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Crisis Center seeking volunteers to expand Crisis Line hours

Times Staff

September 11 , 2014

GARY | The Crisis Center’s Crisis Contact telephone listening and suicide intervention lines plan to expand service hours of operation. The recent death of actor/comedian Robin Williams brought suicide to the nation’s attention.

Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 U.S. citizens every year. The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression. Almost one in 15 people in the U.S. are depressed and most don’t get the care they need, according to Crisis Center officials.

The Crisis Contact listening telephone lines have operated since January, 1971. The lines, (219) 938-0900, currently operate five days a week from 2 to 9 p.m. and are connected to the national suicide intervention line “Lifeline.”

Crisis Center Executive Director Shirley Caylor said: “Each caller is important. A life can be helped. A life can be saved. We need more hours of operation.”

In the first six months of 2014, Crisis Contact callers were helped with more than 7,000 problems and dealt with 259 suicide plans that required 39 interventions. More than 3,000 callers sought help with depression, loneliness, grief or emotional support.

To expand services, the Crisis Center is seeking volunteers. Individuals interested in finding out how they can help can email They are asked to provide contact information and indicate their interest and availability.



EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Look at Florida’s model for dealing with child abuse

Shirley Caylor

July 6 , 2014

“Susie” could have been anyone’s child. When she was lifted into the arms of her mother or father, she was probably looked upon with pride and even a sense of accomplishment as they held their promise in their arms.
But “Susie” or “Johnny” may have lived in a family dealing with multiple frustrations – not enough money to pay for basic needs, family conflicts and troubles. Easy for a crying child or constant external demands to weigh like bricks. Stuck in a life of reduced options, frustrated and angry, lashing out happens in a second. The first time, sorry can’t be said enough. But it happens again and again and becomes justifiable. After all, hadn’t they heard something about “spare the rod, spoil the child?”

Child abuse is physical, sexual or emotional maltreatment or neglect that results in harm or potential for harm. Most substantiated cases are for neglect, and most are in families experiencing poverty and the frustrations arising from needs versus resources. The emotional and physical scars experienced by kids who are beaten, yelled at, discouraged, injured are carried long into adulthood and diminishes their future and that of countless others as they eventually raise children of their own.

What can we do about this? There is a cost to the individual and to society as we grapple with the long-term effects of abuse. In Florida recently, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law discarding a decade-long policy that gave priority to the rights of parents after hundreds of children involved with the Department of Children and Families died preventable deaths.

With this Florida law, state child care administrators can no longer place the rights and wishes of parents above the safety of children. Family preservation had been the priority, but it left kids in danger, particularly when there was parental alcohol or drug use. Protecting a child from abuse is paramount and more important than keeping a family together.

Parents’ non-enforceable promises to not do it again no longer have priority over the rights of children to be safe and protected. Florida’s new law also invests in children’s lives by providing additional funds for caseworkers, law enforcement and youth service programs.

Do you agree? Is protecting a child from abuse a priority? More important than keeping a family together?
Things are bad when the streets seem safer for a child than staying at home. Last year, 220 “Susies” and “Johnnys” entered our emergency shelter, Alternative House, on their own after they fled from home. They came from every city and town. And you don’t leave home unless you think you have to.
Let’s not wait until the damage to a life has been done. Cruelty has long-term effects. Let’s look at Florida’s model for dealing with child abuse.

Shirley Caylor is executive director of the Crisis Center. The opinions are the writer's.


Schools grapple on front line with homeless children

Carmen McCollum

June 8 , 2014

Region schools face an ongoing challenge providing an education and other social services to homeless students.

More than 1 million U.S. children are homeless each year. In Indiana, 17,000 children and teens experience being homeless every year.

The instability homeless children experience as they move frequently among the homes of family and friends or shelters makes it difficult for them to have a place to do homework or even attend school regularly, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

To further complicate matters, students can have a difficult time enrolling in school due to a lack of immunization or birth records, school transcripts, or lack of a permanent address. Children who experience delays getting into school or frequent absences often fall behind quickly, making educating them more challenging, according to the IDOE.

