In honor of National Volunteer Week, Fishers celebrates the dedicated individuals who have donated their time and talent to our community with our 2021 City of Service Awards celebration. Winners for this award, Community Servant of the Year, were nominated by the community and selected by the Fishers City Council through a blind process.
Meet the winners through our blog posts this week, and check out our website to see all of the winners and nominees.
Meet Anitha & Vani Sharma, Community Servant of the Year Winners
This year’s Community Servant of the Year award is presented to Anitha and Vani Sharma. The sisters have volunteered for the past 10 years with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House and the Riley Cheer Guild.
The purpose of this award is to honor a Fishers resident who may not be affiliated with a group or organizations, but regularly conducted acts of kindness to serve the Fishers community and neighbors.
What motivates or inspires you to serve your community?
The sense of satisfaction and happiness we experience after seeing a smiling face after volunteering has been the strongest driver to serve. In addition, our parents have always encouraged us to serve and they support us physically, financially, and every way they can to make this happen.
What is your favorite part of serving?
We sisters have enjoyed every part of our service, from planning to execution, as well as experiencing the smiles and gratitude from people whom we serve. When so many people whom you do not know personally say “Thank you” or “God bless you,” that feeling is so wonderful.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of and feel made the biggest difference in the community?
No service activity is too big or small, but would like to share the story of how all this started. About 9 years ago, my older sister Anitha was hospitalized at the Riley Hospital for Children for a major brain surgery. This was a very difficult time for our family, and I spent over a month at the hospital while my sister was being treated. I ate with my family often at the Ronald McDonald house (RMH) within the hospital building since we had to stay close to my sister and could not go out to eat.
I saw first-hand how the volunteers at RMH prepared and served meals for the families at the hospital. After my sister was discharged, something within us wanted us to serve at RMH and as a family we decided to volunteer to provide meals at RMH every month. While our desire to help parents and family members residing at the hospital was inspired by our own experience, the joy we got out of giving back was wonderful and cannot be expressed.
With help from our friends and family, we have served meals to over 5000 families over the years. Since this service activity led us to other community service activities over the years, we are proud of this accomplishment and feel this had the biggest impact, overall.
How did COVID-19 impact your work?
When in-person meal service was prohibited during COVID-19, we worked with our friends to collect and deliver packed meals, restaurant gift cards, snacks, and groceries to stock pantries at RMH. Furthermore, we also made welcome bags for the RMH residents with amenities totaling over $2,000.
Also, my sister and I also used to play the flute and clarinet during meal service at RMH, but since the in-person music playing during meal service was not possible during this time at RMH and other senior living communities, we created a music video with help from my sister and friends that were played at the various institutions where we used to play live music. Residents of over 20 institutions were able to view this musical treat, and we also uploaded this music video onto social media for global reach.
We also organized a toy and book drive at my school for donations to the RMH at Riley Hospital and Riley Cheer Guild and planned zoom sessions to make and collect hand-made cards. We made over 650 get well and well wishes cards with our friends and donated them to the RMH, Jewish Pavilion, and senior living communities across the country.
How do you motivate others to become involved in your projects?
We have experienced that leading by example is always an easier way to get everyone involved in service, as people can see the impact of our work and are willing to volunteer.
What advice would you give someone looking to give back to their community?
We would say to not overthink service and get involved with what you are passionate in, as any act of kindness can make a big impact when done collectively by everyone.
What are your service goals for 2021?
This year, we are involved in making a difference for children around the globe by working with the Care for Children non-profit organization. We are organizing a virtual talent show and the proceeds from this virtual fundraising event will be used to educate underprivileged children around the world.
Cassidy Robertson is a former Community Engagement and PR Intern for the City of Fishers. She enjoys shopping and eating local in downtown Fishers, and in her spare time, she loves working on puzzles and reading a good book. She also enjoys playing with her three dogs and loves watching Fishers continue to develop both as an economic and social hub.