EAST CHICAGO — In honor of its 100-year anniversary, the East Chicago Katherine House Boys & Girls Club will be undergoing some major renovations and improvements, thanks to donors. There will be an "exergaming" room, a whole new teen center, a 'tween center and a traverse climbing wall.
Ryan Smiley, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, was on hand at the East Chicago club Friday afternoon to announce the future renovations of the club.
"We're here today to kick off our $1.25 million capital campaign for this facility," Smiley said.
To help the celebration, an anonymous donor provided the club a gift of $250,000, with the incentive for it to earn an additional $250,000 by Nov. 30. Foundations of East Chicago provided a $500,000 five-year grant to help the club's enhancement project.
"The history at this club is unprecedented, and the Katherine House has a rich history," Smiley said.
Christine Russell, East Chicago Club advisory board chairwoman, summed up the capital campaign by saying, "It's all about the children."
She has served on the board for 35 years and remembers when the club didn't have resources to make improvements, but now it does.
"With this money, the club will be renovated and there will be an exergaming room, a rock climbing wall and the whole facility will be different," she said.
East Chicago Club Director Pablo Palominos has only been club director for a month, but he's looking forward to the changes.
"This will help the core membership to have a more modern club and will in turn gain interest from others who might want to join the club," Palominos said.
George Weems, board president for the Foundations of East Chicago, not only presented the $500,000 check but he also praised the club.
"This club is all about teaching our kids the skills they will need for a lifetime," Weems said.
Delisa Smith praised Smiley and the club for the improvements that will occur. The mother of 11 moved to East Chicago in 2004, and each of her children has attended the club.
"I love that my kids are not outside," she said. "There is a place for my kids to go, somewhere positive. I never have to worry about where my kids are."
Her son, Brandon Smith, a club member, thanked the donors for their help to the club and expressed his love for the club.
"It's like home here," he said. "The kids are going to love the changes to the new club."
Construction on the renovations will start at the end of this year and work should be done by the end of 2019. The club will remain open during the renovations.