People who do not own their own home are highly mobile, moving as many as 12 times as often as homeowners. In addition, domestic violence touches as many as 63 percent of homeless parents.

After receiving reports that up to 50 percent of homeless children were not attending school, Congress in 1987 established the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. It provides states with funding, distributed to eligible school districts, to ensure the enrollment, attendance and success of homeless children and youths in school.

Students who are eligible for McKinney-Vento assistance also are immediately eligible to participate in Title I programs and services. Title I provides financial assistance to local education agencies and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. However, not all Title I students are eligible for McKinney-Vento services.

Lake Ridge schools Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley said it can be tough to identify whether a student is homeless. The district's homeless program coordinator Sandi Sweeney said the data is difficult to collect, because many families do not report homelessness to the schools.

"We know the numbers are underreported, because many families don't consider themselves homeless if they have a place to stay," Sweeney said.

"However, according to the McKinney-Vento Act, families are considered homeless if they are 'doubled-up,' " that is, if more than one family occupies a home or apartment.

Sweeney said the law is specific in what schools must provide, including items like textbook assistance, free lunch, transportation and tutoring. She said school districts also provide referrals to appropriate agencies for assistance.

"No child will receive less of an education because of the situation. Lake Ridge provides necessary supports to our families as needed on a case-by-case basis," Sweeney said. 

She estimated there are 63 homeless children enrolled in Lake Ridge Schools to date.

Lake Station Superintendent Dan DeHaven said there was a family in Lake Station that had problems as a result of domestic issues and was living in the car.

"We supported the mother financially as she drove her kids to and from school. We paid her mileage for a couple of years. We were lenient with the tardy/attendance policy, because they were under a great deal of stress," DeHaven said. "Her situation has improved, and we no long have to support them financially."

Agencies step in when families fall apart

Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center in Gary, said staff members see homeless children who seek help at the 371 safe-place sites in Lake and Porter counties.

The Crisis Center operates an emergency shelter for up to 20 children ages 10 to 18 for a maximum of 20 days. Last year, the center assisted 220 youths who were homeless or runaways. Most of those young people were in their teens, with two 12-year-olds. It has 16 children right now, but the number changes daily, Caylor said.

"They generally have left home because of some situation," Caylor said. 

"Sometimes, they talk about their parents' drug abuse or another chaotic situation that caused them to leave. We attempt to find a family member who can take them in. If that doesn't happen, we make a referral to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

"Our goal is to help the young people have a safe place to live and to keep their education intact, and we transport them to and from school. Education is crucial to their later success in life, and often they don't have the parental support. We get kids from all income levels," Caylor said.

The St. Joseph's Carmelite Home is another agency that shelters teens, administered by Sister Maria Giuseppe. Now the home — the oldest Carmelite home still open in the United States — serves approximately 65 children, ages newborn to 18, on the same East Chicago street where it began 100 years ago. It has grown over the years, starting new programs that provide care for teenage mothers and their babies and emergency shelter services.

Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy said the number of people needing assistance in his region is growing "astronomically."

He said his staff gets referrals from the school district. "It's usually the teacher who notices a kid who doesn't look well, maybe tired or distracted," Clancy said. "The teachers are good at identifying these things, or the child may tell the teacher they have been sleeping in the car."

Once notified, the department does an extensive background check, Clancy said, adding that sometimes the situation doesn't check out as homeless. At other times, the agency may find there is mental illness involved, a single mother who can't pay the rent or people who have lost their jobs, he said.

Rena Whitten, Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 director of student services, estimated that of the 3,500 students in grades nine through 12, about 100 have been identified as homeless. The Illinois district is 72 percent low-income.

"These students face challenges in not coming to school prepared for school and with school supplies," Whitten said. "Sometimes, they are embarrassed. There may be social and emotional issues. What's going on at home may affect their ability in school."



Crisis Center Operates Local Safe Place Program

The Times Staff

April 4 , 2014

Safe Place Week is an effort to increase awareness about the importance of youth safety and the dangers young people face when they are in crisis situations.

