I am sure many of you saw the A1 story on the Tolleston Middle School cleanup this weekend, but unless you were there I'm not sure anyone can really appreciate the dynamics and wonderful chemistry that has been created.
Led by cleanup project coordinator Eddie Melton, more than 250 people in a two-day period quickly transformed what was a smelly pig sty into a much cleaner shell that will give the contractors easier access to the project, save the Boys & Girls Club some money and most of all create a sense of unity between people from all over the region united for one simple cause -- to help kids.
I mentioned Melton because of the incredible job he did, but he is far from the only one. His employer, NIPSCO, not only allowed Eddie the time and resources to do this but more than 75 NIPSCO employees also volunteered their time to help on this project. It struck home how wonderful this movement has become when NIPSCO's Mike Hooper and I talked. Mike's from West Virginia and has been up this way only about a year. And when I mean this way, I'm talking about Jasper County, not Gary.
Hooper was volunteering his time, but he went one step further. He mentioned NIPSCO employees pick a cause each year to donate to and he knows there will be 600 to 700 people at their annual picnic this spring. He offered up trying to get them to donate to this cause and was confident they would.
Then you have Scott Cherry from Skillman Construction and Jeff Wolf from Design Organization. I'm not sure they knew what they signed up for when they agreed to design and handle the construction manager jobs, but I'm glad I'm not paying them by the hour.
Not only have they spent hours and hours helping us to create a building we can afford and be proud of, but they also have called on some of the contractors they work with to donate their time. Alex and Matt Gariup provided carts, trash containers, barricades and cleaned up a ton of stuff -- for free. Continental Electric spent days setting up lighting and making the panels safe -- for free. Arctic Engineering provided temporary heat in the cafeteria -- for free. Jelly's Pancake House provided food for the event both days.
Embassies of Christ had more than 125 volunteers, while Horseshoe Casino joined the city of Gary team to help in the cleanup. BP sponsored some of the food, while Majestic Star not only co-sponsored the other half of the food but also had a large number of enthusiastic workers.
Gary and Shar Miller made sure Prompt Ambulance was out front in case of any injuries, and even 3rd District Councilwoman Mary Brown had a contingent and was joined by state Sen. Earline Rogers. The Times Media Co. had a large contingent as well.
The reason I named names was for two reasons. First, they deserve credit and recognition for the wonderful commitment of time and resources. Second, I wanted to point out the diversity of people and organizations involved in this project. It's not a "Gary project." It's a project to help kids who need an opportunity to be safe and develop emotionally and physically regardless of where they live.
So on a weekend that I not only got to thank Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson for the city's financial commitment to the project, but also watch her work for hours shoveling garbage at one end of the building while U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky was busy shoveling garbage at the other end, I couldn't help but thank God for however this is happening. This wasn't a weekend of photo-ops. It was a weekend where people came together to work for one cause -- to help kids.
Bill Masterson Jr. is publisher of The Times Media Co.