HOBART | The opportunity to attend a private premiere of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” as well as a chance to help empower young people to become tomorrow’s leaders, learners and innovators brought 300 adults to AMC Showplace Hobart 12 on Saturday.
“This is our first fundraiser,” said Chareice White, president of the newly formed ECIER Foundation. “Our name is an acronym with each letter standing for a principle: ‘E’ educate, ‘C’ communicate, ‘I’ innovate, ‘E’ entrepreneurs and ‘R’ relationship.”
In addition to offering workshops and other programs, ECIER Foundation will award college scholarships.
ECIER Foundation has taken the place of the Barden Gary Foundation, associated for years with the Majestic Star Casino in Gary’s Buffington Harbor.
“The reason for the name change is that the new owners of the Majestic Star Casino made the decision to not be the lead role for the foundation,” said White, who served as Barden Gary Foundation president.
“We’re moving forward. We have 12 board members from various businesses and organizations,” she said.
In addition to raising funds through the sale of tickets, the foundation raffled off prizes including a Calvin Klein man bag and notebook. All the guests received a crystal commemorative piece and those who were celebrating birthdays this weekend received a souvenir poster of the movie.
Box lunches were provided by Food Express II of Chicago with owners Gregory and Kimberly West on hand to distribute the meals.
Choosing “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” at the AMC Showplace Hobart 12 theaters was an easy decision, White said.
“We thought it would be a great way to introduce the name of the foundation and to be supportive of this major movie, to be part of the (attendance) numbers this opening weekend,” she said.
This is the seventh movie premiere fundraiser that AMC Showplace Hobart 13 has helped sponsor, said Shenshell Patton, general manager.
“It is a good thing for me to see people coming in smiling, and to have a sold-out theater is great,” she said.
One of those attendees, Mary Ann Canty-Reedus, of Gary, said she came to view the history of the civil rights movement as portrayed in the movie, which stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack and Jane Fonda.
“I went to school in Kentucky. I’m astonished by what went on in other places (during that era) because it wasn’t like that where I went to school,” said Canty-Reedus, 73, an African-American special education teacher in the Gary Public Schools.
James O. and Cleo M. Suggs, of Gary also said the movie was a major draw, as was supporting the work of the ECIER Foundation.
“I had seen Lee Daniels about three years ago. I met him in Cincinnati at a gathering,” James Suggs said. “Someone asked him who the best president was and he said Lyndon Baines Johnson.”
A contingent of four retired and current faculty members from Purdue University Calumet attended the fundraiser after a colleague told them about the event.
Crete residents Jal Mistri, retired from the PUC University Division, and his wife, Zenobia Mistri, an English teacher, joined Munster resident Mita Choudhury, assistant professor of English, and Hammond resident Carolyn Boiarsky, of the PUC English and Philosophy Department.
“We plan to enjoy the movie and lend our support to the foundation,” Zenobia Mistri said.
“There are two groups of Red Hat Society ladies here today from Gary – the Magnificent Ladies and The Classy Ladies,” White said.
In addition, a number of political figures attended the fundraiser, White said, including Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and Christine and Rudy Clay Jr., the widow and son of the late Gary Mayor Rudy Clay.