New Boys & Girls Club at Tolleston opens with 2-day gala

2013-11-13T19:30:00Z 2013-11-13T20:24:37Z New Boys & Girls Club at Tolleston opens with 2-day galaLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 13, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

GARY | Festivities Friday and Saturday will mark the grand opening of the new John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club at the former Tolleston Middle/High School.

An invitation-only VIP Donor Recognition Celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the new facility, located at 2700 W. 19th Ave.

This celebration honors donors, individuals and organization involved in the Tolleston Project, said Megan Henning, marketing manager for the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana.

The evening includes a short program, a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and private tours of the new club site.

Saturday’s festival-themed community celebration runs from noon to 4 p.m. and includes food and carnival games with prizes. While admission is free to the celebration, there will be a charge for food and games, Henning said.

“There is going to be a talent show competition of kids from the John Will Anderson Club and a Battle of the Lil'DJ's with local youth ages 14 to 17,” Henning said. The family games will have prizes and trophies will be awarded to the talent show winners.

Vendors from various youth organizations will be on hand, and tours of the new facilities will be offered.

Sponsors of the two-day grand opening celebration include Horseshoe Casino, Strack & Van Til and Indiana Beverage, she said.

The capital campaign to reclaim the long-abandoned school at 2700 W. 19th Ave. and turn it into the Boys & Girls Club and Community Center began in 2011.

The city of Gary completed a $467,000 demolition of the older parts of the school that wouldn’t be used. The Anderson Foundation, the Dean and Barbara White Foundation and NIPSCO invested $4 million in the campaign.

Michael Baird, interim director, said generous financial commitments also were made by many businesses, organizations and individuals from throughout Northwest Indiana. The Times Media Co. and former publisher Bill Masterson were among those there from the beginning, he said.

The regional approach that helped stimulate the Tolleston Project “is wonderful from the standpoint of our kids,” Baird said. “This will be a regional center for the Boys & Girls Club in Northwest Indiana. We are looking forward to working with our Porter County counterparts.”

Classrooms, gymnasiums, a kitchen and cafeteria and a resource center are among the new amenities at the Tolleston center. There also is room for partnerships with other nonprofit organizations, he said.

The new Tolleston center will offer programs led by professionals in academic success, character and leadership and “what we need to be part of the workforce — work ethic, getting to work on time, dressing properly, arriving on time, speaking properly and listening,” Baird said.

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