Peggy Couch

“Is cooking one of your special gifts?” Peggy Couch always chuckles when asked this question. She spends most of every Monday and Thursday preparing more than 80 warm meals for people who are homeless and hungry in Hancock and Marion Counties, so people usually assume she’s a good cook.

“If there is a window from heaven to earth, my mother and grandmother would be laughing hysterically,” Couch explained. “Growing up, when it was my turn to cook I would bribe my sister to do it. Mother would simply predict that ‘one of these days,’ I would need the skills.”

But it was another family member who spurred Coach to co-found God’s Open Arms Ministry, which has operated for the past five years out of space in the Couch Family Auto Repair business in Greenfield.

“Our son, Brandon, was killed in an auto accident on April 8, 2008,” said Couch. “He had just graduated from Rose-Hulman and was starting his new job when his truck was struck by a semi… More than 2,000 people came to his viewing. There, we learned about all of the ways Brandon had made a difference,” Couch said.

As stories of Brandon’s influence mounted, Couch discovered that while he was studying in an accelerated program and working part-time, their son had also worked on developing a tool that has since helped members of their own family recover from breast cancer. In comparison to what Brandon achieved in his short life, Couch decided she was wasting time.

Her first step was to join a volunteer team that traveled to New Orleans to help survivors of the Katrina disaster. “It gave me a fire in my heart that this was the direction my community service was going to take,” Couch said.

Today, with a full-time corps of about 25 volunteers, Couch stocks dedicated trailers with food, clothing and other essentials to deliver to those living on low income and in homeless camps. Last year, in addition to the essentials, the ministry collected clothing and new toys for families at Christmas.

She’s continually thinking of ways to expand the work. This season, the ministry added gifts for children to give to their parents. She hopes her service will inspire families to come together through community service. “My biggest wish for the future is that parents will pull their children into service and light the same fire in their hearts,” Couch added.