As with all GREAT things, monumental modifications occur for transformational growth. The merging of two Boys & Girls Clubs organizations (Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana and Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County) into one started as a thought by forward thinking individuals. The decision to merge gained momentum by dedicated staff, supportive Board members, understanding donors and volunteers, and interested parents. As we embark upon a new history, it is important not to forget our roots – all for one mission of serving youth.
Local organization is incorporated as Steel City Boys Club and begins offering programs and services at Gary’s Beveridge School.
The organization is admitted as a United Way agency.
The John Will Anderson Boys Club opens in the former Moose Lodge building at Seventh and Adams streets in Gary. The facility was purchased and renovated by the Anderson Company.
A second Boys Club opens in Cedar Lake at the site of the former Salesian Prep School.
A third Club is established through the merger of the Katherine House of Christian Fellowship and the East Chicago Boys Club. As a condition of the merger, girls were officially accepted as members.
The John Will Anderson Boys Club takes residence in the former Gary YMCA, located on Fifth Avenue.
The Gary Club becomes the second Club to admit girls. The organization incorporates under the umbrella of the Boys Clubs of Northwest Indiana.
A fourth Club opens in Hammond at the former Miller School.
A grant from the John Will Anderson Foundation provides funding for the construction of a new facility in Cedar Lake.
Boys Clubs of Northwest Indiana partners with Gary Housing Authority by providing youth programs in residential housing developments. Such programs become known as extension sites.
Equal membership is uniformly granted to girls at all four Clubs, and with that, the corporate name is changed to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana, Inc.
The Katherine House Boys & Girls Club relocates to a new facility, which was funded, in part, through a grassroots effort.
Another extension site is opened, this time in Hammond. This extension site becomes a chartered Club known as Columbia Center Boys & Girls Club.
A new Hammond Boys & Girls Club opens on Calumet Avenue.
Renovation of the John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club begins and is finished in early 2000.
The Lake Station Boys & Girls Club is established as a new member to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana family.
Executive Director and new leader of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana, Lincoln D. Ellis, becomes involved with University Park Plan and lobbies for the Franklin School Project – merging Franklin School and a Boys & Girls Club together.
In partnership with the Salvation Army the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana begin service at the East Chicago Salvation Army site.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana partners with Merrillville Community Schools and Merrillville Parks Department to begin after-school programs at the Merrillville Intermediate School.
The merger of three Gary Little Leagues helps to build Gary Youth Baseball – in partnership with the City of Gary, Home Field Advantage Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs. Over 500 youth enroll in the inaugural year! Also, an Endowment Committee was established. Over $500,000 in endowment gifts was generated after an anonymous donor was secured providing a two to one match of all endowment gifts invested in 2006.
The organization undergoes discussion with the Town of Merrillville to build a new Club, and the Gary Club experiences massive renovations in the Teen Center.
A feasibility study is conducted and the Board of Directors votes to begin a Capital Campaign for the flagship Club, John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club, begins. A Capital Campaign committee is created and the Gary School Corporation’s Tolleston School is selected as the site for the new Club.
The John Will Anderson Capital Campaign begins and NIPSCO, with the support of Eddie Melton, organizes a two-day site clean-up with hundreds of volunteers.
Construction on the new John Will Anderson Club is completed and a ribbon cutting is held.
Lake Station Boys & Girls Clubs moves from its location on Central Avenue into Lake Station into a school-site within River Forest Community School Corporation. A working partnership is solidified with Superintendent Steve Disney, and 21st Community Learning Center funding is obtained both for the Club and the school Corporation.
The new John Will Anderson Club’s mortgage is paid and a celebration is held for investors that helped to build this new Club.
In the fall of 1969, Tom Garth, a Boys & Girls Clubs of America field representative from the Chicago office made a trip to Valparaiso to discuss the possibility of establishing a Boys Club here. He spoke with Mayor Bryce Billings and City Police Chief Lee Miller. Encouraged by their meeting, Lee Miller enlisted the help of several area businessmen to develop a committee to establish whether there was a need for a Boys Club in Valparaiso. A study was taken through the school system and surprisingly over 1,000 boys ages 6-18 were found to be interested and currently not involved with extracurricular school activities, scouting, church activities or the YMCA. The survey supported the committee’s suspicions. In June, 1970 the charter members of the Board of Directors were Bryce Billings, James Callahan, James Carmichael, Len Ellis, Richard Friday, Jack Hildreth, Luther Koepke, John H. Krause, Kurt MacDonald, Ed Miller, Frank Miller, John Moorehead, John Poncher, John Roscoe, Les Robinson, William Satterlee and Phil Wilke.
