The Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County and Northwest Indiana will merge by January 2018, the two organizations' boards of directors announced Wednesday. 

Both organizations in total serve more than 10,000 young people annually, according to a news release from Ryan Smiley, who serves as president and CEO for the Porter County organization and as interim president and CEO for Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana.

The landmark decision — approved at two separate board meetings on Monday — arrived after six months of discussion about the potential merger, the release stated. A due diligence committee evaluated the benefits and challenges of a merger.  

“A merged Boys & Girls Club will allow us to combine resources, efforts and talent to move programming for our kids dramatically forward to meet today’s and future needs," said Tanya Leetz, board member and spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana. 

"Kids are kids no matter what county they live in, and our clubs combined efforts will only strengthen our missions of helping youth realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens," she added. 

Bonnie Coleman, board member and spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, said the key question in merger discussions was if a reallocation of resources and assets would allow the organizations to better serve children. 

"When that answer became more clear as a resounding 'yes,' the decision to merge became easy as the best interests of all youth, no matter the county in which they reside, were taken into consideration," Coleman said. 

A transition committee is in place to support efforts of operating as one organization.

In the short term, club operations, including after-school and summer programming, "will continue as they always have," according to the release. In the long term, club operations will not change significantly, but new programs, services and enhancements are expected.

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.