It highlights the Safe Place program which brings together businesses to provide help for youth facing abuse, neglect, bullying or serious family problems that have prompted them to leave home.

There are 371 Safe Place sites in Lake and Porter counties, from fast food restaurants to fire stations, and libraries to post offices.

Safe Place is a national network of nearly 20,000 partnering businesses and community locations that display the Safe Place sign in their windows. As youth enter and ask for help, staff members connect them to the Crisis Center’s Alternative House for assistance.

In 2013, 220 youth were sheltered at Alternative House through Safe Place and the Crisis Center’s Safely Home program that engages police safety officers in the effort to prevent harm to young people and provide quick transport to the shelter.

A list of Safe Place sites in Lake and Porter counties is available at or by calling (219) 938-7070. Businesses interested in becoming a Safe Place site may call Gavin Mariano, at (219) 938-2707.


EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Tomorrow starts today for America's youths

by Shirley Caylor
The Times

February 2 , 2014

A total of 327 boys and girls came through the doors of Alternative House last year. They came because their chances of success and safety were better at the Crisis Center’s runaway and homeless youth shelter than at their home.

There was a good chance they were having problems at school, falling behind and not getting along. More were teen girls than boys, and some were as young as 12. These are kids whose opportunities in life are diminished. To have a chance, they chose to leave home.

There is a huge and growing level of unequal opportunity in our country, and these kids are often the face of it. How do you get a good education, climb the income ladder, buy products, enhance your community, improve your home when you have inequality of opportunity and income?

In Indiana, the average per person monthly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payment is about $85, according to the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration. A car is an impossible luxury. How do you get your kids to school when getting enough food until the end of the month is a concern? How do you afford a safe neighborhood with no threatening gangs when you step out your door?

Recently, we heard about President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty at its 50-year anniversary. It had some successes cutting the experience of poverty through food stamps and health care.

Another former president, Republican Teddy Roosevelt, gave a speech in 1910 in which he said the federal government had a responsibility to promote equality of opportunity and attack special privilege and vested interests. “In every wise struggle for human betterment, one of the main objects has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity,” he said.

Equality of opportunity should mean investment in the young, investment in skills and education starting early enough so immature brains get nurtured.

The belief that greater inequality would make people work harder and invest in their education works only so far. When the rungs up the economic ladder are diminished, it means fewer people with skills required for today and tomorrow’s jobs and eventual slower economic growth.

This growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is hurting the U.S. economy. Middle class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Lake County native and Nobel laureate economist teaching at Columbia University, says we need to be aware how money converts into political power.

It isn't shocking to hear that money has influence and can favor self-interest. The effects of inequality when it results in poor education, housing and neighborhoods have an effect on America as the land of opportunity and our self-interest. The lack of involvement in infrastructure – pothole marked roads, falling bridges – is one thing, but the failure to invest in people has generational effects.

The kids walking through our doors at the Crisis Center are the ones who will someday soon be paying our Social Security. We should want to invest in them. It is their future, but it is our future too.


Students decide the fate of teen offenders in court

by John Robbins
The Post-Tribune

December 27 , 2013

A central tenet of American justice is the right to a trial by a jury of your peers. Portage Township schools are putting that notion to the test in teen court.

The idea is to let students — including former offenders — help decide the fate of other offenders. It started on a trial basis last year and has been expanded.

Student offenders who would have faced administrative punishments are now sent to teen court. Court sessions convene two to three times a month at the Porter County Courthouse.

Students rule in teen court — the judge is a volunteer law student from Valparaiso University, the defense and prosecuting attorneys are Portage High School student volunteers, the student jury includes volunteers as well as former offenders sentenced to jury duty. And of course, the defendants, called respondents in teen court, are students.

Student jurors don’t go easy on their classmates; not one student appearing in a recent teen court escaped without a sentence.

The only adults in the room are school administrative personnel, parents of the respondents, and teen court administrator Sandra Porter-Phillips.

She runs a similar program in Lake County. She was hired to run the Portage school program last year. The first year was deemed a success by the school board and expanded, meeting more often and including middle school students.