The Valparaiso Community Boys’ Club was incorporated August 19, 1970.
Early in 1971, a $25,000 operating budget was passed by the new Board of Directors and was raised by early fall. The Valparaiso Club’s first home was in the Westminster Hall in the First Presbyterian Church basement at 51 N. Franklin Street. The Club opened on October 18, 1971 and although it was small, it was well received with 300 members the first year. Because of lack of sufficient space, the Directors were almost immediately forced to look for a larger Clubhouse and found that the Gardner Grade School was for sale. The school was purchased from the Valparaiso School system for $39,500 by the John Will Anderson Foundation.
In December 1972, the Valparaiso Club was moved from Franklin Street to the old Gardner School at 354 W. Jefferson Street.
The Valparaiso Club suffered some growing pains the next four years with ups and downs in membership, attendance and programs. Girls were admitted to the Club in 1974 in common membership with the boys. We were the first Club of 37 Clubs in Indiana to offer services to girls on a full time basis, and the second Club to change the name to Boys & Girls Clubs.
In June, 1976 the Clubs’ only Executive Director, Chuck Duncan, resigned and moved to Texas. Chuck Leer, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Boys Club, was hired as his replacement. The Club’s program emphasis was changed to get members actively involved in programs. Some of the new programs included boxing, weight-lifting, 100-mile Club, soccer, tutoring and day camp.
The Valparaiso Club needed a large multipurpose area suitable for the large groups and athletic programs. A new multipurpose gymnasium was planned and funded by the John Will Anderson Foundation. The building was built for $270,000 and the Board of Directors raised over $30,000 in the capital fund drive headed by State Senator John Larson. The income from the capital fund drive was used to completely equip the new facility. Groundbreaking was in July 1977 and the building was in use in March 1978.
In May, 1979, Executive Director Chuck Leer felt that expansion of the Club into other areas of the county should be considered. There had been strong expansion support from the United Way of Porter County for 3 years. A steering committee consisting of Executive Director Chuck Leer, Valparaiso Board Members, Les Robinson, Raymond Kickbush and Frank Grennes; in addition to South Haven residents, Dick Motsinger, Paul Saylor and Marilyn Wallin studied the needs and interests of South Haven children, and found there was very little to occupy the childrens’ time. Juvenile delinquency rates there were found to be high. In August, the committee located the only suitable facility in which to operate the South Haven Boys Club. The South Haven Little League Board of Directors offered their Clubhouse free of charge during the months of August through May. Later that month, a grant was received from the John Will Anderson Foundation to operate the Club for the first year. Ted Goebel was hired as the Club’s first Unit Director. In October, 1979 the Club opened its doors to South Haven boys ages 6-14. At the same time, Valparaiso Program Director Ken Rubin was promoted to Unit Director at the Valparaiso Boys Club. In order to operate more efficiently Executive Director Chuck Leer was given the responsibility of managing both Clubs from an Administrative Office, with Unit Directors Ken Rubin, and Ted Goebel running the daily operations of their respective Clubs.
In April, 1980 the Corporate Board of Directors was established. In addition, new bylaws were written for the 2 local Boards of managers.
In the summer of 1981, a grant was received from the John Will Anderson foundation to construct a 15,932 square foot Clubhouse on a parcel of land at 723 Long Run Road. The land was donated by L. Paul Saylor for the express purpose of constructing a new Boys Club. During the next 12 months, over $11,000 was pledged or donated by the South Haven Community in an effort to help equip the new facility.
In June, 1982 the South Haven Boys Club’s doors were open to the youth of South Haven. The Club was open to girls on Mondays, and boys on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and to girls and boys on Friday. Because of the increase in operating expenses (change from 5 days open to 6 days open), and seeing an increasing need for girl’s programs, the South Haven Boys Club Board of Managers elected to change the Boys Club structure to that of full time coed beginning January 1, 1983, being open Tuesday through Saturday.
