently broke up with an abusive boyfriend of two years in an effort to make things better for her children.

She’s escorted to the parking garage by mall security every night because her ex-boyfriend has assaulted her at work. He’s shown up at the Subway and yelled at her. He recently ripped the windshield wipers off her car.

He continues to use meth, and Pratt says a relationship with him made it hard to break her addiction. She’s dedicated, and wasn’t going to get thrown off course by a broken relationship.

“A lot of people aren’t serious about (recovering),” she said. “I feel like if I can do it, anybody can do it.”

For a while, she’d wake up with a pressure in her chest, something compelling her to go back and use meth again. But she’s already passed the 90-day milestone that recovering meth addicts look to. She’s excited to give her

She used to hang out with a tough crowd, “not the best people,” she says. Meth was always available at a moment’s notice, given the right contacts. Pratt says finding the right people wasn’t too hard in her hometown, Rushville, Indiana.

“It’s everyone there,” she said. “They’re walking around with eyes the size of dinner plates, no eye color — all pupil — it’s crazy.”

The Indiana Meth Suppression Unit seized two labs in Rush County in 2014. That’s the fewest of any in the eight-country district that includes Delaware and Madison County, two of the state’s most meth-ridden counties.

But a lack of lab seizures doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hard to find meth. At one point, she spent three months living in her car, moving from place to place, bouncing around between highs. Now that she’s out of Rushville, it’s easier to avoid the drug.

She drives into Subway and does her job, stopping only for the occasional smoke break. She follows security through Circle Centre Mall out to her car and she drives home in time for a 6 p.m. dinner. And there’s no pressure to do anything differently right now.

“Nobody knows me here,” Pratt said. “That’s helped me get past that stigma.”


Hannah Fleace — Indiana University

Just after 10 a.m., Circle Centre Mall is quiet aside from the two laughing voices inside

New York & Company. Behind the glass windows and past porcelain-skinned mannequins, manager Amanda Arnold is dressed in a hot pink boa. A purple and white unicorn horn bounces with each nod of her head as she weaves through racks of sweaters and jackets.

The company has a reputation for pricy, chic clothes. But today, Arnold and sales representative Katie Walker are handing out stickers to kids in the spirit of Halloween.

“Look! A kitty cat,” one child says when Walker, dressed as a cat, gives her a sticker.

The women chat about their evenings and work to remove all the sale signs from the previous day. Both women worked at other stores in the mall before New York & Company, but this place is home for them.

Tucked between Grand Slam Sports and Bath & Body works, New York & Company is one of the original stores from when the mall opened 20 years ago.

But on this platinum year anniversary of the Circle Centre Mall completion, the state of shopping centers in America is bleak.

Skeletons of shopping malls past are boarded and empty across the United States. Real estate analytics firm, Green Street Advisors says 15 percent of all malls will close in the next 10 years according to the New York Times. Mega retailers like JCPenny, Sears and Target have all announced widespread closures. Since 2010, Sears has closed 300 stores.

Malls in nearby Louisville and St. Louis have shut down and Circle Center Mall manager Simon Property Group Inc. is talking about pumping $20 million in Circle Centre to modernize and add residential space. The project is one way for the mall to become fashionable again and bring in more businesses. Four years ago, the mall lost one of its biggest tenants – Nordstrom. In 2014 the malls occupancy rate stood at almost 90 ninety percent.

The realm of online shopping is putting malls out of business, but Arnold, who spent most of her life working in retail, doesn’t have that fear for Circle Centre.

“Mayor Bill Hudnut had a vision to build a city around a circle,” Arnold said. “We get people from all over, we really are the Crossroads of America.”

Through a map of tunnels and skywalks, the mall connects to the Indiana Convention Center, at least seven hotels and the Indiana State Capital Building. Arnold said thousands of people flock to the mall each day because of its central location.

“Hello, how are you today?” Arnold asked a woman perusing the store.

“Good, thanks.”

“Just so you know, all our sweaters are buy one get on half off,” Arnold, 40, said. “Are you from around here?”

“No,” the woman said. “London.”

She was the fifth customer through the door. The first customers were from Lafayette, Indiana headed to Dublin. At the end of June, the international Kiwanis Club celebrated their 100th anniversary and brought women from Jamaica, Aruba and the Bahamas through the store’s doors.

“We get people from all over.” Arnold said. “And it’s a city like no other, and the reason is there are friendly people here and everyone feels said. It’s the same in the mall.”

There is a turquoise mural on the roof of Circle Centre Mall; four constellations watch over the shoppers zigzagging through the stores. The theme of circles carries throughout the mall’s four floors in arches and globe lights. Historically, the circle represents wholeness, cyclic movement and infinity.

Downtown Indianapolis used to be a dangerous place. For more than a decade, the core of the city was ripped apart so the $100 million mall could be built. For two decades, the mall was part of the reason downtown Indy transformed. It helped the city become whole.

And on July 4, 2013, it made Arnold whole too.

The mall was closing early for the holiday and Arnold was leaving work, looking at her phone and passing under the arches on her way to her car.

“We’re gonna crash,” a deep voice said.

Arnold looked up at a big, black man who’d crossed into her lane on purpose.

“Hello,” he said. “How are you?”

He was going to buy a watch. Now, a year and four months later, Arnold is going to marry him.

For Arnold, the mall more than the location of her job. It’s where she announced to her friends and coworkers that she was pregnant – twice. It’s where she works everyday to empower women to feel better about their bodies. It’s where she gabs with Walker about long distance boyfriends and faith.

She isn’t worried about the mall’s future. Tonight she is taking her son trick-or-treating and tomorrow she’ll come back to this place where so many of her memories were made.

“It’s my favorite mall,” she said. “And it’s a staple to this community.”


Danielle Grady — Ball State University

If it’s not a Thursday or Sunday, Monica Maxwell is sitting outside Circle Centre Mall.

Today is a Saturday.

“Good morning everybody,” she shouts to passerby.

Some return her greeting. Others glance around—up to the sky, down the street — anywhere but at Maxwell.

She’s used to that reaction.

Maxwell is one of a handful homeless people who panhandle near the mall.

Everyone has a spot. Hers is at the corner of Illinois and Maryland streets.

The 46-year-old has sat there for three years—conducting her business from a small, grey crate bent inward from repeated use.

Her duties include pointing out the mall’s entrance to confused pedestrians. To her, everyone is a “sweetie”—a “baby.”

“I’m the sweetest person you could ever meet,” she says.

We’re all blessed by God, she says, and that means everyone deserves kindness.

But it wasn’t kindness that brought Maxwell to the streets.

At 16, life wasn’t too bad for Maxwell. Her mother was alive, she had a place to stay and she had just started dating her first boyfriend.

The relationship began well. They always do, says Maxwell—with pretty words and false intentions.

Things start to go wrong a year or two later. Doting boyfriends become something to be feared—monsters, she says.

She’s been beaten until her eyes turned black and her head split open. She’s even been stabbed.

She’s spent half her life in abusive relationships.

Her last one, which began five or six years ago, started like the others. It ended like them, too.

This time, however, Maxwell retaliated. She turned the knife onto him.

It earned her a felony, an inability to get a job and a life confined to sidewalks and inexpensive hotels.

Maxwell’s day starts at 7:30 a.m. She gathers her things—a neon yellow sign, the crate, a blue bag—and settles into her spot outside of the mall.

Her other belongings are few in number. She stores clothing at Horizon House, an Indianapolis day center for the homeless, and her blankets behind a dumpster.

Her position at Circle Centre is crucial to her survival. She’s sat outside other places, but this one is the most profitable.

She needs to collect at least $45—the price for a one-night stay at the Skyline Motel on East Washington Street.

Failure forces Maxwell to sleep underneath a bridge. She’s done it before, but she doesn’t like too. She’s constantly on edge—scared of ending up at the mercy of a man like the ones from her past.

“I don’t trust nobody,” she says. “No man, nobody.”

Today, change and a few dollar bills fill Maxwell’s torn Burger King cup.

“Thank you, baby. God bless you,” she says to a man who adds to the collection.

