GARY | The news of a $1 million gift to help rebuild a former school into a new center for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana proved overwhelming for Rose Joiner.
Joiner, who serves as senior director for the John Will Anderson Club in Gary, fought tears Friday while thanking NIPSCO representatives for the pledge.
"If I get emotional, it's because I was a club kid. This means the world to us," Joiner said of the power company's donation.
Mike Finissi, NIPSCO's chief operating officer, made the announcement while unveiling a novelty $1 million check made out to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana.
Finissi said the money will be earmarked for remodeling the closed Tolleston Middle School into a new John Will Anderson Club, a state-of-the-art center scheduled to open next year.
The current facility, 225 W. Fifth Ave., will be closed and sold, said Lincoln Ellis, CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana.
Finissi paraphrased the words of former professional basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson in his comment: "We believe in providing youngsters with a little help and a little hope so they can reach their potential."
In addition to the $1 million contribution, NIPSCO employees also have set a $100,000 goal. That money would be used to support the local Boys & Girls Clubs across the 32 counties the utility serves.
Employee-led efforts will include fundraising, volunteerism and other community events.
"Anyone who has ever been a part of Boys & Girls Clubs, whether it was as a youth or volunteer, understands the important role the clubs play in our community," Finissi said.
"Our employees are excited to help make the Tolleston project become a reality, and we look forward to working with the other clubs across the state to ensure that our youth continue to have a positive environment to learn, develop and grow," Finissi said.
Ellis said he is thankful to NIPSCO for its donation.
"We thank NIPSCO not only for their financial commitment but their commitment from its caring employees to donate their time and energy toward our mission of providing our youth with the hope and opportunities they deserve," Ellis said.
Bill Masterson Jr., publisher of Times Media Co., said NIPSCO's $1 million pledge marks $4 million in total contributions.
Masterson, chairman of the Tolleston campaign, thanked NIPSCO and others who had contributed.
"It's all about the kids you see here," Masterson said, referring to the club members who had attended the announcement.