2023 Raymond Ronsenberger-Minette Baum Award winner Denise Porter: Always Encouraging Healthy Eating Active Living

Longtime community advocate and volunteer Denise Porter is the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Raymond Rosenberger – Minette Baum award. 

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation Board of Directors recently nominated Porter for the award to honor her dedication to helping vulnerable individuals learn about healthy eating and cooking.

As a long-time volunteer for the HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) initiative, Porter has facilitated 23 Our HEALing Kitchen cooking and nutrition sessions for both adults and youth. In all, she has taught approximately 175 individual classes. It’s difficult to know just how many people she has reached with her messages about healthy eating, but Denise estimates it as several hundred.

“Our community is truly blessed to have such a dedicated and kind volunteer working alongside some of our most vulnerable residents,” says Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joe Foundation. “The positive impact Denise has made, and is still making, on our community is immeasurable; we are so grateful she shares her talents with us.”

Porter insists she’s retired, but she’s still what she calls a “house mom” to the residents living at River’s Edge, a supportive housing development that offers affordable housing to individuals and families facing chronic homelessness. Every month, she organizes a Souper Saturday for River’s Edge residents to connect over soups and other healthy dishes. Porter provides a variety of health and nutrition information and encourages residents to make changes that positively impact their health.  

When asked why she’s passionate about healthy eating and teaching others how to prepare healthy food on a budget, Porter responds, “I have always been engaged in ‘showing, encouraging, teaching,’ in a non-academic setting, as did my mother and grandmother. During the 1930s depression, my grandmother was a ‘county agent’ who taught the poor farmers better ways to use government food commodities to feed their families. It must be in the bloodline.” 

Porter gained many of her advocacy skills working for a variety of organizations, including Fort Wayne Newspapers, the City of Fort Wayne’s Mayor’s Office, Fort Wayne Urban League and Fort Wayne Housing Authority. 

Each year, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation nominates the Raymond Rosenberger – Minette Baum Awardee. The recipient is selected by the Foundation Board of Directors and honors the individual’s diligent and faithful service to the community. PNC Financial Services manages the Raymond Rosenberger Trust and annually distributes a financial award to the recipient and/or their charitable organization(s).

Raymond Rosenberger was a longtime parishioner of St. Peter’s Catholic Church as well as a Kunkle Valve employee. He lived frugally and invested nearly all of his income. At his passing, his estate established a foundation that funds four individual service awards, each granted by a different local northeastern Indiana organization. The Rosenberger Award Foundation funds the St. Joe Foundation’s Minette Baum Award, along with annual awards given by Parkview Hospital, The Lutheran Foundation, and United Way of Allen County.

Minette Baum was born in Russia in 1879 and came to Fort Wayne when she was three. She was a prominent social worker and helped found the Jewish Federation, Fort Wayne Woman’s Club, League for the Blind, and the Inter-Racial Commission.

More about Denise can be found in this recent article from Input Fort Wayne