She’s doing well this morning. Her evening will probably end with a bed—maybe even a warm spaghetti meal.

But nothing is for sure on the streets. Maxwell will continue issuing kindness to others. She doesn’t know any other way.


Alison Graham — Indiana University

Faith Taylor steps up to the mat.

Don’t mess up, she thinks. Don’t screw up a stunt.

She beams at the crowd and smiles through the red lipstick painted on her lips. She looks at the stands, not full, but still overwhelming.

This is what all of your hard work is for.

Lucas Oil Stadium seems to swallow her and the other twelve cheerleaders on the squad.

The stadium could seat her entire town — 67 times over. They traveled more than 150 miles north to compete in the Indiana Cheer Championship State Finals, representing not only their small high school, but also the entire town of Lynnville.

The first thing they do is cheer.

“Tecumseh High School has taken the floor. The red, white and blue are here, wanting more. Working harder than ever before.”

They’ve never won the competition. They’ve never made it to the final round.

After their cheer, they pause for a few brief moments before the music starts. When the song, “Grease Lightning” starts playing, Taylor zones out as the muscle memory kicks in.

“You just do what you know you’re good at.”

Two months ago, Taylor wasn’t on the cheerleading squad.

She didn’t try out for the team her sophomore year. She wanted to focus on school and the theater productions. She didn’t think she could handle all of that and the cheerleading squad at the same time.

At cheerleading practice one day, a girl attempted a backhand spring. She landed on her hand wrong, spraining it so badly she wasn’t able to compete.

There were only two practices left until the squad’s first competition.

The coach called Taylor and asked her to join the team again. She accepted, learning the entire routine in two practices. Everyone else learned it over four months.

The competition in Lowell, Indiana, went better than any of them could have imagined.

They took home first.

“No one knew who we were when we walked in there,” Taylor said. “But everyone knew who we were when we walked out.”

The next competition was the state championship.

Every time the cheerleading squad gets off the bus, they remind each other that they represent Tecumseh Junior-Senior High School and the town of Lynnville.

With about 900 residents, Lynnville is the type of place where everyone knows everybody else.

Just 30 miles northeast of Evansville, the town has a couple of restaurants, a post office, library, city hall, funeral home, gas station and a convenience store.

“That’s about it,” Taylor said.

The town has lost someone every year for the past three years. When someone dies, everyone feels it.

In 2013, Hunter McDaniel, 15, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Last year, Garrett Ward, 19, was killed in a boating accident. He got tangled in the 24-foot boat’s propellers and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Six months ago, Kolin Clutter, 13, was killed in an ATV accident. He took a sharp turn on Gore Road, causing the vehicle to flip over on top of him. A few days later, grief counselors came to Tecumseh High School to talk the students through their emotions.

Everyone knew Kolin.

With each competition, the Tecumseh cheerleaders bring the entire town with them. The people they’ve lost and the people that still live there. Everyone wants to see the team do well.

Competing in large competitions and taking home first place trophies means a lot to a town that has dealt with so much grief in the past three years.

Winning a state championship would put Tecumseh High School and Lynnville on the map.

When the music ends, Taylor and the twelve other cheerleaders finish in two half-circles. They hold one hand in the air and smile at the judges before running off the mats and the field.

We just did that, Taylor thinks.

Six months of practice for a two-minute routine.

“That feeling when you get off those mats,” Taylor said. “That’s what it’s all for.”

As the other teams enter the stadium, Taylor and her squad wish all of them good luck. They don’t try to make rivals at the competition.

“When you’re the smallest school in your division, you’re definitely the underdog,” Taylor said. “We’ve worked our biscuits off and we definitely deserve to be here.”

After the competition is over, the squad waits until 4 p.m. for the first round results. The top five teams in each division will move onto the finals.

Tecumseh has never made it to the final round. It’s a goal of theirs, but Taylor said they aren’t expecting to make it. They’ll cheer as loud for the participation trophy as they will for first place.

“Not a bunch of kids from little hick Lynnville get to do something like this,” she said. ”In our eyes, we achieved everything we could have imagined.”


Kaitlin Lange — Ball State University

Rocks and Metal

It was an average night at Kilroy’s Bar and Grill in Bloomington for Stephen Risk, until Kara Buckinghamwalked up to him wearing a hot pink dress and a wide smile. She thought he was someone else – adifferent Stephen actually – and said hello. Risk was confused, but went with it, and by the time Buckingham realized he was the wrong person, it was too late for her to just back out. They were already sharing drinks.

They became friends, then the infamous friends with benefits and then started dating.

Three years later, Risk is planning to propose to her.

He has the ring picked out, and pulls it out of the glass case at Andrews Jewelers, in the Circle Centre

Mall in downtown Indianapolis. He has worked there for five months, attempting to save up money for law school.

Risk is a sales consultant alongside Derrick Gaddie, a 24-year-old who also has never been married. They’re the only two in there on Saturday morning – just two unmarried men in their 20s essentially selling the idea of love.

Risk used to work for The Walking Company, where it was more about the practicality of the product. He would help customers find comfortable footwear, or help them deal with foot pain. He says an engagement ring is much different than a pair of shoes.

“It’s pretty rocks and metal,” Risk says. “That’s all it is practically. Emotionally it’s a completely different story. The ring is never about the ring, it’s about what’s behind it.”

Gaddie and Risk bring different life experiences and personalities to the store, turning over customers to each other when things just don’t click.

“If you’re not clicking with that person, you’re not going to care what they show you,” Gaddie says.

Gaddie is the comic relief. He even jokingly says people call him “Derrick the Great”. He works well with couples, using banter to build a relationship with them. He’s the more relaxed of the two, wearing a dressy navy shirt and pants, orange tie, glasses and brown shoes with blue and green striped socks peaking out.

Risk, who is wearing a black suit jacket and red tie, knows how to explain the details, and works well with individuals.

“We can literally fit what anybody needs,” Risk says. “It’s not that we don’t have what they need. It’s whether or not they’re clicking with the person talking to them.”

He likes the job for the people, and the stories that come with them.

Risk once had a woman visit the store who recently had a stroke. She had always wanted a pair of diamond earrings, and said life was simply too short to not buy them. So Risk was able to help her out, fulfilling her small but meaningful dream.

He’s had his fair share of “important customers,” from Mick Jagger’s daughter, to the boyfriend of his friend, whom he helped pick out an engagement ring for. And then there’s been the regulars who convince their whole family to shop at Andrews Jewelers

His favorite are the guys like him who are about to get married.

“A lot of the young guys that come in, I click with them because I’m in the same boat,” Risk says. “You have the guys who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. You sit them down and talk about their girlfriends. The guys know in general what the girls want, they just don’t know that they know.”

Both Gaddie and Risk value marriage. They don’t feel like they’re at a disadvantage because they’re still bachelors. Both can see themselves getting married, Even Gaddie – who when asked if he was in a relationship, said he has “lots of friends.”

Risk doesn’t think marriage will be easy, even just working at the jewelry store has shown him that. But that’s one of the beautiful parts of it, for him.

“Diamonds are the stone that represents engagements and weddings,” Risk says. “It’s one of the hardest and most beautiful stones, but it’s created under serious amount of pressure. I like to think of that like marriage. Marriage is beautiful but it’s because it’s something that can be difficult; It’s something that you’ve got to put a lot of time and patience into, but once you do, it becomes strong and beautiful.”

And Risk has put a lot of time and patience into his own relationship. For their first date, Risk rented a car and drove from Bloomington to Indianapolis to see Buckingham. After the date she told him she just didn’t feel a connection. Still, with a little help from Buckingham’s roommates, they eventually started dating.

Though he doesn’t have a set date or even plan, he know he wants to propose at Indiana University. And he knows he’ll give her the white gold diamond ring he picked out himself from Andrews Jewelers


Mary Katherine Wildeman — Indiana University

As a gaggle of teenage cheerleaders, all in red, white and blue uniforms with buns secured in tight knots on the top of their heads, passed the specialty shop he manages in the Circle Centre Mall, Michael Griffith sighed.

