By Giavonni Nickson
Goodwill Industries has increased its footprint in Northwest Indiana with a newly opened 105,000 square foot campus in Gary. The new campus at 4610 W. Ridge Road was dedicated during a ceremony August 15, 2019.
Mark Lopez, Chief of Staff for Congressman Pete Visclosky, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Goodwill Industries of Michiana President and CEO Debie Coble, and Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes each gave remarks during the dedication ceremony.
“This building will help change people’s lives for the better and improve our community by removing barriers so adults receive the necessary education and skill set needed to move up the economic ladder,” said Lopez.
The new $8 million center includes an outlet store, donation drive-thru, and community center. The outlet store is the first Goodwill Industries of Michiana and replaces the Goodwill clearance store in Gary.
Goodwill’s Gary location will also include an Excel Center, a charter school concept, for adults seeking a high school diploma. The Excel Center curriculum includes earning a Core-40 diploma, plus dual credit courses or a skill-building certification.
The mission of The Excel Center is to provide adults the opportunity and support to earn a high school diploma and pursue post-secondary education while developing career paths that offer greater employment and career growth opportunities. The school meets students where they are in their education by providing a flexible structure and supportive relationships to help students manage work, life, and family concerns as they achieve educational goals.
“The excel center will address a pressing need in Northwest Indiana, and that is adult education. The ability to compete in the 21st century workforce requires at a minimum, a high school education,” said Lopez.
Goodwill Industries of Michiana President and CEO Debie Coble has high expectations for the Gary location considering the proven results of the Excel Center programs.
Currently 70 percent of students experience employment and a 50 pecent wage increase in six months, and 80 percent are employed or enrolled in college within one year.
Gary joins Goodwill’s Michiana district as the third Excel Center location for Goodwill Industries.
“This is a wonderful initiative, a great endeavor for the city of Gary. It’s certainly going to be a catalyst to further business in our community,” said Chuck Hughes, Gary Chamber of Commerce executive director.
The new facility is expected to bring 100 new jobs to the region.
“This investment in Gary in will create immediate job opportunities through partnerships with many groups and organizations to allow individuals throughout Northwest Indiana to achieve their full potential,” said Lopez.
The Gary Department of Transportation is also partnering to support students in overcoming barriers to reach their full potential.
According to Goodwill Industries of Michiana President and CEO Debie Coble, students, shoppers, and employees will have the opportunity to be dropped off right in front of the door. This transportation partnership will help students overcome barriers to get to school.
“Goodwill understands the importance of opportunity for education and employment,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “It represents an opportunity to improve the quality of life in our community.
“I just want to thank the board for having a vision that is bold enough and strong enough to partner to create opportunities in the City of Gary and for all of Northwest Indiana. Our collective communities will be better for it,” according to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
Coble affirmed the vision with excitement. “We are in the right location in a beautiful facility.”
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.