Hops For Hospice on June 4 in Valpo – There’s No Better Reason For a Beer Festival

Hops For Hospice on June 4 in Valpo – There’s No Better Reason For a Beer Festival

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

There is no bad reason to have a beer festival, but some reasons are better than others. In addition to being community events that brings people together and highlight great Indiana craft producers so that people can seek out their taprooms and products, some events raise money for truly worthy causes.

Such is the case for the Hops for Hospice event at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso on June 4 from 12-4pm. This is a festival to benefit the VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana, a non-profit that provides end of life care for residents and so much more. Bob Franko, CEO of VNA Hospice NWI told me, “VNA Hospice celebrates its 52nd year in 2022 with our mission to “Make Best Days Possible.” We are one of the last nonprofit hospice providers in Northwest Indiana and have five service lines: hospice, palliative care, Meals On Wheels of Porter County, Medical Guardian life-alert system, and our Phoenix Center – a grief support program for kids.” He added, “All told we serve about 650 people a day across our service lines. We subsidize over $1.3M in care each year to our community through sliding fees for all services and charity care.”

image credit: VNA Hospice of NWI

The festival in Valpo is a major fundraiser for VNA Hospice NWI and brings together many local businesses and alcohol producers to help out. Bob said, “it is a fundraiser, but more importantly is that we see it as a ‘friendraiser.’ We have to educate a younger demographic on the value of the VNA and engage them to get involved with us. One thing I talk a lot about is “replacement value.” What if we had to replace the VNA Hospice and our five service lines in our community – it would take five new organizations, five new Boards, five new everything – whereas we have it all hear under a very streamlined package. We need to educate the younger demographic about not only the trusted services we provide so that they know who to contact when they may need to seek care for their parents and loved ones, but to get them excited about wanting to be a part of all of the great things we have going on here. This is a huge event for us to help them see all of that.”

A premier partner for the festival is Chesterton Brewery, who has brewed a collaboration beer with VNA Hospice that is already out, but a new version will be served for the first time at event. Bob said, “We did this to promote the We Honor Veterans program we do through our hospice and palliative care programs. We take veterans care very seriously and this beer helps us create awareness of it and the services we provide. We don’t get a nickel of the sales from it – it’s all about awareness for us. Best Days is available year-round at the brewery, a few local restaurants and in retailers. We are working on a still-to-be-named double version of the original recipe that will be debuted at the Hops for Hospice event in June. But the original Best Days Hazy will still be available. You can check out this video promoting it that Vern and I did – tells some more of the story: https://vnanwi.org/beer.php.”

As for the festival itself, it will be held indoors at the Expo Center, so no need to worry about rain or heat. The booths will be broken up into “neighbeerhoods” according to where they come from, and this mechanism clues you in on all the different beers that will be there.  The Windy City area will be for Chicago beers, while there will also be groupings for Legends (venerable national brands) local NWI producers, and for SW Michigan breweries. Each attendee will receive a passport so they can navigate the festival and keep of track of their favorites.

image credit: Porter County Expo Center

The local breweries are really the anchor of the event, and you can look for favorites that have attended in the past to be there again for 2022 – breweries like Chesterton, 10-56, Four Fathers Off Square, and Ironwood, and perhaps some newly breweries, like Blockhead and 18th Street. These breweries produce solid Indiana beers, and will match well with breweries from the Chicagoland area and from Michigan and the rest of the country like Dogfish Head and others.  A VIP ticket has been added this year, which will include a T-shirt and a food voucher, so grab those tickets early at www.hopsforhospice.org.

Great beer and a great time are reason enough to attend, but I wanted to learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, and this pointed out to me just how important this festival is. Bob told me, “The National We Honor Veterans program has five different levels of achievement/certification that your organization can reach based on the amount stuff you in terms of outreach, collaboration with other vet organizations, education of your staff/volunteers, community involvement, etc. We are one of less than a dozen hospices in the State to have achieved Level 5 status (the highest), and have just been re-certified for 2022. One thing we do, for example, is every Friday at noon we do a Salute To Veterans ceremony in our hospice center garden – rain, sleet, snow, storms, whatever. We honor a particular veteran, tell his/her story and play taps in their honor if they have passed. Everyone is invited. We’d like to find more ways to collaborate with Vern and the Brewery to do some Vet-to-Vet cafes, events, etc.”

image credit: VNA Hospice of NWI

I always end an interview by asking the interviewee to tell me something that I forgot to ask about. Bob’s answer was perhaps the most important element of this entire piece. He said, “I want people to know that the staff and volunteers who do this work every day at the VNA are some of the most awesome people I’ve ever been around; people often tell me that our staff are “like angels here on Earth,” and they’re right. This work is really hard – whether its hospice, palliative care, Meals on Wheels, all of it – we are often coming into people’s lives at the worst possible time. So we have to do this with grace and humility. We have a servant’s heart and we do our work quietly, respectfully and with dignity – which is why more people don’t know about us until they need to. We are often overlooked in the bigger charity world because we don’t have kids to put in commercials, nor can we use our clients to promote our services and pull on heartstrings because we work so hard to preserve their dignity and independence. No one on here is in it for the accolades – but they deserve every bit of it that should come their way.”

If you haven’t already gotten tickets, that last piece should easily make up your mind for you.

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