“See, this is the kind of clientele that you get,” he lamented.

They always browse, but never buy.

The teenagers who populate the mall rarely have money to spend on the sort of high-end products Griffith sells in his shop. He requested the name of the store not be published because his views don’t necessarily represent those of the company he works for.

Griffith needs serious shoppers who don’t mind spending money for high quality. Unfortunately, he can’t count on those people coming to Circle Centre without other upscale stores, like Nordstrom and Coach, both of which left the mall in recent years, to attract them.

Griffith was not the only store manager to vent his frustration. Others also complained about a lack of high-end stores, the building’s lackluster interior and rising crime inside Circle Centre and the downtown area.

Mall manager Simon Property Group announced in late September plans to spend $20 million on renovations. Money would be funneled into a new entrance, a paint job, fresh lighting and refurbished common areas, among other updates, according to an earlier IndyStar report.

But managers working inside the mall worry that revamping the mall’s image won’t be enough to cure faltering traffic and low sales.

“It’s getting a little chintzy and cheap,” Griffith said.

Myriad of problems

In an interview with the IndyStar, David Contis, president of U.S. malls for Simon, admitted that the Circle Centre Mall had lost its luster. The mall has struggled to fill its retail space — its occupancy rate hovered at about 90 percent in 2014.

A Nordstrom departure from the mall in 2011 not only left 777,000 square feet of leasable space open, but was also a loss that other retailers said has affected their own business.

Nathan Jones, general manager for Teavana’s downtown Indianapolis shop, said losses like Nordstrom and Coach have meant Circle Centre is no longer a destination mall.

Circle Centre is lacking in some of the most popular types of stores, too. Saria Ortiz, manager of The Perfume Company, doesn’t know what to tell customers who ask where they can find a nice makeup store.

There is no Sephora in the mall, nor an Apple Store — two retailers Ortiz thinks could improve her own business by attracting more mall-goers.

Jones agreed that Circle Centre is in need of updating. The building lacks color and brightness, he said. But he doubts that such updates will help his tea shop bring in the customers it needs. Simon’s talks of adding apartments or condos to the building have also left him concerned.

Jones is doubtful that new housing inside the mall would help his business. There are plenty of luxury apartments downtown, but Jones hardly ever sees that kind of shopper. The reality is that there are no luxury stores for them to spend their money, he said.

“I’m not entirely sure what that’s going to do for us,” Jones said. “It will help Simon’s pockets, not mine.”

Crime inside the mall

Ortiz said crime has been a factor in driving businesses away from Circle Centre. On one occasion, a homeless man came inside her store and started spraying perfume everywhere. Ortiz had to call security.

Sometimes, areas of the mall are so crowded with security officers and unruly teenagers that it’s hard to navigate one’s way out of the building, Ortiz added.

Griffith always sees officers escorting teenagers down a nearby escalator in handcuffs. He recalled an incident when a girl — it seemed to Griffith she was high on drugs — flailed on the ground in handcuffs as officers tried to arrest her.

“It detracts from the class that could be at the mall,” he said.

Griffith is frustrated with the ‘teeny-boppers’ that come to the mall on weekends without their parents and “raise holy hell.” Security officers do their best to keep those teenagers under control, but Griffith said their misbehavior makes for an uninviting atmosphere.

He worries that some of his customers see the chaos and decide to leave.

Still, he doesn’t know if Simon can do much to change the situation. It’s just a reality of running a store in downtown Indianapolis, he said.

Falling traffic

Teavana’s atmosphere is welcoming: all earthtone packaging, warm lighting and health products. But on a chilly Saturday morning, only two people, a pair of women who didn’t end up buying anything, trickled inside.

Teavana’s traffic at its Circle Centre location has fallen year by year, Jones said. He recently counted an average of 120 customers inside the shop per week, about 30 fewer than last year.

While Teavana’s other two locations at the Fashion Mall at Keystone and Castleton Square Mall have struggled with traffic and sales, business is better in the northern Indianapolis locations than at Jones’ shop.

He and other store managers remember how when Circle Centre first opened, people would go out of their way to come downtown for the higher-end stores.

“Circle center used to be posh,” Griffith said. “And now it’s … eh.”

The only additions Griffith has seen lately are convenience stores, kiosks and other pop-up shops. And nobody will travel downtown for that kind of store, he said.

The location where The Perfume Company operates now used to be a Nine West store, Ortiz said. After Nine West left, the perfume shop moved downstairs into the better location. Despite the move, Ortiz said the store’s traffic is still falling.

“It’s less and less every day,” she said.

Many store owners and managers have complained about falling traffic and suffering sales, Ortiz added. They worry that Simon’s efforts are misdirected. Condos, schools and ‘mom and pop’ shops are not likely to bring more foot traffic to the mall, managers said.

Jones would like to see Simon direct its efforts toward bringing in the sort of stores people would go out of their way to visit. But he doesn’t have high hopes.

“I almost think it’s too far gone,” he said.

1st Place: Samantha Schmidt – Indiana University

Agustin Arreola climbed the two-story ladder as he lay on a first coat of Tuscany-orange paint.

The once grandiose historical house at 1468 New Jersey St. hasn’t been painted in about 30 years. Arreola takes out a photo of the house during its prime, with its bright red and blue siding and intricate Victorian-style entrance.

He called today’s version the “Haunted House.” It looked like it could have been abandoned for years, but its owners simply never wanted to invest the time and money to repaint it. Arreola and his brother, Benjamin, were here to give it new life.

“It’s just brush and roll,” 30-year-old Agustin Arreola said. “Brush and roll.”

Benjamin Arreola, 31, wearing a black paint-spattered hooded sweatshirt, is prepping the outer rim of the wall to paint it a dark shade of brown.

“Ey, Flaco, do you need this?” Agustin “Tito” Arreola calls down to his brother, passing him a scraper. When they were younger, their dad gave them their nicknames, Flaco and Tito, and they have stuck ever since.

They had been pressure washing, scraping and replacing the deteriorated wood since early Saturday morning. With fallen leaves on the ground, and the wind chill bringing the temperatures down to the 30s, winter seemed inevitably near. They had to make sure they were saving up money, Agustin Arreola said. The cold season was coming, and jobs could be sparse.

He thinks back to Mexico, where cold weather was never a concern, where the food tasted better and where his family was always near.

Benjamin Arreola thinks about mother, working her store back in Michoacán, Mexico selling pillows and blankets. It’s been 14 years since he last saw her.

Maybe this will be the year, he thought. Maybe this project, this house, will get them one step closer to seeing her again.

Agustin Arreolla was 17 years old when he decided to leave Michoacán. He had one year left of high school, but he knew that finding a job would be impossible. His mother’s house was in bad shape, and he wanted to help her have a better life.

With the help of a Coyote, he crossed the border and made his way to Chicago, working at a pizzeria for six years, where his brother later joined him. But the high crime and low wages in Chicago made him look somewhere new, and he came across Indianapolis. Everything was cheaper here, he said, from gas to taxes to housing.

He knew the construction business paid well, and he knew he was good at it – he and his brother would help paint gas stations for extra cash back in Mexico. He decided to start seeking out contractors and projects, and he’s been in the business ever since.

“I painted like six houses here,” Agustin Arreolla said about the Old NorthSide neighborhood. “That house over there, another house on this block. It’s a lot of old people.”

More than a decade later, his mother in Mexico now lives in a renovated two-story house with the help of her son’s wages, and Agustin rents a three-bedroom house on the East Side with a yard and even a swing-set for his two kids. But it’s nothing like the million-dollar houses he renovates – one time he even painted the house of a woman who worked for the president, he said.

“It would take a lot of work to afford a place like that,” he said.

The job can pay well, at least $15 an hour, but only as long as he gets paid, Agustin said.

He’s taken contractors to court twice for wage theft, and many of his friends can say the same, he said. The first time, three years ago, a contractor robbed him of his $5,000 payment for a project. Agustin Arreola tried to take the man to court, and lost, he said. A few years later, it happened again, this time after a month-long painting job for a house on Meridian St.