Not all student offenses end up in teen court. Some, such as tobacco, alcohol or drug use and fighting are dealt with either administratively or through the Porter County juvenile system, according to associate school administrator Jenn Sass.

“Our ultimate goal is to get the kids to school,” said Sass, so this year’s focus is attendance.

On a recent Monday night, third-year Valparaiso University law school student Chris Hammer heard five cases of excessive unexcused absences. Hammer is back for a second year as one of several teen court judges.

“The underlying charge may be the same but each person is different. They all have different life circumstances that influence their behavior,” Hammer said.

“My big goal here is education, not punishment.”

While volunteering is expected of Valparaiso University law students, Hammer says his pro bono work far exceeds requirements.

“I just like to be involved,” he said. “It’s interesting to work with young people you can shape and influence.”

Hammer presides over cases but jurors set the penalties, or what Hammer calls, “constructive sentences.”

Max Gill, assistant principal for attendance, watched the proceedings. He’s sent most of the students here.

“Apathy towards school seems to be the biggest problem of attendance,” said Gill.

After five unexcused absences, a student can be sent to teen court, said Gill, but only after other alternatives have been explored. These range from attending an afternoon after-school class, to in-school suspension and, finally, out-of-school suspensions of one to five days.

Night school or expulsion had been the previous final remedy, but teen court offers an alternative to expulsion.

The gravitas of the courtroom setting helps.

“It’s a program that shows the kids we mean business,” said Gill.

“Teen court is serious enough because it involves parents and court time,” he added. “With parental involvement in teen court we let the parents know how important attendance is.”

Gill said attendance affects how well a student performs in school.

“The bottom line is we want success for the students. Attendance is needed in order to succeed,” he says. When a student fails, “we fail too,” said Gill.

Attorneys for the defense and prosecution are prepped on each case.

At the recent court session, defense attorney Gina Chapa, 15, a freshman, asked each respondent to explain why they missed school, searching for evidence that would benefit her client.

Prosecutor Adam Wood, 14, also a freshman, asked each respondent to rank how important school is to them on a scale of one to ten. Almost everyone says “10.” He then grilled them on their understanding of the law that would allow the state to suspend their driver’s license — anathema to a teen.

Each student is asked if they have already been punished for their misdeeds, either by the school or parents or each. Most have.

Then the parents faced the attorneys. Most are aware of at least some of their child’s absences. The parent’s testimony gives a chance for them to fully understand the nature of the problem. Not all parents do, Gill notes.

Finally, it’s in the hands of the jurors. The judge outlined a range of sentences to consider, including letters of apology, community service and afterschool study tables. In all cases where a form of punishment is rendered, the sentence includes serving on three juries.

The jurors all take part in discussing a verdict; a unanimous decision is required. One discussion takes the better part of ten minutes.

One student is assigned to write a letter of apology (100-word minimum) to their parent, addressing the parent’s goals and plans for their child. Another respondent is required to establish a life goal plan and undergo academic counseling that would help them achieve that goal.

Volunteer jurors Richard Gomez, Brooklynn Sellers, Markitta Jackson and Tiarra Williams are all 17-year-old seniors.

“It’s a good opportunity to dip my feet in the area of law,” Gomez said. “It’s better for the student because we are their peers, we have a better understanding of student problems.”

Williams wants to “give consequences so the defendant won’t do it again,” she said. She believes “defendants leave with a better attitude than when they came in, in part because they see fellow students acting on their case.”


Gary Center for Runaway, Homeless Youth Gets Federal Grant

by Matt Mikus
The Post-Tribune

September 28 , 2013

An emergency shelter service in Gary will receive a federal grant of $186,798, according to U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s office.  Crisis Center Inc. was awarded the grant by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

The center has offered shelter and other services to runaway and homeless youth since 1976, and is the only alternative house program in Lake County and adjoining counties to provide emergency shelter for children not in the welfare system. It also provides outreach through 395 safe place sites in Lake and Porter counties, and has 20 beds for boys and girls ages 10 to 18.

