Affluence In Carmel

Time and time again, Carmel ranks as one of the top cities to live in America. Time Money, CNN Money, and Niche all agree Carmel is a model city for the rest of the nation.

Jayana Hammonds, a 10-year resident of Carmel, Senate member and sophomore, said that because of these rankings, non-Carmel residents have created preconceived notions about Carmel, such as the notion that everyone who lives here is extremely well-off.  She said while she understands where these stereotypes come from, they don’t encompass everyone who lives in this city.

“Despite what others think, I don’t think almost everyone who lives here is really rich. I don’t think that Carmel fits the stereotype that is necessarily branded on us,” Hammonds said. “On the other hand, I do agree that there are individuals who live here who are more well-off than the average person. Carmel’s wealth is very concentrated, so I get where people come up with this stereotype.”

Kelli Prader, the city of Carmel’s Community Relations Specialist and 15-year resident of Carmel said she agrees with Hammonds.

“I would say that no city has absolutely no need. There are homeless people in Carmel. There are teens that are in situations where they need help. I believe every city has that kind of situation, where there are people who are more well-off and others that are not,” Prader said.

Despite the negative connotations, Hammonds said she feels like there are also many positives to the affluence in this city, one of which is a large desire to give back to the community.

Hammonds said, “I think that Carmel does an amazing job of giving back to the community. Here at Carmel High School, almost all of our clubs have a certain cause or charity that they are raising money for. I mean, that in itself, is a testament to how much the people of Carmel care. Take for example Cabinet who raises over $400,000 each year for Riley Children’s Hospital. There are groups that sell bracelets to raise money for African relief. So, just from those few example, you can see we are definitely a very giving community.” 

Specifically, Hammonds said she feels passionate about Care to Share. According to Hammonds, Care to Share is an annual clothing drive led by Senate. Senate aims to help families that are 120 percent below the poverty line by giving them gifts during the holiday season.

“Nine times out of 10, these families have more than six members. So it’s not just a mom, a dad, a sister and a brother. These are huge families. Last year, my family that I donated to had nine members. It’s hard for parents in these situations to provide for a Christmas or Hanukkah to all of their family members, which is where (Senate members) come in,” she said.

Hammonds said Senate members have SRTs around the school get together and adopt a person. The SRTs can choose to sponsor a full person, half a person, or a fourth of a person. SRTs raise money and shop for that individual. Afterwards, Senate delivers the gifts to the families.

“This whole experience is just eye-opening, to say the least. We do live in a community where I don’t have to ask for coats or shoes or socks; these are just things that I just have. To see that there are people out there who have these kinds of necessities on their wish-list for Christmas, it makes you realize how fortunate you really are,” Hammonds said. “You get to see the change you are making in real time which is just indescribable.”

This pattern of giving back isn’t just present at CHS. According to Prader, the city government also works hard to make sure there are opportunities available for families who need aid.   

“There are volunteer opportunities that the city puts out for people who may not be as well off. For example, the Carmel Youth Assistance Program is a program that helps troubled youth. This program tries to get to them before they get involved with the court system. For example, a kid who wants to play a trumpet for band but doesn’t have the money to buy the trumpet can receive aid from the Carmel Youth Assistance Program,” Prader said. “We also have a community assistance program through the Carmel Fire Department. The fire department does this every year, where you can support a family during the holiday season. This can include helping them by giving gifts or just supporting them financially.”

Carmel also gives back through the private sector. According to Cindy Love, the Director of Medical Operations at Trinity Free Clinic, the clinic provides free care for people in Hamilton County. The clinic includes care for routine illnesses, a blood pressure clinic, an eye clinic where they provide free glasses, a women’s healthcare clinic, a foot clinic, a dental clinic, physical therapy, pediatric care and a mental health program.  Love said the majority of their patients come from families of four who earn $25,000 a year, which is not a survivable amount to live off of in Hamilton County

“Most of our patients are either uninsured or what we call underinsured, meaning that they have some kind of insurance, but their deductible is maybe ($5,000) or $10,000, which is unaffordable when you make $25,000 a year. We also serve a fair number of refugees who don’t qualify for any type of insurance because they are not American citizens,” Love said.

Furthermore, Love said while many people question the value of a free clinic in Hamilton County, she said she still feels it has a very tangible impact on the area.

“We believe that we are responsible for helping our brothers and sisters in need. People in this county are our neighbors and they need our help. The people that we serve are working. These are not people who are working the system or living off government programs. These are the people that are mowing your grass, or building some of the house around here, or doing landscaping, or working at our fast food restaurants or cleaning houses. These people have valuable jobs in this area and we want to make sure that we provide care to them,” Love said.

Hammonds said she enjoys living in Carmel because it has a loving community.

She said, “I feel like we, as a community, are very caring and very giving. We take care of people.”

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