When the contractor lost his case in court, he claimed bankruptcy, and was forced to pay Arreola his dues in equipment and machinery.

“It’s not the same when you need the money,” Agustin Arreola said.

Sometimes it’s just not fair the way workers like him are treated sometimes, he said. Immigrants like him keep the construction business going, with their experience and fast work ethic. But as more Mexican immigrants enter the construction business, the value of their work lowers, and wages lower. But then why do contractors keep taking the money he worked to earn?

He works from one project to the next always looking for his next option, and his next source of income.

He’s traveled as far as Michigan, Chicago, North Carolina and Kentucky for months-long projects.

“Sometimes it’s very, very difficult,” Arreola said “I have to be always positive. Like the Americans say, ‘Just keep going.’”

Each time he’s had something taken from him, each day that he misses his family and his home, he keeps moving “adelante,” he said, forward.

Agustin Arreola has never broken the law, yet he’s been stopped six times while driving routine checks for documentation. He sometimes hates the police, and the way he often feels targeted for being Mexican. But about a year ago, instead of calling out his undocumented status, the police gave him a chance to stay for good.

Late one night last year, a man showed up at Agustin Arreola’s door with a gun in his hand, attempting to rob his apartment, where he lived at the time. He recognized him from around the area – the man had once asked him for a reference for a construction job.

But Agustin Arreola knew he was caught up with the wrong crowd.

He called the police, and testified in court, helping put the robber behind bars.

But the man’s gang still knew where Agustin Arreola lived. In the days after the court trial, a group of men went back to Agustin Arreola’s house, shattering the glass of his car windows.

Arreola had put his family in even more danger than before the robbery – was it even worth it to testify?

Soon after, he learned about the U visa – a visa set aside for undocumented immigrants who have helped law enforcement in the investigation of criminal activity.

Agustin Arreola would get a chance to finally be a documented resident. He would no longer have to drive in fear of being caught without his papers. Most of all, his papers would help him start his own contracting business, where he could hire his brother and other Mexican workers like him.

Maybe this year he can finally own his own house – a place he can fix up for himself.

The tattoo on his left wrist, under an image of hands locked in prayer, shows the name of his daughter Leslie, and his wife Odeth.

“More than anything it’s for my kids,” Agustin said. “To leave them something.”

And if his business goes well, then maybe, just maybe, he and his brother can pay for his parents to come stay with them in Indianapolis.

“It will be something,” Benjamin Arreola says, smiling. He thought about seeing his parents for the first time in 14 years. “I don’t have any way to describe it.”


2nd Place: Michael Majchrowicz – Indiana University

Now that the panic comes in bursts, the struggling artist said she can’t sleep anymore.

With all the conviction she can muster, hands clenched and eyes shut tight as the tears trickle behind her glasses, she is trying to explain her next series of paintings.

One of them will portray a family at dinner, Pamela Bliss said. Except, instead of people gathered to enjoy a carefully prepared meal, there will be blood. Blood on the plates. Blood on the table.

“Gruesome,” Bliss said. “It will look like a Holocaust.”

Bliss, 55, needs a new outlet. She travels across central Indiana, working as a mural artist. Not knowing where her job will take her week to week, a sleeping bag usually rests next to the weathered paint supplies in the back of her ruby-red minivan.

Her works – like the 38-foot-high Kurt Vonnegut mural on Massachusetts Avenue – adorn large brick buildings downtown. But she wants her art to carry more meaning. Something she can stand behind.

Along with the “Holocaust” painting, Bliss imagines a portrait she’d conjure on Photoshop. She envisions a restaurant menu – adorned with food options such as “puppy pot pie” and “kitty kabobs.” She might even include hamsters and moneys. Maybe, just maybe, Bliss said, the added shock value will get her point across.

“People who say they’re animal lovers, and they still eat them – that really pisses me off,” she said. “You’re not an animal lover if there’s an animal on your plate.”

Bliss first considered a vegan lifestyle 30 years ago. It was at the dinner table when a sudden sense of euphoria washed over her in a sort of wave. She looked at the hamburger she was grasping and then to her three dogs, two Spaniels and a Sheppard – Kilo, Cain and Yoyo.

Here were these three animals she loved dearly sitting beneath her, she said, and another animal she was about to consume.

“I started thinking outside of myself,” Bliss said. “(People) are savage.”

Bliss lives alone in a modest apartment along 14th Street tucked away inside a portion of the historic Old Northside district. Family gatherings – Christmas, Thanksgiving and even family reunions – are a thing of the past.

Years of relatives waging wars at the dinner table took its toll. Her devoutly religious extended family was never supportive of her lifestyle or advocacy efforts.

Now, she said, “I want it my way.”

Bliss’ involvement with the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance has largely served as a source for her recent inspiration. Next month, she’ll participate in a protest with the group outside the Ringling Brothers Circus at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. With a gathering of about 300 others, Bliss said, the group will don graphic posters of bound baby elephants and other pain-inflicted animals.

If history is any indication of how circus patrons will react, mothers will avert their children’s eyes and ears. Others will try to avoid Bliss and the protest entirely, she said.

“I get vocal,” Bliss said, adding that it’s the children she has the best bet of inspiring a lasting impression.

In the meantime, as Bliss prepares to set a plan for her new portrait series into motion, she continues with her mural work.

She said there are plans to sell her new works and feature it in a gallery and imagines the exhibit would go live sometime in the spring. A portion of the proceeds would benefit various animal rights groups.

At night now, Bliss jolts awake to racing thoughts of mistreated animals in steel cages and factory farms. Panicked and nauseated, she sits in bed, alone with her thoughts. That very feeling, Bliss said, brings her back to a time when she was in a department store the day after Thanksgiving about 30 years ago. Her then 3-year-old was swept away by the racing crowd.

She recovered her daughter from the crowd all those years ago, but Bliss said it’s that recurring gut-wrenching sensation, imagining all of those animals, that keep her awake.


3rd Place: Ryan Howe – Ball State University

Gayle and Tom Fisher in their front yard as their white haired golden retriever, Whiskey River, sniffed around for somewhere to pee. Draped in long winter coats and sporting earmuffs, the couple was walking their routine route.

Every morning they start just below East 16th Street making their way south on Park Avenue. When they reach East 12th Street they cross the street and walk up the opposite side of the road towards their home.

“We’ve been walking this street since we moved in 12 years ago,” Gayle Fisher said. “It’s really allowed us to meet so many great people along Park Ave.”

As they waited for Whiskey River to finish her business, Tom Fisher waved across the street to Peter Michael, and wished him good morning as Michael walked up to his green and pink home.

Michael bought the green and pink Victorian style house in 1992. He was riding his bike down Park Avenue when he noticed the dilapidated house and thought to himself, “I can fix this place up.”

He was in over his head.

“I always say ‘if you’re thinking of renovating an old home, I can talk you out of it,’” he said as he flipped through a photo album with pictures of him, his sister, his wife and his parents renovating.

Sitting on a floral couch in front of an unlit fireplace, he examined the picture of his run-down home before his family started construction. In 1994, there were few renovation projects taking place in the neighborhood. The crime rate was high, and the land was cheap, Michael said.

But for 22 years, Michael has refused to move off of Park Avenue. He continues adding to his house, reapplying paint and posting up new wallpaper. He has watched the neighborhood transform into a diverse area of students, retirees and young families starting their lives.

“It wasn’t all at once, it was very gradual,” he said. “It’s weird to sit back and think “when did this happen?” Michael said.

After Whiskey River sniffed through the yard enough the Fishers headed down Park Avenue. A block down, they stopped at a two story brick home without a porch. To the right of the front door was an engraved plate reading “Strain 2004.”

“Cheryl and Jim Strain have some really marvelous dinner parties,” Gayle Fisher said pointing towards the front door.

In 2001, Cheryl and Jim Strain bought the empty lot of land at 1434 N. Park Ave. Their children had moved away to college, and they wanted to be in an urban area. They wanted to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, as they are avid walkers themselves.

The couple searched, and eventually landed on the property on the North Park Avenue. They designed their house with a few architects and started building.