“The continued efforts by the Crisis Center to make a positive difference and improve the quality of life for the youth of Northwest Indiana is truly inspirational and should be recognized,” Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said in a written statement.

“This funding will support their approach in taking the necessary proactive steps to continue making a positive impact in the lives of many young people.”



IU Northwest Announces Board of Advisors

by Erika Rose

September 19 , 2013

GARY | Indiana University Northwest Chancellor William J. Lowe recently announced the appointment of the campus’s Board of Advisors.

Twenty-five Northwest Indiana business, civic, nonprofit and education leaders, recommended by Lowe and approved by the Indiana University Board of Trustees, will advise IU Northwest on matters related to campus planning, including enrollment, organization, academic programs, and community engagement. The composition of the Board of Advisors is an effort to reflect Northwest Indiana’s diversity and the student and community constituencies that IU Northwest serves.

The Board of Advisors will meet several times during the academic year. The group held its first meeting of the academic year at IU Northwest Sept. 18. Members serve staggered two- and three-year terms.

Serving on the IU Northwest Board of Advisors are:

David Allard, Allard Rental Corp.

Vanessa Allen, Urban League of Northwest Indiana

Garry Aloia, Mortgage Co. Management, LLC

Mary Goolik, IU Northwest School of Nursing

Cal Bellamy, Krieg DeVault, LLP

Tom Collins, Collins Interests Ltd.

Phil Eskew, IU Board of Trustees

E. Ric Frataccia, Portage Township Schools

Karen Freeman-Wilson, City of Gary Mayor

Chuck Hughes, Gary Chamber of Commerce

Sharon Johnson-Shirley, Lake Ridge Schools

Nancy Hamblin, former teacher and IU Alumni Association Board

William Lowe, IU Northwest Chancellor

Mark Lucas, Lucas, Holcomb & Medrea

Gavin Mariano, Crisis Center, Inc.

John MacLennan, MacLennan & Bain Insurance

Chris Morrow, Home State Bank NA

Cynthia Powers, Century 21, Powers Realty, Inc.

Lynn Gassoway-Reichle, Dr. Lynn Gassoway, DDS

F.C. Richardson, Chancellor Emeritus, IU Southeast

Jill Ritchie, US Steel Gary Works and Chair of NWI Forum

David Ryan, Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce

Janet Seabrook, Community HealthNet, Inc.

Steve Simpson, Life Services Professional Corp.

Mike Suggs, NIPSCO

The IU Board of Trustees has approved and encouraged the formation of Boards of Advisors for more than 40 years, as a way to support the close connections between the IU regional campuses and the communities that they serve and to enable the Trustees to benefit from the counsel and experience of regional community leaders. An IU trustee serves on each regional campus Board of Advisors.



Portage Schools Look to Expand Teen Court

by Joyce Russell

July 19 , 2013

PORTAGE | Portage Township Schools officials are looking to expand its teen court program.

Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia told the School Board this week he would like members to consider expanding the program from two to three days per week.

Teen court, which recently completed its first year, sends students who meet certain requirements to appear in front of a jury of their peers. The jury is required to render a verdict in each case and provide sentencing, which can range from community service to counseling. Infractions range from attendance issues to drug and alcohol use.

"The high school has indicated that in the early stages of the fall semester they could benefit from an extra day," said Frataccia, adding high school administrators believe using the court to address attendance issues in the fall could help curtail those issues.

Frataccia said expanding the use of the program would cost about an additional $7,500. The board will be asked to act on the expansion at its Monday meeting.

Board member Rhonda Nelson said she'd like to explore expanding the court to include infractions that happen outside of the school. For example, she said she has been told shoplifting is an issue and believed students, picked up on a first offense, could benefit from the program.

Frataccia said the school district could not make that decision unilaterally and that type of expansion would be up to the county's juvenile probation department.

Frataccia said the teen court program in Lake County, operated by Crisis Center, Inc., does address infractions outside of school.

Board President Cheryl Oprisko said there is also a cost factor involved, that the district is picking up the cost of the program.

