Small business owners get boost from Gary’s federal relief money


From trail mix to power washing to dog training, 32 Gary business entrepreneurs picked up checks Wednesday from the city’s pot of American Rescue Plan Act federal funding to stimulate small businesses.

Gary received $80 million in ARPA funding, a 2021 measure passed by Congress to boost the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the city council earmarked $2 million for small business grants.

Gary Mayor Eddie Melton, on right, poses for a photo with Passion's Fruitopia LLC owner Rasheida Bennett with a mock check after presenting her with an American Rescue Plan Act grant check for $10000 for her business during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Gary Mayor Eddie Melton, on right, poses for a photo with Passion’s Fruitopia LLC owner Rasheida Bennett with a mock check after presenting her with an American Rescue Plan Act grant check for $10000 for her business during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

City officials distributed 21 checks worth $10,000 each and 11 checks of $7,500 each for a total of $292,500 during a news conference at city hall.

“Small business is the backbone of the local economy,” said Mayor Eddie Melton. “The spirit of entrepreneurship is a guiding force in our community. Their dedication and hard work will not only fuel growth in Gary, but Northwest Indiana as well.”

Melton said the ARPA funding process began under his predecessor Jerome Prince’s administration.

Applicants were screened and assessed at Indiana University Northwest where they attended a class.

Gary Mayor Eddie Melton, on right, shakes hands with CGA Power Washing owner Emanuel Christmas after presenting him with a $7500 American Rescue Plan Act grant check for his business during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Gary Mayor Eddie Melton, on right, shakes hands with CGA Power Washing owner Emanuel Christmas after presenting him with a $7500 American Rescue Plan Act grant check for his business during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

Emanuel Christmas received $7,500 for his start-up, CGA Power Washing.

“One of my close friends gave me the idea for this,” he said. He plans to offer residential power washing on siding, driveways, fences and walkways.

“This means a lot. At the end of the day, I didn’t have the capital to start it on my own,” he said.

Angel Knight received $10,000 for her existing business, Trail My Mix, which she’s run for about 15 years. She offers a dozen different blends of gourmet trail mix, including a no-salt blend.

Trail My Mix LLC owner Angel Knight, who received a $10,000 grant for her business, applauds during a network social and award ceremony in Gary to celebrate recipients of American Rescue Plan Act grants on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Trail My Mix LLC owner Angel Knight, who received a $10,000 grant for her business, applauds during a network social and award ceremony in Gary to celebrate recipients of American Rescue Plan Act grants on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

A single mom, Knight said the small business income enabled her to put her children through college.

She sells her trail mix online and frequents farmers’ markets and other events. “I have more nuts and more berries and it’s fresh,” she said.

She said she will use part of her check to teach students about marketing this year at the West Side Leadership Academy.

She’ll also attend former WNBA player and coach Bridget Pettis’ basketball camp March 26-30 at East Chicago Central High School.

Another $10,000 check winner, Lisa Bennett, said she moved back to Gary from New York to take care of an aging parent. She left a career as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies as a transformational director.

Fearless Coaching and Consulting owner Lisa Bennett, who received $10,000 for her business in the form of American Rescue Plan Act grants, recounts her previous experience in consulting as she speaks during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Fearless Coaching and Consulting owner Lisa Bennett, who received $10,000 for her business in the form of American Rescue Plan Act grants, recounts her previous experience in consulting as she speaks during a meet and greet and check presentation event in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

She plans to use her funding for Fearless Coaching LLC to share her corporate knowledge.

“Small businesses don’t have processes. They’re not efficient,” she said. “My job is to bring that skill set here.”

Lindsey Wright III plans to open Wright Way Kennel LLC.

Wright Way Kennel LLC owner Lindsey Wright III speaks during a meet and greet and awards ceremony to celebrate recipients of American Rescue Plan Act grants in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Wright Way Kennel LLC owner Lindsey Wright III speaks during a meet and greet and awards ceremony to celebrate recipients of American Rescue Plan Act grants in Gary on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

“My business is to bring health and wellness to animals here in Gary,” he said. “Our dog pound here is filled. If you train an animal, it’s very unlikely it will end up in the pound.

“We not only train dogs, we make sure the owners are trained.”

Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.



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