But before they started construction, the Strain’s, and their childrencelebrated the 4th of July on the vacant slab of land. They brought a table, and all the ingredients to have a lavish picnic.

“But a thunderstorm started to roll in,” Gayle Strain said.

Almost immediately, neighbors from the across the street and next door offered shelter to the Strains. They declined. But about twenty minutes later, as the thunder grew tumultuous, an elderly man from across the street marched over, picked up their picnic table and carried it into his house. The Strain’s picnic was forcibly relocated out of the storm.

“That was the sign that this neighborhood was perfect for us,” Gayle Strain said laughing to herself.

Since then the couple has made an effort to invite their neighbors to cookouts, and their annual caroling event in December, where they clear out the front part of their house, put a piano in the corner and invite hundreds of people to come and sing Christmas songs as Jim Strain plays the piano.

“We’ve never attended the caroling event,” Tom Fisher said as Whiskey River circled him wrapping her leash around his knees.

The Fisher’s continued their walk past the assortment of colorful houses lining the west side of Park Avenue. Once they passed 13th Street, Gayle Fisher waved to a man standing in front of his sky blue house.

Despite the cold weather, Kelly Pardekooper was wearing a short sleeve shirt as he raked the crunchy, yellow and brown leaves that littered his lawn. His wife was working and he was trying to keep himself busy.

Pardekooper and his wife bought the blue house on Park Avenue two and a half years ago, and started renovating. They relocated from Los Angeles when his wife was offered a job as a spine surgeon at Riley Hospital. They wanted to live downtown, and found the Historic Old Northside a perfect fit.

Pardekooper took a job in the sales department at NUVO Newsweekly. But most of his income comes from his music.

He has had a few songs featured on numerous television shows such as “Sons of Anarchy” and “True Blood.”

“There’s probably a song of mine playing right now on some obscure cop show,” Pardekooper said as he picked leafs out of the teeth of his rake.

Pardekooper and his wife are some of the newest home owners on Park Avenue. For the first year and a half they focused their attention to tearing down the Victorian wallpaper, painting the walls, fixing the electricity and working on the plumbing. Now they are building a garage for their cars.

“It’s most likely going to be the same color blue,” Pardekooper said. “We have to keep up with the neighbors.”

The Fishers maneuvered a U-turn just past Pardekoopers house, and started walking north on the east side of Park Avenue. They occasionally let Whiskey River stop and sniff out a tree, or pick up a branch from a yard, but their pace quickened on the way back. A product of the cold weather.

As they passed a small garden on the 1400 block, they noticed a car with the window busted out.

“There are petty crimes in the area, but nothing major,” Tom Fisher said. “I dare someone to find a better neighborhood than this. It’s impossible.”

First Place:

Keeping rhythm
Disc jockey wrestles with changing industry after 30 years in music

By Michael Auslen, Indiana University

By mile 25, runners drag their feet, plodding down Meridian Street. One foot in front of the other.

A few yards off the side of the road, Dennis Dye dances, pointing both index fingers up in the air to Leo Sayer’s 1974 song “Long Tall Glasses,” one of his favorites to play.

“Dennis Dye. Dennis Dye, the DJ guy,” he says when he introduces himself to strangers.

From behind his Denon mixer, four JBL speakers and two bass amps, he’s the soundtrack of this leg of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon: the last push to the finish line 11 blocks away.

“You just gotta play stuff that’ll keep ‘em running, keep ‘em pumped up,” he says. “Maybe I can keep ‘em standing up ‘til they get to the finish.”

Queen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Psy, Leo Sayer. His repertoire spans generations, right up to the most recent hits. Every 10 minutes or so, he plays “What Does the Fox Say?” a song by Norwegian band Ylvis that topped the charts in the last month.

“This is one of the hot songs right now,” he says.

With his audience constantly changing as new runners make it to his spot just off the sidewalk in front of the Scottish Rite Cathedral on Saturday, he says he can get away with playing the same songs over and over again.

“Get ready for the Fox again,” he says, watching two women run past his station. “I bet these girls are gonna react to it.”

Keeping up with changing taste is one of many on a long list of challenges Dennis, a 30-year veteran of the music industry, faces. Today, he says, anyone with an iPod and a couple of speakers can claim to be a DJ, and he finds himself trying to attract clients in new ways and remain relevant to every age group.

“You really gotta mix it up. A lot of young guys mess that up,” he says. “You’re only as good as your last job.”

At 63, Dennis doesn’t much resemble the auburn-haired man pictured on his website and promotional materials.

“I’m getting older, graying,” he says. “I’ll be 64 in April, but I don’t feel 64. The music doesn’t throw me.”

Dressed in a baggy, gray Indianapolis Colts sweatshirt, a blue Colts hat and black sweatpants, Dennis dances, trying to excite the weary runners and walkers. Shrugging his shoulders up and down with the music, he points to individual racers, inviting them to interact if just for the moment they’re passing his table.

One woman counters his gray-mustachioed smile with a thumbs-up. “Good music,” she mouths.

He sees himself as a dying breed in his industry. When he started in the business, he took records and a set of turntables – a “coffin,” they called it – with him to every gig. In 2013, he can do it all off a laptop computer, although he still uses his mixer from time to time.

At the marathon, a stack of CDs and a mixer with two disc drives let him play songs back to back. One’s always loaded with the themes from the Olympics and “Chariots of Fire.”

“I hate dead air,” he says.

Dennis calls himself a musician. He played his way through high school and college and into the ’80s. He’s played on stages and airwaves and the side of the road. At the marathon, his table is up off the sidewalk so people won’t drunkenly fiddle with his equipment.

“Some people were born to run, other people were born to play music,” he says. “I guess I’m the second one.”

He’s been DJing since high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., and on the radio since his college days at the University of Tennessee. In 1979, he made his way up to Indianapolis, and in the ’80s, his band, Dennis Dye and the Sneakers, played supper clubs around the city.

He, three other men and two women wore tuxedos, cocktail dresses and sneakers on stage.

“We were one of the top club bands in Indianapolis for a few years there,” he says. “Back then, I had six people to worry about. This is better. All I have to worry about is Dennis.”

But worrying about Dennis is no easy task.

“To make a living out of it, to make enough, you’re spending as much time booking yourself as doing it,” he says. “I’ve probably seen it drop because I’m still trying to figure out today’s young bride. How is she doing things?”

He’s got a website and a Facebook page, although only 10 people have liked it, but his business was built with a marketing strategy that’s no longer relevant. He can’t secure the wedding contracts that make up half of his business through bridal shows and postcards in the mail anymore.

Last year, he got almost no business from the 2,000 cards he sent to soon-to-be brides.

“How do you get in the mind of a 20-year-old woman who’s getting married?” he wonders. “As reluctant as I am to get involved with Facebook and Twittering, if I’m going to continue to be successful at this, I’ve got to figure out how to do that.”

For each of his clients – he’s often booked six months out or longer – he likes to sit down and talk about the kind of entertainment they want, the kind of audience he’ll have. At the marathon, his focus is on songs that will pump runners up and make them dance. But at a wedding or class reunion, he knows people will want songs that are meaningful as well as fun.

“I’m tired of doing things over stupid wires and the Internet,” he says. “I want to sit down and have coffee and shake your hand.”

Younger DJs, often his competition, frustrate him. So do families who treat entertainment as a last resort for their weddings. It doesn’t take a DJ to push play on an iPod and let the music go, he says.

“You get what you pay for,” he says. “There’s an old saying, you’ve got to dance with the one that brung you.”

Three hours into the marathon, almost everyone passing Dennis walks.

“Come on, group, pick it up a little bit!” he yells over his music.

Three women pass wearing purple T-shirts and pink tutus. A group of men and women in fluorescent green shirts that read “Positive for Peggy” run by. A few hours ago, Dennis saw his lawyer.

“I tried to butter him up,” Dennis says. “I said, ‘You want to hear a request, just let me know.’”

At 11:15, a race organizer tells Dennis he’s going to have to shut down early, around noon. Some sort of graduation ceremony is supposed to take place in the Scottish Rite Cathedral, and Dennis’s music might be too loud.

