The staff and club members at the Katherine House Boys & Girls Club are no strangers to breaking barriers for fostering growth and happiness for kids throughout East Chicago. On Thursday, they took a literal approach, demolishing a wall in ceremonial celebration of $1.182 million raised for a complete renovation to the historic club.
The renovation project was spearheaded by an anonymous $500,000 donation, half of which came from matched donations. In addition, The Foundations of East Chicago gave another $500,000. Construction is scheduled to begin February 18 and finish in time for summer programming. The renovations are timely, as this year marks the 100th birthday of the original Katherine House. To celebrate the new beginning, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana brought in the community, donors, and club members to take part in “Demo Day.”
“Today is a very special day, and if you ask me, it’s more important than that ‘Hallmark Holiday’ Valentine’s Day,” joked Ryan Smiley, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “We’re going to provide these kids an outstanding Club experience that they’re not going to get anywhere else. It’s important for every single community to have an asset like this, but in particular, the kids of East Chicago deserve something like this.”
A number of businesses in the surrounding area also contributed to the project, including the ArcelorMittal Foundation. Kelly Nissan, Communications and Corporate Responsibility Manager for ArcelorMittal USA, helped knock down the wall.
“I’ve been involved in this Club for a very long time, before I even worked at ArcelorMittal I was on the Board of Directors. So I have a deep relationship with this particular Club,” Nissan said. “These kids deserve this. I’m really excited for them because I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer here and they’re great. They’ve got so much energy and enthusiasm. Having a space that can accommodate their creativity and harness that energy is only going to do great things for them and their families.”
Some of the new additions include an “exergaming” room, teen center, and climbing wall. Seeing the community come together to help the Club inspired Congressman Pete Visclosky, a longtime supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. The congressman planned to attend, but events in Washington tied him up. His Chief of Staff, Mark Lopez, spoke in lieu and presented the Club with an American flag that was once flown over the United States Capitol.
Kayla Anderson, East Chicago Youth of the Year and East Chicago Central High student was met with a standing ovation in recognition of her leadership at the Club. Unlike many, she just recently joined the Club and has already experienced the difference it can make.
“This Club has made me better as a person. I’ve gained a lot of patience and responsibility because of the sacrifices and choices you have to make to be a good role model for these kids,” Anderson said. “These renovations are going to make a big difference.”
Until renovations are finished, the Katherine House Club is holding programming at the Alse Clemente Center. To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, including the Katherine House Club, visit www.bgcgreaternwi.org.