In 1985 a capital campaign fund drive resulted in $132,000, and a match from a local foundation for a total of $700,000. Funds were used to construct a multipurpose room on the north side of the gymnasium, renovation of the exterior and interior of the old Gardner School building, which was built in 1899.
The renovation/expansion project of the Valparaiso Club was completed in 1987, at which time the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana presented the Sandi Servaas Memorial Award for restorative work to Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. In 1987 Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County underwent an exhaustive long range planning process gathering information from current and past members, and the parents of the members. We were surprised to find that 40% of the parents indicated a need for after school child care. Because of such a dramatic need, we set out to see if we could offer a program to meet those needs. We learned from the St. Cloud, Minnesota program called Kidstop. It offered the basic needs of our members and families, which were: year around before and after school, and summer program, varied activities – not babysitting, affordable with subsidies available. United Way of Porter County conducted a Needs Assessment of our county which showed low income child care ranked seventh of the sixty fundable United Way programs. Because of the needs assessment findings and our success in attracting low income children, our United Way allocation has grown from $6,000 in 1991 to $81,200 in 1995.
In January 1990 the first three Kidstop sites were opened and throughout the spring semester our average daily attendance was 24. By November, 1993 our three afternoon only sites had expanded to ten sites in four school corporations serving an average of 250 children before and after school. In 1994 the program had expanded to include three kindergarten programs. Kidstop has given families a fun and affordable option to leaving their children home alone before or after school.
We, along with our local Youth Service Bureau teamed resources and were chosen by all local social service directors to be our county’s Voucher Agent for the County Step Ahead Program. Step Ahead is the state wide vehicle to pass State and Federal low income/at risk child care funds to local counties. We, along with the Youth Service Bureau are the lead agencies in our county to decide where over $270,000 in funds will most appropriately be spent. As an extension to the above Step Ahead project, an additional $235,000 was released by the local Welfare Department Division of Child Protective Services to provide child care subsidies to qualified families at risk of going on welfare.
In October 1994 Board Members participated in a Strategic Plan Retreat. One objective was to identify the unserved areas in Porter County considering a new Club or extensions. Mayor Maletta of Portage, Indiana expressed his desire to have a Club in Portage. In November a Steering Committee was established and information was being gathered by community leaders to determine the need for a Club. In December, 1994 the Board of Directors approved a 62×41 addition to the east end of the South Haven Unit games room to serve as a multipurpose room, and the remodeling of an unused locker room to house a teen center. John Will Anderson Foundation provided a grant for $350,600 for the construction costs, and $35,000 was raised through board, staff, business, and community donations to equip the new additions.
The Needs Assessment survey was completed in January, 1995 and indicated youth problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, lack of values, teen pregnancy, unemployment, and poor self-esteem were all major concerns of the Portage community. In February, 1995 DNS Associates was hired to conduct a 10-week feasibility study to determine the level of participation and commitment from the Portage Community to raise the necessary funds to build and equip a new Club. In July, 1995 we received a $500,000 matching grant from the Anderson Foundation. Through the combined efforts of the Town of Portage and the Portage Township School Corporation 5-1/2 acres of prime land in Portage were donated. The DNS feasibility study indicated the economic climate in Portage was good for a capital funds drive of $500,000, and they were hired to manage the capital campaign. Forrest “Dusty” Rhode was the Capital Campaign Chairman, and Mayor Sammie Maletta was the Honorary Chairman.
In January, 1996 the silent capital campaign began, soliciting major businesses in the Portage community. In April, 1996 the campaign was made public. The capital campaign was a success raising $1,133,902 from 212 businesses and individuals in the community. John Will Anderson Foundation awarded us a grant in the amount of $575,000, and we broke ground for a new Club at 5895 Evergreen Avenue on Thursday, May 23, 1996. On December 26, 1996 the 19,000 sq.ft. Club opened its doors to the youth of Portage.
