HAMMOND | Thanks to a donation from the city of Hammond, Purdue University Calumet's popular Riley Child Center will remain open.
PUC officials said last week the university was facing a $4 million shortfall for the 2013-14 year, and it could no longer support the award-winning child care center. Officials said it would close the Academic Learning Center in Merrillville, and the child care center also was on the chopping block.
The Riley Child Center, which opened in 1992, offers capacity for up to 60 children. As a self-supporting operation, the center has earned acclaim as a provider of award-winning, accredited child care. In addition to serving the children of students, faculty and staff, the child care center also is open to the public.
However, declining enrollment in recent years produced an operational deficit of some $40,000 to $60,000 annually, and the university has subsidized the center.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said the story of the child care center closing broke his heart.
"The Riley Center is a special place for me; both of my boys went there and it's in my neighborhood," he said. "It was shocking to me."
McDermott said he met with PUC Chancellor Thomas Keon, and offered a donation from community development block grant funds. McDermott said it's money from the federal government that is specifically intended to help organizations like the Riley Child Center.
"Because Hammond has a challenged population, we receive more money than nearby communities like Munster or Highland and we can help out," McDermott said. "Chancellor Keon was receptive to the idea."
McDermott said the city will provide $60,000 annually to the center to keep it open. He said that will continue for as long as he is mayor, and he has three years left on his term. McDermott said community development block grant funds also are used to assist two other day care centers in the city, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club.
"Those are the kinds of things this grant is for," McDermott said. "The Riley Center is such a great place. This whole issue wakes people up and lets them know how lucky we are to have something like that in our community."
Ralph Rogers, Purdue Calumet vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the university is "extremely pleased to enable high quality child care to continue on the campus" as a result of McDermott's gesture on behalf of Hammond.