MERRILLVILLE | Bricks have played a major role in raising $5.578 million during the Tolleston Project for the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana.
On Monday, the Boys & Girls Club's second Not Just Another Brick in the Wall event to thank donors brought together business leaders, members of the organization’s board of directors and others to Jelly’s Restaurant. Three of the events are planned.
Sponsors of the event included Jelly’s Restaurant, Hammond-based Calumet Breweries, NIPSCO and Majestic Star Casino in Gary.
The reclamation and renovations at the long-abandoned Tolleston Middle School in Gary for the John Will Anderson Gary Club and Community Center will be completed this fall with a grand opening slated for Nov. 16. The campaign began in 2011 and has raised nearly 99 percent of the amount needed.
“This is such a great project. As a social service agency, the Boys & Girls Club helps latch-key kids who may not have a role model or resources at home,” said J. Guadalupe Valtierra, chancellor emeritus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana and treasurer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana board of directors.
The Gary community center aspect will allow children and parents to socialize in a safe, nurturing environment, he said.
“Boys & Girls Clubs used to be mainly about athletics. That is shifting now to programs that offer social skills, academic support and learning values,” Valtierra said. “What they learn (at the clubs) they take home.
Michael Baird, interim director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest, said the regional approach that helped move this project along “is wonderful from the standpoint of our kids.”
“This will be a regional center for the Boys & Girls Club in Northwest Indiana. We’re looking forward to working with our Porter County counterparts,” he said.
The new Tolleston center will offer “great programs led by professionals in academic success, character and leadership and what we need to be a part of the workforce — work ethic, getting to work on time, dressing properly, arriving on time, speaking properly and listening,” Baird said.
Don Babcock of NIPSCO was involved in the fundraising efforts and said “this has been an important and tremendous cause for Northwest Indiana.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana currently serve 11,000 young people throughout Lake County, Babcock said.
“It gives them the opportunity to have a great life,” he said. “What a shot in the arm for the Tolleston area, the City of Gary and Northwest Indiana.