On February 23, 1997 the Official Dedication Ceremony was held at the new Club. It was attended by over 100 community members. Plaques were given to all of the major donors to recognize their contribution. Membership on February 23, 1997 was 1,000, average daily attendance – 230, and three part-time staff were added to help. The Marketing Committee began work on plans for the celebration of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County’s 25th Anniversary in 1997. A 25th Anniversary Brochure was designed with the help of Advertising Concepts, and 50,000 were inserted in the Post Tribune and Vidette Times newspapers. A framed copy of the brochure is on display in the Administrative Office. On November 18th a dinner was held at Strongbow Inn with 175 supporters of the Club in attendance. Among those supporters who were honored at the dinner were 25 individuals who received glass table plaques; 25 groups/businesses who received gold paperweight stars; and the John Will Anderson Foundation Trustees who received the Founders Award, which was a plaque to be displayed at the Foundation. Permanent plaques displayed in all three Clubs list the names of the Board of Directors from 1972-1997, thanking them for their support. Valparaiso University Basketball Coach Homer Drew, Portage Capital Campaign Co-Chairman, Forrest “Dusty” Rhode, and Planned Giving Chairperson, Georgia Bricker each gave inspirational speeches about the important role the Club plays in the youth of Porter County.
With the help of numerous donations from the Porter County Community Foundation, Computer Labs were opened at Valparaiso and South Haven. The Indiana Area Council ‘97 Award was awarded to Resource Development for “Nothing But Net.” Named co-voucher agent with the Family & Youth Services Bureau of Porter County by the Porter County Step Ahead Council. We provide eligibility screening and the Family & Youth Service Bureau is the fiscal agent for $1.9 million in state and federal funds to fund low income child care in Porter County.
We achieved our $100,000 goal in the “Build A Legacy” endowment building campaign. Donations were matched by the Porter County Community Foundation, bringing the total to $150,000. We received a $200,000 donation for a 7,000 square foot addition to the Portage unit gymnasium. “Associate Board and Friends” were established to support the work of the organization.
Technology Committee was established. A $199,000 grant was received from John W. Anderson Foundation to air condition the Valpo Club and South Haven Club gym, build new offices, remodel the Valpo Teen Center, coat Valpo Club windows with solar film and update the Valpo/Administrative Office phone system. Past and present Board members, Bryce Billings, Ordell Gertsmeier, Dick Friday, Les Robinson, John Krause, Chuck Clifford, and Ed Larson, were honored at the Annual Insurance Banquet as the first inductees to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County “Hall of Fame.” All were recognized for their instrumental role establishing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County.
We broke ground in June on the Portage-Dusty Rhode Club gymnasium addition. The project was completed in late December. Grants to build the Club’s second 7,000 square foot gym were received from the Anderson Foundation ($250,000) and the Porter County Community Foundation ($200,000). The remaining costs for all furnishings were funded by unused funds from our 1996 Portage Capital Campaign. Also in December we were notified we were the recipients of a $50,000 grant from the Discovery Alliance to implement Project Learn in each of the three Clubs and Kidstop.
In January our three Clubs received 10 computers each for their computer labs. The state of the art computers were donated by Power Up, a national partnership of computer hardware and software companies attempting to help bridge the digital divide.
Based on increased membership and Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s definition of extensions and unites, Kidstop sites Flint Lake and Northview qualify as full units of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. Full unit status was achieved in July 2003.
We held a new fundraiser with the Neighborhood Assistance Program grant money from the Indiana Department of Commerce. Matching OJP grant money and an anonymous donation were offered as an incentive for donors. The Condon Lunch resulted in $45,000 net in donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County Foundation. We also launched a new Program Sponsorship Funding initiative resulting in a total of $28,000. Businesses were solicited to sponsor the Boys & Girls Club core programs: Character and Leadership Development, Education and Career Development, Health and Life Skills, The Arts, and Sports, Fitness and Recreation. Membership reached an all-time high of 3,784.
Club membership reached an all-time high of 4,226 youth with 656 attending on an average day. When the Portage Township Schools began busing elementary students to the Portage Club in the fall, our Club attendance in Portage reached an all-time high. By November, the Portage Club was serving an average of 199 youth a day marking a 57% increase over November 2004. We purchased our first mini bus with the help of the Porter County Community Foundation in December.
In July, a partnership was formed with the Chesterton First United Methodist Church to establish the Duneland Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County in Chesterton. The Duneland Unit opened on October 2nd in the building known to Dunelanders as The MAC (Methodist Activity Center). By year end the Duneland Unit had 305 Club members.
Since Boys & Girls Clubs of America won’t charter two organization in the same county, the Culver Community Youth Center requested to become part of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. The Club closest to them is Plymouth and they tried unsuccessfully for a few years to become a member of that Boys & Girls Club. The Culver Club is located in an elementary school and is open Monday – Friday from 2:30 – 7:00, and has been in operation since 2000. Under the umbrella of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, the Culver Boys & Girls Club opened in September 2007. Membership increased to 170 from 101, serving 83 children per day compared to 33 the previous year.