“Who schedules a graduation on a Saturday in November?” he asks.

Within 15 minutes, she’s back, telling him the problem’s been resolved, and he can stay until 1:30. The visitors inside are enjoying the music.

“Everyone was talking about how great it was,” she tells him.

“That’s what you want to hear,” he says, turning his speakers away from the building and cranking up the volume.

Dennis doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. He’s thinking he might like Florida – good weather and lots of audiences that like older music – or he might go back to radio DJing, although he’s worried satellite radio has encroached enough on local stations that there won’t be many jobs.

For now, he’s sticking with his DJ business, and today that means blasting Ylvis and Queen and Leo Sayer.

“This is my kind of crowd,” Dennis says, looking out over Meridian Street. “Whoever’s coming by, if they don’t like what I’m playing, they move on by.”


Second Place:

By Evan Hoopfer

The special today is 50 cent wings and $5.50 pulled pork sliders.

Two men are sitting at the bar. They’re dining on buffalo wings while watching the first quarter of Penn State versus Illinois. They’re done with their meal, and hand their credit cards to the man behind the counter.

The bartender isn’t sure of how to use the machine.

“Sorry guys, I’m learning everyday,” Darryl Loyd, the owner of 36 East Pub and Grill says.

“It’s no problem man,” one customer responds.

Darryl conquers the machine, and gives the customers their receipts. He gives one of them a soda to go. They leave out the door to his right. Now he’s the only one in the pub.

He’s trying a new endeavor. The former math teacher, house flipper and 25-year marine veteran is trying his hand in the restaurant business.

In this line of work, he needs thick skin. His place just opened up, on Sept. 19 of this year, in a building that had five restaurants fail before he bought it.

“I’m a black man who opened up an Irish pub,” Darryl laughed. “You have to have thick skin for that.”

He has awards. But he doesn’t know where they are.

“They’re somewhere in Memphis,” he said, waving in the southern direction.

He values his military awards, but he has left that part of his life behind.

“It was my job,” he said. “It’s not who I am.”

During his 25 years of being a marine, he achieved Master Sergeant ranking. There are nine rankings, and he made it to the second highest. The highest was Master Gunnery Sergeant – something he didn’t want.

“My exit strategy didn’t allow for that,” he said. “I knew when I wanted to be out.”

He said he has an exit strategy for everything. For the restaurant, his timetable is 15 months to see significant progress before he tries something else.

His military background gives him another edge of something didn’t have. Something the previous five restaurants that failed didn’t have.

“I don’t get mad,” he said. “When I get mad, that’s the end of the road.”

Even when he fired employees for stealing from his restaurant, he didn’t get mad.

“It’s probably a flaw,” he added.

During his time in the military, he had conversations that he has now in civilian life. Politics, religion, race, the usual talking points. But people can’t handle those conversations well now.

“It’s hard to have a conversation now,” he said. “People don’t respect each other’s point of views.”

When he was 17, his parents gave him permission to enter the military. His dad was in the navy, and his two older brothers were Vietnam veterans.

Now, Darryl is 42. Or so he said at first.

“I took four years off for good behavior,” he laughed. “I’m actually 46.”

His barber, William Hogg, has seen restaurants come and go. He thinks Darryl has a better chance of making it then the pizza place, the steak place and the other restaurants before him.

“I really believe Darryl has brought a new twist to it,” he said of the Irish pub.

Plus, his attention to detail is exceptional, William said. The doors were ready to open for business, but the sign hadn’t come in yet. Darryl refused to open up the doors until the sign came in.

“He wanted people to know where they were eating,” William said.

Darryl has never married or had kids. He didn’t want to drag a family around the country every three years.

“Maybe that’s my excuse,” he said. “Or maybe I just didn’t meet her.”

The one thing he did have was Laura. When she died, that was the worst one.

Six of Darryl’s brothers and sisters have died in the last six years.

“Natural causes,” he said.

Heart attacks, cancer and other illnesses have taken his family. Darryl, the 11th of 12 siblings, said it’s tough.

“It’s a lot of death in a short amount of time,” he said.

But the toughest one was Laura.

She was the oldest. The one Darryl looked up to most. The one that always helped him out with new business ideas.

She was in the hospital for a few months, and then passed away about a month and a half ago. Darryl doesn’t remember the exact day.

“I just kinda blocked it out,” he said.

His loss coincided with his latest gain, the opening of his restaurant. He got to talk about his newest career with Laura before she passed, when she was in the hospital bed.

The passing made him tougher. He credited all the death in his family to his mental strength. That coupled with his military experience made him stronger, ready to endure the challenges of opening a new business in a building “that some people have a jinx on it,” he said.

But Laura? That just hurt.

“You know, I’ve been through death so many times,” he stops. His eyes welled up. He put his hand over his mouth, and looked down at the ground.

“But that was tough.”

It’s still just Darryl in his restaurant. Bottles of Bacardi, Malibu, Jack Daniels, Maker’s 46, Jim Bean, Red Stag and a hundred other liquors are behind him.

The Penn State/Illinois game is still on, the volume much too loud for there to be one person in the building. If there were more people, the TV could just be part of the chattering drone. But the empty chairs and tables echo the noise even louder.

While he’s waiting for customers, he enjoys some of his own buffalo wings. In the military, he used to operate a door gun on a helicopter. Now he operates the fountain gun, refilling his glass with Coca Cola.

He looks to his right often, towards the open door where nobody is coming in.

“Mentally things don’t bother me the way they did for most people,” he says. He has the military to thank for that.

For some of his business ideas, he has Laura to thank. But he’s still waiting for the next chapter of his life to fulfill.

He keeps looking to his right.


Third Place:

By Jessica Contrera

Maybe if he hadn’t seen them zipping up the plastic body bag. Maybe if the killer had been brought to justice. Maybe if he hadn’t heard the voicemail – the one with his son screaming “Why me? Why me?” – then maybe, James Duncan wouldn’t be so angry.

But here he was, in the emergency room of the VA Medical Center, drunk off Jim Beam again, and saying to the nurse:

“I want a lethal injection.”

James is one of about 50 veterans living in the Indianapolis Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program.

Located on N. Pennsylvania Street across from the American Legion Mall, the domiciliary is one of the only places in the city where homeless men who have served in the military can go for help they say “actually works.” Most have problems far beyond not having a place to sleep. Alcoholism, drug abuse and mental disorders are the norm.

But in a way, they’re the lucky ones. Twelve percent of all homeless people in Indiana – 743 men and women at the last count – are veterans, according to the state’s Housing and Community Development Authority.

James, who served eight years in the Army in his early 20s, found his way into the Domiciliary after his cry for help in the emergency room last April.

In a few weeks, he’ll be released into the world he has spent seven months escaping. It’s only because of the help of those in the Domiciliary, he says, that he’ll be leaving alive.

2008 was already a bad year for James Duncan’s family. Both of his parents had died, one in January, one in July. The third phone call came in September. The 24th, a Tuesday, at 1:30 a.m., to be exact, because he remembers it as if it was yesterday.

“Michael’s been shot. Michael’s been shot, he’s dead, he’s dead,” James’ ex-wife was saying on the phone. Their third child. Only 25 years old. In a blur he followed her directions to the corner of 38thStreet and Whittier Place, not far from his home in Lawrence.

The scene was crammed with people – his family, the police, partygoers who had just stepped out of the house that Michael was in minutes before he died. No one would let James past the yellow caution tape that roped off half the block.

But he could still see his son, lying on his side in the grass, a denim jacket opened enough to expose a t-shirt soaked in blood. Michael had been shot seven times.

Later James would find out that Michael had bragged to friends about having $1,080 from selling designer purses that day. The money was in his pocket. Then there was a fight between Michael and one of the friends, something about a girl, or a car, or something, it didn’t really matter, James said.

Michael stormed out of the party, furious. The friend he had been fighting with called someone else to come “settle” the dispute. He mentioned that Michael had more than $1,000 in his jeans.

Michael made it only a few blocks before a car came racing around the corner and screeched to a stop. The man who the friend had called stepped out, pointed his 9 millimeter handgun at James’s stomach and shot. He took the money and drove off.

