Red, White and Blue
Six Hendricks County residents reflect on freedom
By Stephanie Dolan
As Independence Day approaches, Americans often reflect on the freedoms they have and what it means. In 2020, with a global pandemic stay at home orders in place for months and a social revolution affecting change around the U.S. and the world, these freedoms might mean more than ever this year.
The ICON spoke to six Hendricks County citizens who spoke about the freedoms they cherish and why they feel lucky they live in the land of the free and the brave.
Stephanie Singh, director of communications and marketing for the Town of Plainfield
“I cherish the freedom to vote,” she said. “I know that for a long time women and even people of color did not have the right to vote. I think it is important to cherish the opportunities that were not always granted to people who look like me.”
Singh’s time as a communications professional for the Town of Plainfield began in 2018.
“I also cherish the freedom to be a part of this community and make change that matters with the work that I get to do and take part in,” she said.
With a varied background in journalism, marketing and strategic public relations, Singh earned her communications degree from IUPUI and began her career as a television reporter, often reporting live from places such as Louisville, Kentucky, San Angelo, Texas, or South Bend, Indiana.
Singh soon pursued a master’s degree in strategic public relations from George Washington University in Washington, DC.
But she’s not all business. She loves to travel the world and often spends time on a plane to her latest destination.
“Personally, I cherish being able to get on a plane and fly wherever I want in the world,” she said“He was in a lot of pain,” he said. “We thought we just needed to get him to an orthopedic surgeon. Thinking he had a backache to finding out he metastatic cancer was a blow. He passed in his and my mom’s house with all of us there with him, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”
Karla Janning, Brownsburg, board president of Hendricks Civic Theatre
Karla Janning is a lifelong Hendricks County resident. Growing up in North Salem, she attended Tri-West High School, later going on to Butler University and IUPUI.
“I lived in Plainfield for two years, and my husband and I have lived in Brownsburg for 19 years,” she said. “I have two girls who are in high school. I serve on many volunteer organizations including being the president of the board for the Hendricks Civic Theatre, the secretary of the executive council for the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers and the president of the local Young Moderns Homemaker club.”
Both she and her husband are both entrepreneurs — he’s a speaker, photographer and storyteller while she works direct sales for a company called Ruby Ribbon.
“That is one freedom that I have been able to have is working my business when I can and want to,” said Janning who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2019. “I would not have been able to have a 9 to 5 job where some days I did not feel like going to work due to chemo. The nature of my business and utilizing the internet to have virtual shows has allowed me to still bring in income even while having to be quarantined due to being immunocompromised.”
Another freedom she cherishes attending her church without fear of persecution and sharing the love of Christ with others.
“That is not the way it is in all countries,” she said. “Lastly, a freedom I cherish is being able to speak out for those that are oppressed due to the color of their skin. I do not know what it is like, but I am glad I live in a country where I can learn and stand with my neighbors and friends that are experiencing and have been experiencing injustice for years.”
Jennifer Storey, communications director for Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg
“The simple freedoms, generally taken for granted, are the freedoms my heart clings to most,” said Jennifer Storey. “Each of these freedoms is rooted in the longing my heart has to connect spiritually and relationally with those around me. My prayer is that I can live out Galatians 5:13 and ‘use my freedom to serve one another in love.’”
Storey’s family of four includes two high school-aged kids.
“It’s beyond cliché that the days are long, but the years are short when raising a family, and their time at home with us is limited,” she said. “They’ll be with us a couple more years before they venture out into the world, and it’s the moments we spend together, connecting with others that matter most to me.”
It’s the little things that matter the most to her.
“Those nights on the back patio with my husband soaking in the sounds of the neighborhood, the quick ice cream run with my daughter, lake days with friends who have become family, Sunday worship (most recently from our sofa), travel time to visit family, morning devotion time, chats with my son about his potential future occupations and walks in the neighborhood are all simple moments turning into a lifetime of memories that reflect the true desires of my heart,” she said.
The last several months have been extremely challenging in many ways, yet she’s continued to look for the gifts.
“There are gifts our family would have missed out on if we hadn’t experienced this ‘hard stop’ in time,” she said. “Each time I’ve found a gift, it’s been tied to a single time of connection with my heavenly Father, my family or friends. Moments I usually would have taken for granted, yet cherish the most, each available because of our freedom.”. “I have been able to visit Poland, France, Belgium, Iceland, Belize, Fiji and the Bahamas, but I also cherish the ability to come home and be grateful for all that we are blessed to have here in America.”
Tyrone Brown, Plainfield, owner of the Indiana Lyons, Hendricks County’s ABA basketball team
“I cherish the ability to make my own decisions, the ability to worship my God freely and the freedom to take risks and give second chances,” he said.
Some of Brown’s decisions include starting his own staffing company 20 years ago along with bringing ABA basketball to Hendricks County.
“Being an owner and leader, this gives me the opportunity to provide opportunities to young men that still desire to fulfill their dreams in playing at the highest level,” he said.
While it may seem that many Americans take their freedoms for granted, this is not something that Brown, 59, believes about himself.