During the summer, Governor Mitch Daniels visited the Valparaiso Club to see the “Mitch’s Kids” program in action. The Mitch’s Kids grant reimburses the Club approximately $80,000 to offer tutoring, educational support and career exploration programs for low income members.
United States Congress Representative Pete Visclosky toured the South Haven Club and made a special dedication of the new sidewalk from South Haven Elementary Schools to Club which was funded by Appropriations Committee. In relationship with Portage Township Schools, lunch was provided daily to members of the Portage and South Haven Clubs at no cost to members. A new position, Human Resources Manager was created and hired at 25 hours per week.
Growth continued in the Duneland community with the addition of the Discovery Charter School Kidstop Site and the Duneland Club registering their 1,000 member. Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) began in the fall. This program provided healthy snacks to members at the South Haven and Portage Clubs every day afterschool. South Haven Member Dawn Williams was named State Youth of the Year in April of 2010. Dawn was also awarded the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council Promise of the Future award.
The 40th Anniversary of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County was celebrated in October. A kickoff celebration was held during the annual Steak & Burger Dinner. In attendance were 250 members of the community, 150 Club members along with BGCA Board of Governors member Father Monk Malloy, who was the featured speaker, and BGCA President Roxanne Spillett. The event surpassed the fundraising goal of $20,000 by raising over $35,900! During the night, Roxanne Spillett presented Bryce Billings with the National Silver Medallion award for his role in bringing the Boys Clubs to Valparaiso.
The 40th Anniversary celebration continued in 2012. In April, we were awarded the Indiana Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs Outstanding Marketing & Communications Award for the 40th Anniversary Celebration held at Steak & Burger Dinner in 2011. In July, the Porter County Community Foundation named Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County the Non-Profit Agency of the year. Capital improvement projects were done at all Clubs during the year as well. The Portage Club had a new gym floor laid in the first gym. The gym and entire Club also received a fresh coat of paint. The South Haven Club saw the removal of dated carpet from their gym walls. Walls were then painted and new wall pads were installed. he Valparaiso Club gym saw the most improvements with a new gym floor laid in the main gym, ceiling cleaned, walls painted, new wall carpet and new wall pads installed. Additionally, new moveable bleachers were added. The mini gym ceiling was sound proofed and walls were cleaned. Chuck Leer announced his retirement in the fall of 2012 effective spring of 2013 after 37 years of service to Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County (40 years of service to Boys & Girls Club total).
Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County conducts a feasibility study and vote on a capital campaign for the Duneland Club in Chesterton. A new Club facility was purchased sitting adjacent from Chesterton High School and on over nine acres of green space. The “new” Club was an existing church structure with a small gymnasium. In June of the same year, the Duneland Club opened for summer programming – and it became evident that the Club needed to be renovated and expanded.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the Duneland Club was celebrated and construction of the new facility ensued.
In April, the new Duneland Club held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Club membership and average daily attendance in the new structure doubled. In addition, Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County entered a competitive process to include before and after-school Club programming in more school sites. As a result, two new Kidstop Sites were added within Valparaiso Community Schools increasing Kidstop from nine to eleven sites.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana and Boys & Girls Clubs of America engaged Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County in conversation regarding a management agreement while the Northwest Indiana discussed the possibility of hiring a new President and CEO. In October, Ryan Smiley was named Interim President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana while still holding his responsibilities of President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. Toward the end of the year, a due diligence committee of eight Board members, representing both counties, was formed. A long-process of discovering and vetting ensued with the possibility of merging two large organizations into one.
In June, both Boards voted making the landmark decision to merge Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana and Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County into one. In September and October, the process to rename the new entity took place; and in November, Ryan Smiley was named President and CEO of the new organization. In December, the Administrative Office of Porter County moved locations joining the administrative team of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana in Merrillville.
Our East Chicago Katherine House Club renovation is complete. The newly renovated building is opened to members.
The Hammond Club is renovated to feature new state-of-the-art technology. The garage has turned into a designated Teen Center with it’s own entrance, the first in our organization.
Ground is broken at the new site for the Valparaiso Boys & Girls Club, set to open in the summer of 2022.