The STEP UP Vermilion County leadership group has announced a program to support local businesses, food and hygiene pantries along with offering mental health support.

The STEP UP Challenge runs through the end of May focusing on three areas:

1. Step Up and Round Up — Right now many local businesses are struggling to stay open. For many, this is their livelihood, and we love what their businesses bring to our community. Visit a local business and round up when you pay to show your support. This might be $1 or $2, or $200. Give what you can to show that you care.

2. Support Local Food and Hygiene Pantries — The cost of food is rising. Food pantries are serving hundreds of families each month and with unemployment rates and the bogged down IDES system, many are going without funds for several weeks or months. If you are able, pick up some extra food or hygiene products at the grocery store and take them to a local pantry in your area to help fill the gap.

3. Offer Mental Health Support — Many people are isolated and discouraged. Depression, anxiety, domestic violence, and suicide rates are on the rise. Do something to show that you care. Some examples include putting hearts in your windows, posting You Matter signs in your yard, schedule a Zoom call with someone you love, send cards to a local nursing home, etc. Do something to cheer up someone else.

“The goal of the project is to inspire others to help strengthen our communities during this unprecedented time,” said Deanna Witzel, in a press release. “We’re encouraging the public to take a picture when supporting local businesses and share it on social media. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.”

Once you have your picture, community members are encouraged to post it to their timeline on Facebook and tag STEP UP by using @StepUpVermilion in your post, and also use the hashtag #stepupchallenge. Inspire others to participate by telling your story.

The community group’s focuses include mental health, drug prevention and family parenting.

One more opportunity: even though the Vermilion County Fair is canceled, officials are still selling 50/50 tickets to support Step Up mental health initiatives. Tickets can be purchased at the link: https://www.vermilioncountyfair.org/shop.

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