TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – One remarkable woman has called Terre Haute her home for many years.
Karen Long currently lives near 12 Points, where she’s an active volunteer in the area’s revitalization effort.
That’s not her only volunteering endeavor.
Karen was nominated for Nexstar’s Remarkable Woman of the Year award by her friend Janella Knierim who has witnessed her growth over the years.
Karen worked as a library media specialist at West Vigo Elementary for decades.
But it’s in her retirement that she’s showing her peers how to stand out in a crowd and proving why many would want her on their team.
Karen Long retired from teaching but didn’t sit down for long. She’s been involved in several philanthropic endeavors and just keeps adding more. She was instrumental in getting the group COVERED WITH LOVE started- a 501c3 nonprofit organization which provides diapers, wipes and baby hygiene products to families living in poverty. Karen, along with Angie Francis, Founder and Executive Director have managed to get people to donate both diapers and money and have grown by leaps and bounds each year.
Karen also was instrumental in the Lafayette Avenue and 12 Points Neighborhood revitalization projects. She gathered a bunch of friends and they have picked up trash in that area and they organized the second annual Christmas celebration, too. They put up a tree and held an official lighting – complete with Mayor Bennett attending!
Karen is active in Alpha Delta Kappa, a master teacher sorority. She helps sort clothing at the Wabash Activity Center where they gather clothes for people receiving Meals on Wheels, is a member of the Vigo County 100+ Women Who Care, supports Families by Choice and Deborah’s House for Women and Children, and Timothy’s House for Men. When they begged for people to help clean apartments for veterans, she went and helped.
While Karen was teaching, she sponsored the Santa Shoppe at West Vigo Elementary. She not only orchestrated this but shopped all year for items to include so students could purchase gifts for loved ones. She started and led the NO Bullies Club at WVE. Volunteered time with Reach Services, and a member of the Crossroads of America Exchange Club of Terre Haute.
Karen is also a member of the Vigo County Historical Society and is a board members for the Educational Heritage Association.
For five years, she has gathered Socks for Seniors from our teacher sorority and other groups. She delivers the socks to Abigail Meehan, a high school senior who distributes the socks to residents of nursing homes in memory of her grandfather.
This is just a brief summary of Karen’s many volunteer endeavors. She’s always ready to help and thoroughly loves it all! I highly recommend her for this award.Janella Knierim
With a camera in hand and files to sort, Karen Long volunteers with the with the Educational Heritage Association Museum.
The museum at Consolidated Elementary collects vintage school memorabilia from around the Valley. It’s here, that Karen’s 22-year career as a library media specialist doesn’t seem like just a memory.
Even after her retirement in 2017.
“It’s better to go out and give back and do something positive for the community than it is for me to sit at home, lounging on my couch, watching T.V., reading books, because if you’re healthy and you can do it, then you should go out and do something,” Long said.
The museum isn’t the only place you’ll find Karen. She’s made a big impact on the number of diapers donated through Covered with Love and she regularly picks up trash and helps organize events in the revitalization effort at 12 Points.
Karen got her career start in the broadcasting business as a local writer, producer and director. She later returned to school at Indiana State to earn a bachelors’ degree in school media services. That’s where she met Janella Knierim.
“As soon as I saw the advertisement for nominating a remarkable woman, she was the first one that come to mind,” Knierim said.
Over the years, working in the same field, Janella saw Karen’s devotion to making a positive mark, mostly on youth. While working at West Vigo, Karen helped start the “no bullies club” alongside a couple of students.
“She was a good champion for the kids that were bullied and made them feel welcome in her club, and they did a lot of projects too and it just gave them a feeling of worthwhile,” Knierim said.
That group helped sponsor the Santa Shop at West Vigo for years. Crafts, candy canes and small gifts were made available to students at just the cost of a quarter.
Still at West Vigo, Karen met Angie Francis. Francis founded Covered with Love in 2015 to provide a reliable source of diapers for those in need.
Karen says in that first year under 100 diapers were given out.
“The following year, she gave out about 1800 diapers,” Long said.
It wasn’t until after Karen retired from teaching in 2017 that she was able to fully focus on gathering donations for Covered with Love. The number of diapers multiplied nearly 10 times that year and continued to increase at an aggressive rate.
“2018 we gave out about 20 thousand diapers. And then in 2019 we’re almost at 60 thousand,” she said.
Karen quotes the phrase that she’s “older and bolder” and now asking for help comes easier to her. It’s something she says, she wished she knew long ago. What she’s found is that an extra hand is usually there.
“That part’s amazing to me … People want to help, just ask.”
Karen agrees that growing and learning never really ends, which could possibly be attributed to her success in non profits. Even in her time away from volunteering, Karen returns to one of her favorite things to do. Read. But on a special day, it’s with her 16-month-old grandson.
“I just got to have a Jeremiah day, so I get to read those kid’s books again and make sure he has all the good ones, all the classics.”