Michael made two calls as he was dying. One to his girlfriend, one to his mom, who didn’t pick up. His words were punctuated with moans and screams.

“Momma, I been shot, they were my friends, why me? Why me?”

The police found out who the killer was, but never found him. A few months later, the man was killed in a car accident.

To James, it didn’t fix a thing.

Whisky didn’t help much either, but in the years after Michaels death, it was all James had. Sometimes he drank more than half a gallon every day.

Jim Beam, or the cheap stuff, as long as it burned, he drank it. The sting was soothing, as if it could burn away what he was feeling inside.

“Being a father I tried to fix all his problems and here’s a problem, I can’t fix. Nobody can fix,” he said.

Sleep would take away the pain at times. James would dream that Michael was calling him to wish him a happy Father’s Day or remind him about his birthday. Sometimes he would hear Michael’s laugh – the one that coukd make his whole chubby body jiggle – and then, James would be awake. He would crawled out of bed and open another bottle.

Eventually, James lost his job. Then his apartment. He stayed with friends and family members until they got too fed up. His beat-up Chevy Malibu became his home.

On April 3rd of this year, he spent the morning drunk on the Falls Creek hiking trail, the voicemail running through his mind for what must have been the thousandth time. It was too much.

He drove his car to the house of his second son.

“Don’t you need this anymore?” his son asked.

“Don’t you worry about me,” James said.

For 10 miles he walked, not sure where to go.

He passed Grace Memorial Missionary Baptist church, where he used to take Michael every Sunday. He passed parks where Michael used to play outside. Once the boy brought home 14 frogs and named every one of them.

All James wanted was to be with Michael again.

That’s when he saw the hospital he had been going to ever since he was discharged from the Army in the 80s. They would do it for him, he thought.

He asked for the lethal injection three times before they gave him the medicine that would calm him enough to sleep. Again, he dreamed of Michael.

After three weeks on the mental health floor, James was transferred to the Domiciliary, a four-floor building that was once a YMCA. A laminated sheet of paper at the front door read: “This building is drug and alcohol free.”

He hoped he wouldn’t have to worry about that again.

Another sign, this one in the small cafeteria read: “It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help.”

That part was even harder than not having whiskey.

But eventually, James said, he realized that accepting and talking about what he had been through was the only way to get better. He made friends, set goals with his social worker and attended AA meetings. Last month, he got a job in the linen room of the VA Medical Center. He works four day a week, eight hours a day. He never drinks.

The Domiciliary staff has decided that soon James will be ready to move on. They’ve found a place for him to live at Washington Pointe Apartments, where his rent will only cost him 30 percent of his VA wages.

Next weekend, he’ll use the money he has made so far to buy a bed for this new place.

James knows he’ll have dreams about Michael in that bed. He knows that the Kroger down the road sells whiskey. He knows that his anger could come back.

“But really, I’m not so worried anymore,” he says. “Each day is a day for recovery. And I’m not ready to die.”

First Place: Katie Mettler, Indiana University

Joel Munger is a pastry chef, a Taekwondo master, a brother and a boyfriend.

He is also homeless.

Since a violent mugging in 2005 that caused him severe brain trauma, Joel’s life has been a series of landmarks: Family Dollar, Joe’s Cycles, Roberts Park United Methodist Church, and Fountain Square’s bright blue namesake.

He uses them to remember.

When you’ve been hit over the head by a concrete brick, recollection isn’t always easy. Neither is navigation.

At 52, Joel navigates life the best he can, usually atop his charcoal and yellow USA Murray bicycle. He got the bike from “Maureen the bike lady,” a woman from the Indianapolis Society of St. Vincent DePaul who gives bikes to those experiencing homelessness.

Usually Joel is cruising around town on his pride and joy, but not today.

Today he has a flat tire.

Walking beside his limping transportation, the thin, smiling, gentle man pondered how he was going to get the wheels turning again, both on his bike and in his mind.

The mugging was sometime in 2005, but his memory is still fuzzy. His phone didn’t have the credit and his mind didn’t have the time to find the answer.

Thus is the norm since that night.

Joel was walking to a friend’s house for dinner, an expensive ring on his finger and a couple hundred dollars in his pocket. The alley was dark, and Joel was unprepared.

The man approached him from behind, Joel said, hitting him over the head with a concrete block.

Losing his balance, Joel thought a quick prayer.

“Lord give me the strength of my father.”

His Taekwondo training kicked in, and he bounced up in the ready position.

Apparently his attacker wasn’t looking for a fight, and he fled.

Bleeding in excess, the then 45-year-old wandered on to his friend’s home, where they kept him awake all night for observation.

He never got stitches or a medical diagnosis. He couldn’t afford it, no insurance.

“If you go to a hospital, you better have a lot of money, insurance or both,” he said. “So that wasn’t going to happen.”

Since then he has struggled to hold a job. At the time of the attack, he was working in bakeries across the city and teaching Taekwondo. Once, he even worked as the pastry chef at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.

Now he can’t remember simple things, like important dates and names, let alone recipes and complex Taekwondo techniques.

His sister Elizabeth helped pay his rent for several years, until her husband succumb to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Joel told her he would be fine on his own.

But he wasn’t, and a little more than a year ago, he lost his home.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Raised Methodist with a deep spiritual background, Joel turned to Roberts Park United Methodist Church, 401 N. Delaware Street in downtown Indianapolis.

He moved from shelters to missions, and finally found a half-way house in Fountain Square.

Midtown Mental Health-First Home, 931 Woodlawn, Indianapolis, became his home.

As the season changes from fall to winter, Joel has hope for what comes next.

The election last Tuesday helped.

A fan of President Barack Obama’s, Joel was relieved when he woke up Wednesday to his face and not Mitt Romney’s on the front page of the Indianapolis Star.

He took notes in the months leading up to the election. He had to. He wanted to remember the candidates’ names when he entered the polling booth to cast his vote.

Joel is meticulous and thoughtful, both in actions and words.

“I should be able to answer simple questions and remember simple things,” he said. “But sometimes I just can’t, and it’s embarrassing.”

He sat on the back curb of First Home, blue rubber gloves covering his large knuckles and calloused palms, the only evidence of his Taekwondo life pre-2005. He disassembles the back tire of his Murray.

Pumping air into the leaky inter tube, he soaks in the warm rays of the mid-afternoon sun.

He waves to a member of the church band in the parking lot he cleans, next to the cold stone building where he lays his head at night.

As he speaks of his brain injury and the MRI that will tell him how to fix it, he pauses to investigate the tube.

“Oh, I think I got it,” he hesitates. “I did, hot dog!”

Little victories, he says.

“I ain’t about to give up, I’m not even going to give up on myself,” he says. “A lot of people are homeless because they’re knuckleheads. Those are pretty few are far between from what I understand.”

“No one can help you unless you give them the tools. Just like this bike, I couldn’t fix it unless somebody gave me the tools.”

And he rolled the bike across the lot, the wheels turning once again.


Second place: Victoria Ison, Ball State University

The Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis is undergoing some change. It’s been undergoing change for a while, actually.

Residents Denise Wilcox and James Stone were raised on Prospect Street. They still live there, in a house right next door to the one Stone grew up in.

“I’ve been everywhere,” Stone said, recalling service in the Army in Vietnam and months spent in Arizona and Colorado, among other states. “But I always come back home. I like always having my house to come back to.”

Stone and Wilcox remember a childhood where stepping outside meant stepping into a game of football or hide and seek with the neighborhood kids. They rode their bikes up and down the streets and smoked cigarettes on the steps of St. Patrick’s parish church, where their parents couldn’t see them.

Then Stone got drafted and Wilcox got married. He went to Vietnam; she moved to Florida. It was more than 30 years before the childhood friends met again. Both had been married, had children and lost spouses. They had a lot of catching up to do, but it wasn’t a tough transition back into knowing each other.

“She just came up behind me one day when I was out there on the sidewalk, grabbed my hand and said, ‘You fool, you’re coming with me,’” Stone said.