Nelson asked a meeting be set up with the probation department to see if the program could be expanded.



The Times Non-profit spotlight


May 28 , 2013

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Portage Schools to Continue Teen Court

by Joyce Russell

May 26 , 2013

PORTAGE | Portage Township Schools will continue with the teen court program for high and middle school students during the 2013/14 school year.

The school board recently approved continuing with the diversion program for students who otherwise might be facing expulsion from school. Many of the students are involved in drug, alcohol or truancy issues.

Tom Taylor, assistant superintendent, said 23 high school and 19 middle school students were referred to the program this past year. Seven high school and two middle school students were referred back to juvenile probation. Seven high school and one middle school student completed the program. The remaining 25 students have not completed the program for various reasons, he said, including not completing their requirements to serve on jury duty, not completing community service hours or not completing drug testing requirements.

The program sends students who meet certain requirements to appear in front of a jury of their peers at teen court. Fifty-six high school students volunteer for positions ranging from attorneys to clerks and a Valparaiso University law student volunteers as judge.

The jury is required to render a verdict in each case and provide sentencing, which can range from community service to counseling.

Sandra Porter-Phillips of Crisis Center, Inc., operates the court and works with students two days a week. She operates a similar court in Lake County.

Porter-Phillips said the students coming to teen court are not just kids getting into trouble. Many have underlying issues.

"There are things going on in these homes that is unbelievable," said Porter-Phillips, who works with students and their families through the intake and court process.

The program initially was offered to high school students and was expanded to the middle schools mid year. Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said the program could be expanded even further this coming school year.



Hammond police hostage negotiators train in crisis intervention

by Chelsea Scheider Kirk

March 21 , 2013

HAMMOND | Hostage negotiators from the Hammond Police Department are now manning a hotline to help callers navigate real-life crisis situations as part of their monthly training.

The department launched the new training Thursday in partnership with Crisis Center, Inc., in Gary. The department is working with the center's crisis contact program to field calls ranging from suicidal individuals to ones needing community resource information.

Officers on the department’s Hostage Crisis Negotiations Team are certified through the FBI Academy and participate in simulated training regularly. But the new partnership is key because it offers real world experience, said Hammond Police Sgt. Steve Kellogg, who leads the team’s training.

“When you know that it is a real person you are talking to and the crisis you are dealing with is real to this person and it's not something they are reading off the script, it makes it so much more important,” Kellogg said.

Kellogg contacted the center two years ago for officers to man the hotline over the holidays, when he said callers often feel stress. This year he approached the center to integrate the hotline into the team’s monthly training.

“All the team members at the time walked out of there saying that’s some of the best training we’ve ever had,” Kellogg said. “We had numerous suicidal subjects … and not just suicidal but numerous subjects that are in need of help. They are off of medication and need some guidance along the way. We can help provide community resources to them.”

Calls into the hotline come from Lake and Porter counties, but can also come from across Indiana and other states as well, according to Willie Perry, coordinator of the crisis intervention line.

The Hammond Police Department is the first local law enforcement agency the department has worked with, but Perry hopes other departments are interested.

“It parallels what we do and what they do,” Perry said. “They’re crisis intervention. We’re crisis intervention.”

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, who looked in on the training Thursday, said when the team is called out to a scene, the situation has usually hit rock bottom where an individual has a gun or has taken a hostage.

“It’s hard to train for that,” Miller said. “(The hotline) gives them the closest real time practice that they can get.”



Police learn crisis phone line more difficult than in-person

by Michelle I. Quinn
The Post-Tribune

March 25 , 2013

Mark Tharp, (center) listens to a caller explain their situation as Karl Ediam, (far right), both of the Hammond police's Crisis Negotiators team, listens in with Willie P. Perry, coordinator of the Suicide Crisis Intervention LIne of The Crisis Center, (far left) also listens at the Hammond Police Station in Hammond, Ind. Thursday March 21, 2013. The Crisis Negotiators are in partnership with the Crisis and Suicide Intervention Line program through The Crisis Center.

