Article & Photos by KIM NOWATZKE – For The News-Dispatch Apr 25, 2018
One hundred thirty nine volunteers of all ages met Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City to take time to give back to their community.
It was a collaborative effort through Lakefront Career Network’s second annual Day of Giving and the 17th annual Comcast Cares Day.
The day’s activities included painting several classrooms, restrooms and other areas, sprucing up of the exterior grounds, and completing other cleaning projects in the building at 321 Detroit Street, that previously housed Elston Middle School. The doors to the entrance of the Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City were also painted blue; this is an organization-wide symbol of the Club doors welcoming in people with the slogan, “Great Futures Start Here.”
“Providing not only a safe space but also an engaging, inviting space for our club kids is important,” said Executive Director Brandi Lewis. “Lakefront Career Network (LCN) and Comcast are helping us in a tremendous way. Without their help, this wouldn’t be possible. We’re so appreciative of this partnership with LCN and Comcast and look forward to a refreshed club atmosphere.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City began in 1996 and serves nearly 600 kids, ages 5 to 18, helping them “reach their full potential to become productive, caring, responsible citizens,” Lewis told the volunteers as they got ready to kick off the day’s work. The private, not-for-profit organization is a member of Boys & Girls Club of America, which is a nationwide affiliation of 4,100 local autonomous Club organizations for young people of all backgrounds. In addition to the Charles R. Westcott Club on Detroit Street, there are two Club extensions at Pine and Springfield Elementary
“Thank you – you could be anywhere on a Saturday morning, but you chose to be here,” Lewis made a point to tell the volunteers.
The Day of Giving was the second event of this kind for Lakefront Career Network, Michigan City’s Chamber of Commerce’s young professional group. According to www.lakefrontcareernetwork,com, its mission is to “make the Michigan City area an
attractive place for young professionals to live, work, and play through relationship building, skill enhancement, community enhancement and career advancement opportunities.”
“This is our second year for the Day of Giving, and we couldn’t be more excited to help another local community organization like Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City,” shared Anthony Novak, the chair for Lakefront Career Network. “This event not only creates positive energy in our community, but also provides a place for people in our community to meet each other and work towards a common goal — helping a nonprofit.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City was chosen because it is the 2018 Non-Profit Spotlight Organization for Lakefront Career Network. Novak explained that last year the inaugural Lakefront Career Network’s Day of Giving benefitted Stepping Stone Shelter for Women.
“When we were originally planning it last year, we were unaware that Comcast Cares did something similar. After being connected with (External and Government Affairs Manager) Greg Gomolka at Comcast, he asked if we would like to partner for our inaugural event,” he said. “Because last year was so successful, we asked Comcast to partner again and are extremely fortunate that they were willing to do so.”
Comcast’s program, Comcast Cares, first began in 2001. Since then, five million volunteer hours and 6,500 projects have been completed, Anthony Dross, the Technical Operations Supervisor representing Comcast, told the volunteers at Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City. According to www.comcastinthecommunity.com, about 100,000 volunteers participate in Comcast Cares each year to improve more than 1,000 project sites.
Gomolka said, “Being involved in the communities we serve is a part of Comcast culture. Comcast Cares Day provides an opportunity for employees to better appreciate the places we live and work. The contributions of our community partners like the Lakeshore Career Network and the Boys & Girls Club are the foundation of Comcast Cares Day. Each day, there are many civic-minded organizations reaching out to community members who need assistance. Through Comcast Cares Day, Comcast and its employees recognize our partners’ year-long commitment to service.”
Gomolka said the first Comcast Cares Day benefitted the HOPE program in Michigan City. Over the past 17 years, other projects have included Washington Park, the Washington Park Zoo, the Michigan City Senior Center, the Salvation Army in Michigan City and more.
Krystin Stahoviak was on hand at the Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City to help out with her 7-year-old son, Carter Jones. Krystin said, “I have been doing this for as long as I can remember once a year.” Her mother, Jill Stahoviak, is a supervisor at Comcast. This was Carter’s second year participating.
Another mother/son team was Teri Fields and her 10-year-old son, Wrigley Fields, who first became a member of the Pine (Elementary School) Club Extension of Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City on his sixth birthday. “It’s an awesome opportunity,” Teri said about the give-back event. “Because Wrigley is a member, it struck a cord with me, especially since he will benefit from it. We utilize Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City every chance we get. He has friends here. There are lots to do here. He goes here during Spring Break and for Summer Camp.”
Katie Eaton, who is on the Executive Committee of Lakefront Career Network, was on hand to help at the event. She brought her 6-year-old daughter, Addison and 13-year old daughter, Isabelle, who was earning community service hours for National Junior Honor Society.
Tina Grace is a five-year veteran of Comcast Cares. Her brother, Shawn Grace, works for Comcast and was there with his wife, Angela and their three children: William, age 6; Jean, age 5; and David, 10 months. Shawn and Tina’s mother, Barbara, also joined in on the family affair.
“I love to give back anyway I can. Comcast Cares is one of the way that I can do that,” Tina said.
Kristina Gowin, who came to help with her husband and 10-year-old son, said, “I think it’s really inspiring to see so many come together for such a good cause. It’s nice that you can get your kids involved too. Seeing so many people from different backgrounds, professions and ages was inspiring. It’s a great partnership between Comcast and Lakefront Career Network.”
Gross, along with other key organizers of the event, made sure volunteers were stocked with paint, other supplies and refreshments.
“It’s great with how this is happening. The collaboration is great,” he said.
Lewis, at somewhat of a loss for words, echoed his perspective with, “Amazing. This is amazing. We made a plan and had a vision and to see it all come together – I could cry.”