“No, I didn’t and you know it,” Wilcox protested, coming in from the kitchen and laughing at Stone. Then, sobering a little, she said, “We grew up together. It just felt right.”

Standing together, Stone and Wilcox fill most of the space in the living room of their home on 932 Woodlawn Ave. The width of the house is only about three arm spans across, and the inside has 70s-style wood paneling and more knick-knacks than will fit.

Stone admitted his home is no palace, but said he loves it anyway. The front yard is filled with birdfeeders, wind chimes and spotless garden gnomes – clear evidence of the time Stone spends caring for it.

He owns the house next door, too. That’s 934 Woodlawn Ave., where his mother and grandmother raised his five siblings and himself.

“I’ve got memories; of course I’ve got memories. I’ve been here all my life,” Stone said. “But who’s going to take care of it all when I die?”

That concern is a perhaps more pressing for Stone than it might be for the average 60-something. That’s because he’s battling cancer.

The disease is still in its early stages and Stone, who lost his mother last month to old age, doesn’t want to talk about it. There’s hope for recovery – enough so that he and Wilcox have started looking for other places to live.

It’s not that they don’t love Fountain Square – they’ve watched the neighborhood change over the years as it dealt with drug and crime problems and the construction of nearby 1-70 and the demolition of houses that accompanied that. They’ve seen businesses come and go and watched family and friends die or move away.

But it’s the current situation that has them worried.

“They’re trying to turn it into another Broad Ripple,” Wilcox said. “It’s not.”

“It’s changed so much now,” Stone added, looking up from the lottery ticket he was scratching and gazing almost forlornly out the window. “I can’t keep up with it.”

Little things bother Wilcox and Stone – little things such as how long the re-done stoplight at the intersection of Prospect and Virginia streets takes to change, or all the new shop owners who aren’t friendly to long-time residents. And the parking problems on their street – well, that’s not a little thing.

“There ain’t no places to park,” Stone said, still looking out the window, and glaring now, at the church across the street. “You can’t even have company on the weekends; the Spanish come and take every single space and they hit your cars and don’t even apologize for it.”

Stone used to attend St. Patrick’s Catholic parish. Over the years, however, the demographics of the church have changed.

“It’s not that they’re Hispanic,” Wilcox said. “There are plenty of nice Hispanics and it doesn’t have anything to do with race at all. It’s just that they’re rude, and they don’t leave any place to park.”

The two talk for a good ten minutes about the parking problems; it’s clearly a conversation they’ve had many times before. Stories about dent bumpers turn into stories about stolen license plates, which turn into stories about drunk and rescued pastors and other neighborhood adventures had over the years.

As much as Stone proclaims his bitterness and readiness to move on, Wilcox doesn’t seem ready to let him. Her parents, in the eighties now, still live down the street in the house she grew up in. They tell stories about the neighborhood how the neighborhood was in their parents’ time, and live in and alongside houses that were built in the nineteenth century.

Like it or not, their lives are built on stories. Leaning against the living room doorway with a lit cigarette in her hand, Wilcox shares one and its accompanying life lesson that her time away from Fountain Square taught her.

“Don’t make any long-range plans to live somewhere forever, because there may be somewhere you just fall in love with, you know?”


Third Place: Claire Wiseman, Indiana University

The sunshine house on Morris Street is not quite finished.

The porch is still a skeleton frame and the back stoop is an assembly of cinderblocks. On Saturday, the metal roofing materials were propped against a tree in the backyard.

Remodeler Adan Segura assembled a glass shower door in the backyard. “I’m behind like crazy,” Segura said.

But the siding was up, and it was yellow, and really more than yellow. It was egg-yolk or sunshine with red accents and white window frames. Next to its white and beige neighbors, it stands out.

“It’s bright,” owner Billie Jo Bishop said, leaning on the counter in her kitchen. “I say that it’s like having sunshine every day.”

She sees the house as a symbol of positive change. A chance to help revitalize Fountain Square and improve her family’s lifestyle.

Across the street, at the Family Dollar, cashier Penny Shepard begs to differ.

“We’re waiting for the double arches to get delivered,” Shepard said.

Bishop and her boyfriend Jeff Hinrich bought the house on a bank sale in May. They moved in six weeks ago. Before Morris Street, they lived near Lucas Oil Stadium, and before that, they were thoroughly suburban. Bishop wanted to get her daughter out of Brownsburg, Indiana.

“I had this grand idea that I would just give her different opportunities to see that the world was bigger than just suburbia,” Bishop said.

She stood in her newly-finished kitchen and handed the family’s golden-doodle, daisy, a treat to quiet her down. Fountain Square, Bishop said, gave the family exciting opportunities.

“It’s a different lifestyle. You think that out in suburbia that it’s a lower pace, a slower pace, but it’s not. It’s all about how do you compete with the Joneses, and in the city it’s about just be yourself and accept everyone else.”

They want to help the area’s revitalization. They eat locally, shop locally, and plan to cultivate a community garden in the vacant lot next door. They want families like theirs to move into the area.

“It’s not just a hipster place,” Bishop said. “Because I am far from hipster.”

But their “grandiose” plans for gentrification are not as sure as they were at the start.

Every time someone walks past and chuckles, she wonders.

She wonders: will the community resent their changes? Will they think the family is uppity?

They tease her about the “Ronald McDonald House,” but Bishop thinks it’s all in good fun.

Remodeling and decorating the house has allowed her to collect and combine and express many of the things she likes.

The walls are decorated with her daughter’s artwork. Upstairs, the craft room is almost ready for the projects that bounce around her head. And the house’s exterior fulfils a dream.

“I’ve always known that I wanted a yellow and white house,” Bishop said.

Despite their chosen siding, she insists the feedback has been thoroughly positive. Now, they just need the house to be finished.

“It’s about ‘how do we just change our lifestyle, get different experiences for our daughter, and that was our idea,” Bishop said. “Now we just, we have no idea what we’re doing now.”

She looked toward the back, where, hidden from view, Segura was installing the glass shower door.

“We have no idea.”

Across the street, the Family Dollar accepts Mastercard and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Stamps and Medicare and Medicaid and Visa.

At the cash register, Shepard rang 25 dollars worth of cleaning supplies and talked about the house across the street.

“Honestly, it’s ugly,” Shepard said. “It’s in a historic neighborhood and they took a historic house and turned it into that.”

Shepard’s said the family should have restored the hundred-year-old house to its former glory, rather than remodeling it. That’s what she would have done.

Shepard and her daughter had hoped to buy the house when it went up for bank sale. They’d even peeked in the windows, imagining the possibilities. But Bishop and Hinrich beat them to it.

So every time she goes in for a shift, and every time her daughter comes to visit, she’s faced with a glaring reminder of what could have been.

“I mean, that would be like me going to an ultra-modern neighborhood where they’ve got nothing but ultra-modern houses and building a Victorian,” Shepard said.

Customer Lisa Cox said she agreed. It’s an eyesore, she said.

“All of the other houses are dull and then all of a sudden, BAM, there’s the sun,” Cox said

A man wandered toward the cash register, large headphones resting around his neck.

“Howdy!” Shepard said.

“Robs..” he muttered, offering less than a word before wandering away toward the tinsel display.

“Yep,” she said. “That’s my neighborhood.”

The family hopes their house will be finished before the beginning of December. Segura is working against impending bad weather, and he knows Hinrichs and Bishop are getting frustrated with his slow pace.

Still, he said, he has to take the time to do it right. He likes this house. He even designed the siding.

“It’s something different, something nice,” Segura said. “This is kind of the only house around here that has this kind of design.”

He’s remodeled 16 houses in this neighborhood through his company MAS Remodeling Corp. He sees Fountain Square as the next Broadripple, or better, because of the people who are buying houses here.

Segura finished installing the shower door with the help of one of his employees. They cleaned up and stood outside, looking for the next project. They need to finish the deck, and the roof. And he’ll make the deck a nice, neutral gray.

“We already have a bright color on the house, whatever we put on next is gonna have to be soft tones, just to help” Segura said. “Otherwise, it’s gonna be too much.”

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