HAMMOND — Trying to get police officers to grasp the nuances between in-person crisis negotiation and crisis negotiation by telephone wasn’t hard for Willie P. Perry, but it was fascinating.

Perry, program coordinator for the Crisis Center of Gary’s crisis and suicide prevention line, watched with pride Thursday afternoon as the Hammond Police Department’s Crisis Negotiation Team officially launched its new program that incorporates the hotline into its training. Once a month, the eight-man team, used to settling hostage and other potentially violent situations, will now use their first-responder duties in profoundly different ways simultaneously.

By shortly after 1 p.m., the officers were on their second call.

“How’re you feeling?” one of the officers asked the caller, a woman despondent over her husband’s death. “You’re very special for treating him the way you did. It’s hard to lose somebody, but now, you have to concentrate on taking care of you, too.”

The similarities between the two disciplines came to Sgt. Steve Kellogg, the department’s crisis negotiation trainer, two years ago around the holidays. He’d seen either a billboard or commercial for a suicide-prevention hotline and thought it would be interesting for the team to volunteer. Perry, the hotline’s coordinator for 30 years, agreed and got the men trained in suicide assessment.

The team spent a whole day at the Crisis Center and loved the experience, Kellogg said, so they asked to do it again during this past Christmas. Then Kellogg had an even better idea.

“I asked Willie if we could patch phone calls in to us during our training,” Kellogg said. “She worked on it from her end, and we approached the chief (Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller), who said, ‘Yeah, go for it.’ ”

Hammond’s training, set up very much like it would be during a live crisis situation, has the men working in teams of four for each call. One is the primary, who speaks to the caller, while two others listen in and write down suggestions of what to say for the primary. The fourth officer mans the dry erase board, writing down the basics of the call for the whole team.

Its set up is considerably different from the hotline’s, which sees calls primarily from Northwest Indiana, but they can come from all over the state and even the country, according to Perry.

“When you’re on the phone, you’re a team of one,” Perry said. “We do have staff to debrief with after a call or shift if volunteers need it, but otherwise, it’s just you.”

The team will go through its regular training, Kellogg said, but once the phone rings, they stop and work the call. On its first day, the team received nine calls in three hours.

While the end game is exactly the same — diffusing a crisis situation and making sure the person on the other end is safe and secure — getting there calls upon skills the officers aren’t used to using. When they’re on the scene, the officers are able to see what’s going on and use their authority to resolve it, Perry said.

On a crisis call, the officers are anonymous, so authority is the last thing anyone considers.

“You’re using your ears for your eyes,” she said. “I can’t see you on the ledge when we’re on the phone, so I’m using my coping skills and understanding to help them off.”

That’s been a little disconcerting for Kellogg, who’s found the training stressful at times.

“In the street, we’re resolving a situation that day because it’s dangerous,” he said. “(With the calls), we have to allow the person to hang up whenever they choose, so you don’t know what the outcome is. It’s not easy at all.

“We get more cooperation (from the callers), but once they end the call, all you can say is, ‘Promise me you’re OK for now.’ ”

That cooperation makes it easier, as far as Cpl. Eby Gonzalez, the Crisis Negotiation Team Leader, is concerned.

“In the real world, we’re the police, but here, we’re listeners,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s a bit more comfortable because they’re reaching out to us.”

Miller said the training is invaluable for real-life negotiations and a good chance for the department to do something good for the community, both Hammond and beyond.

In a time where calls to the crisis prevention line have increased, Perry is grateful for the department’s effort and lauded it as “innovative.”

“I am thrilled about knowing there’s a crisis negotiator on the other end for callers,” Perry said. “(The hotline) is truly Ground Zero for a lot of pain and suffering, and these guys really care.”


Let's Help Children Save Thier Futures

by Shirley Caylor, Editorial Advisory Board member

January 2 , 2013

Most of us were in shock Dec. 14 and the days afterward, wondering how 6-year-old children could be gunned down in their classroom by a young man barely out of his teens.