“I think that as a black man in America, I don’t take anything for granted or the freedom that we have,” he said.
Married to his wife Deborah for nearly 12 years, the couple has owned the Lyons since 2017.
“Our inspiration to purchase a team in the ABA was part of the ABA nostalgia,” said Brown who is from Chicago, Illinois. “We offer players a second chance to keep playing at a high level so that they can fulfill their dreams and goals. [Before that], I have owned Information Systems Consultants since 1996, and we provide IT staffing and consulting services globally.”
Lenn Detwiler, executive director of Hendricks County Solid Waste Management District
“The freedom I most cherish is the ability for my family to worship how and where we want,” said Detwiler whose family attends Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg. “We recognize that our ability to attend church and openly confess our faith is not shared by all Christians around the world. So, we are abundantly grateful to have that freedom in the United States.”
Detwiler’s family also homeschools, and they very much appreciate that freedom.
“Indiana is a homeschool-friendly state, which is something we don’t take for granted,” he said. “Homeschooling allows us to tailor much of what our kids learn to their particular styles and interests. The flexibility is great, and we ultimately spend more time together as a family.”
While homeschooling obviously isn’t a fit for every family, Detwiler is thankful to be so involved in his children’s education.
“We absolutely take our freedoms for granted,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to learn – and teach our kids – about other countries and cultures and to understand that the rights we enjoy in the U.S. are not always available in other places.”
We all have so much to be thankful for, and Independence Day is a perfect time to reflect on those liberties and recognize what a blessing it is to live in a free country Detwiler said.
Jerry Cunningham, patrolman of 30 years with the Danville Police Department
On Jan. 6, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the Four Freedoms speech.
“FDR spoke about these freedoms in the months before WWII,” Cunningham said. “It was a famous speech during the State of the Union. I think what makes America better and different than other places, like Roosevelt said, is that we aspire to have freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.”
Just as they were 79 years ago, these four make the basic cornerstones of American freedoms.
“I’m sure it’s a struggle for everybody,” he said. “Freedom of speech isn’t always easy. Everybody has opinions, and sometimes it takes a lot of courage to stick your neck out and say something, but you’ve got the freedom to do it.”
These were the freedoms veterans fought for during the Second World War.
“That’s what drove our nation to fight like we did, and those are the cornerstones still today,” he said.
We put our freedoms at risk by taking them for granted, Cunningham said, adding that everyone needs to vote on Election Day.
“We need to keep practicing the democracy that we’ve had for over 200 years,” he said. “There’s a reason we have democracy. It’s to elect and pick our leaders who we put there. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. It means everything to me to be able to defend those freedoms for other people. It’s why we come to work every day.”
Randy Allen, postal delivery person, grocery employee and flower deliverer in Danville
For 15 years Randy Allen has delivered mail. He also works at Kroger and for two and a half years he has also delivered flowers for his wife who owns Danville Florist.
“We definitely take our freedoms for granted,” he said. “I grew up when we had no cell phones, and now it seems like cell phones have taken a lot of our freedom away. They’re little monitoring systems.”
Allen said he does not take for granted being able to enjoy all the freedoms that America’s forefathers worked hard to cultivate.
“My dad was a serviceman, and I know he went through a lot of pain,” he said. “Then he had six boys, and he went through a lot more pain. My parents have both passed away, but the work ethic that they instilled in us is still there. My brothers all do manual labor, and we all work hard. We all still appreciate each other even though we don’t see each other that much.”
While receiving mail may not be a freedom, per say, it’s an expectation people have as a part of their governmental system, Allen said.
“It’s a fun job,” he said, noting he grew up working for 28 years on a hog farm and now also works in dairy and stock at Kroger.
“My wife calls that my social time because there’s a lot of people that I know there. I enjoy all the freedoms that we have nowadays even though it does seem like a lot of people misuse it or don’t understand it. If everyone can all respect each other and treat each other how they want to be treated, the world would be a much better place.”
Tony Hill, co-owner of Dawson’s Too in Brownsburg
“My freedom of religion is important to me, as is my freedom of choice,” he said.
Hill feels like some of his freedom has been taken away from him lately.
“One of the things that I’ve thought about was, as a business and as a group of owners, we take great pride in protecting our customers and our staff and our families,” he said. “That part was taken away from us — the ability to decide some of those things for ourselves — our freedom of choice.
“Our constitutional rights and liberties are super important to our families,” he continued. “I grew up that way. I feel like our government in the last several months has taken that right away. I realize this is an absolutely new virus, and we’re in uncharted territory, but the freedom of choice is a huge deal for me.”
Hill also believes that, in the United States, citizens tend to take freedoms for granted.
“I believe we’ve been allowed to enjoy our freedoms for so many years that a lot of us were in shock by not being able to go to church or open our business or not be able to visit our loved ones in the hospital,” he said.
Hill’s father just died, and his family made the choice to let him pass away at home.
“One of the main reasons we didn’t want to take him to the hospital during this time was that there was no way we wanted him to die alone, but it also absolutely limited our choices of what we could do as far as treatment,” he said.
Just over a month ago, Hill’s family thought this father had nothing more than a slipped disc.