The latest issue of Duneland Today celebrates and shares stories of people and places in our community making a positive impact. To be included alongside our partners, committee chairs, and friends is an honor!
We believe that when we devote our full strength to our mission and cause, work in partnership with others, and build on our commitment to the children, families, and all people of Duneland, we can address the most pressing issues of our community.
“Many Hands come together to give life to the YMCA Healthy Living Campus”
Summer 2023 Issue, Written By H. Augustyn
When the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) began comprehensive plans in 2019 for long-term capital improvements, it was not then known what would happen to the Chesterton Middle School building. This structure, built in 1955, once housed Chesterton High School, and though upgrades had been made over the years, the master plan for improvements found use of this building unsuitable for long-term goals. Enter the concept of serendipity. At the same time as the DSC engaged in their long-term plans, so too did the Duneland Family YMCA which needed to expand both physical location, as well as its reach into the community. The result is the YMCA Healthy Living Campus, whose future home is the site of Chesterton Middle School.
Both organizations understood that a greater impact would be achieved by inviting others to the table to discuss the opportunity to do more for Duneland. These collocated were eager to come together to provide resources and services in a synergistic and collaborative way. “These needs derived from the voice of the community,” said Kasarda. “The vision is so much greater than anyone could have imagined. We are partnering with organizations the DSC, Jacob’s Ladder, Porter Starke Services, United Way of Northwest Indiana, NorthShore Health Centers, Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute, Quality of Life Institute, Inc., and the Town of Chesterton to address critical health and social issues and help provide impactful programming as well as share operational expenses. As a result, this facility will be a catalyst for change, collaboration, and economic development in the Duneland community. And, these partners allow us to provide all areas of care for wellness with equity and access for all.”
Kasarda says that the Duneland Family YMCA opened the Forchetti Family YMCA Center for Early Learning in October 2020, which now enables the Healthy Living Campus to focus on additional needs in the community. “Historically, adult members have never been a priority. Since the Forchetti Center opened, we’ve been able to focus on adult and senior programming which will only grow in the new facility,” he says. Partner organizations will also be able to expand their programming on the campus. One of those partner organizations, Jacob’s Ladder, has been involved in early planning.
“Jacob’s Ladder and the Duneland Family YMCA offer services that work together. So much of what we do can dovetail. So if we can save 10% on our overhead, we can now do so much more. We’ll be located in a building that is now an incubator—to share and collaborate.”Mariann Frigo, Founder and Executive Director of Jacob’s Ladder
The campus is adjacent to Chesterton Park which will also be part of the overall plan to serve the community’s needs.
“We are involved in the YMCA plan because we have eight acres adjacent to that property and one of our goals going forward is to be good neighbors, obviously, and to make improvements on our property that fits in with theirs. We want to make it so there is a flow to the park and have had meetings so we’ll be involved in the process from the beginning. We’ll all be on the same page. This will be a project overall that moves the needle for the town. It’s a large centrally located area that has potential for a lot of amenities and is a gathering place in the middle of town.”– Tyler McLead, Parks superintendent for the Town of Chesterton
Elizabeth Adcock, Chief Volunteer Officer of the YMCA Board who has been volunteering with the YMCA’s three task forces that are heading up this effort states, “I’m really excited about the arts being so involved in this campus. There are many local arts organizations that will be involved in programming for performing arts, visual arts, musical arts, and theater. Other programming has already started on-site, including YMCA swim lessons, summer day camp, and preschool. The building is vital, but we are more focused on the programs that will take place at the facility. We want people to come here and spend the day here. We will be tying this site to the downtown, and we’re excited to provide a legacy for generations to come. We have a very deeply rooted board.”
“At the end of the day, we want people to say, ‘We’ll meet you at the Healthy Living Campus,” says Kasarda, “but none of this would happen without Dr. Chip Pettit and the school board having the vision to see the potential—to see it as an asset to the community. This is not for the YMCA. It’s a gift for the community. Superintendent of the DSC Dr. Chip Pettit says he is thrilled with the way the plan is taking shape.
“We’re ecstatic that the YMCA is interested in the site for the development of the healthy living campus. We anticipate co-locating with the YMCA in the pool, small gym (renovated), and Trojan Learning Center to support the Duneland Swim Club, Masters Swim, CHS Gymnastics, and preschool/early learning opportunities for Duneland residents. We’re also actively working with the Westchester Public Library on a sale or long-term lease of the Brown Mansion that will fit into the overall site plan.”Dr. Chip Pettit, Superintendent of DSC
Collaboration and partnership are at the heart of the Duneland Family YMCA Healthy Living Campus. Mark Chamberlain, chairperson for the capital campaign, “Relationships have become much more symbiotic than we could have imagined. We are really helping each other.”
YMCA membership, programs, and services are available to everyone in the Duneland communities, regardless of their faith, race, ability, age, or income. At the Y, no one is turned away because of their inability to pay. The outdoor spaces and passive program options will be accessible and available to the entire community, regardless of affiliation with the YMCA or any of its partners. Input from YMCA members, Duneland community residents, and local employers will be important to the development of programs, services, and resources delivered at and through the YMCA Healthy Living Campus.