Porter County benefits from 'random acts of excellence'

2013-03-03T00:00:00Z 2013-03-03T11:21:02Z Porter County benefits from 'random acts of excellence'By Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

When Porter County Community Foundation President Barb Young looks back on last year, among the highlights she sees for the county was the opening of the new Porter Regional Hospital at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6.

The owner of the new facility, Community Health Systems of Tennessee, has exceeded expectations, said Young, who served on the hospital board when it was sold by the county.

The new $225 million hospital has improved the quality of local health care options and is drawing patients from outside the area, which is an economic plus, Young said. The hospital also benefits area residents by fueling competition among other local health care providers, while attracting development along the nearby section of the U.S. 6 corridor.

The hospital also has proven to be a valuable member of the community with its charity care, contributions to low-income health clinics and municipal sponsorships, she said.

Porter County also saw hopeful signs in the area of education during the past year, including improvements at Valparaiso University, Young said.

The university, which is poised to take possession of the former hospital site, has plans to increase its student population and recruit more international students, she said.

"I think there's going to be more cultural diversity," Young said.

Porter County also is part of a regional, grassroots initiative known as READY NWI, which is aimed at increasing the readiness of area high school graduates for careers or further education that aligns with business growth and economic development in the region, she said.

"I think you're going to see more schools join," she said.

Another educational highlight seen by Young is Success By 6, a United Way initiative with a stated goal of creating optimal community conditions to meet the developmental needs of children under age 6 and their families.

Porter County is also making gains in arts and culture, Young said.

Valparaiso has its festivals and dining, Portage has a strong concert series and Chesterton has the European Market, she said.

The county does have challenges ahead, including the need for more low-income housing units, Young said. Homelessness, which is one of the foundation's priorities along with literacy and substance abuse, doubled in the county during each of the two past years.

The county also has an ongoing substance abuse problem that has evaded efforts to respond, Young said. A new attack is under way, known as Empower Porter County, which will involve schools, employers, faith-based groups and those in the legal system.

"Random acts of excellence," is how Young summed up the variety of efforts under way.

Young also voiced hope that the county's elected leaders will make an effort to work more closely in the new year and come up with creative ways of best putting the proceeds from the sale of the hospital to work for the area. In keeping with the approach taken at the foundation, she hopes the county officials do not dip into the $160 million in principal money, but rely on the interest instead to assure the funding source does not dry up.

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