We don’t have words to describe our feelings of horror and sadness. We remember our own little selves and what scared us. We think about the surprise as that classroom door opened and anticipation of a Christmas visitor quickly changed as shots were fired. We are thankful for the quick thinking that saved some.

How does this happen? How does a shooter get to the point where the connection and feelings for others is gone. What secret imaginings were in his brain. Somehow, he lacked compassion. He didn’t make connections. He was void of feeling.

At the Crisis Center’s Alternative House, almost 400 injured kids enter our doors each year. Each has a sad story. They have grown in size, but they are still little selves with emotional bruises lingering after the physical bruises are gone. They are alone among many at a children’s homeless shelter at the holidays.

As a country, we must do more with compassion and caring to attend to the needs of kids — but also to provide mental health services for people whose obvious strangeness tells us they need help before their sudden decision to alleviate their pressures results in death and injury of innocents and the blameless.

In Indiana, we are near the bottom of the U.S. list for prevention services. Service funds have been cut for children. Kids are running from a home and getting put right back into it — or going into one-after-another foster homes. It’s obvious they can’t protect themselves. Kids don’t vote. It is up to us. We need more services, not less.

We can’t eliminate weapons or guns, but we can provide counseling, mental health care and other services so that a once-upon-a-time little boy named Adam Lanza does not grow up to injure and kill defenseless people. Let’s save some kids. Let’s save some futures.



Region Natives Return Home to Discuss Thier Careers in Public Service & Leadership

Contributed by Wes Lukoshus | Purdue University Calumet Vice Chancellor of University Relations

September 28 , 2012


HAMMOND | Two former Northwest Indiana residents who have gone on to successful national careers in public service will offer their perspectives about “Public Service and Leadership,” at a forum hosted by Purdue University Calumet at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Participating are Carolyn Curiel, a former a speechwriter for U.S. President Bill Clinton and Ambassador to the Central American nation of Belize, and Dale Pupillo, deputy assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service, who has headed the Vice Presidential Protective Division. Curiel grew up in East Chicago and Hammond; Pupillo formerly resided in Gary and Merrillville. Both are Purdue graduates.

The forum, moderated by Purdue Calumet Associate Professor of Political Science Richard Rupp, will place in Alumni Hall of Purdue Calumet’s Student Union & Library.

Admission is free.

“We are extremely pleased and excited that these two highly respected and distinguished individuals are willing to make time in their busy schedules to come to our campus and share important perspectives about public service and leadership,” Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas L. Keon said. “Unquestionably, We can learn a great deal from them about taking advantage of opportunities to make our world a better place.”

Curiel, a Hammond Morton High School alumna, claims her attendance at a 1968 presidential campaign rally in East Chicago for candidate Robert Kennedy whet her appetite for public service.

“The experience of that evening left me feeling that I needed to try to contribute to a better world, to shed light into shadows in whatever way I could,” Curiel, also a former journalist and now a Purdue faculty member and director of the university’s Project Impact, said. “So I went to The Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC News and into public service.

“Now, I am fortunate to teach young people at Purdue from all over the political spectrum who share one thing: a hunger to be involved and to affect change. All that began in Northwest Indiana, in the Calumet Region.”

Pupillo, a 30-year Secret Service veteran, also is credited with having initiated in Gary the suicide prevention Rap Line, which has evolved into Crisis Center, Inc., a multi-service, crisis intervention resource for troubled teens and others.

He attended classes at Purdue Calumet and Purdue West Lafayette, where he joined the Navy ROTC. Commissioned in 1976, he served as a naval surface warfare officer. After active duty, he worked as a special agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service before joining the Secret Service in 1982.

“I have been very lucky throughout my career to witness and participate in extraordinary events,” he said. “I attribute my ability and success to the fact I grew up in Northwest Indiana.”

During the forum, Curiel and Pupillo will express how their Region upbringing helped mold their desire and commitment to public service, as well as qualities of public service leadership they have embraced.

Curiel and Pupillo also will speak to Purdue Calumet classes earlier in the day.


Building Indiana Magazine

July/August , 2012


EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: What future do you believe in for our children

by Shirley Caylor

August 5 , 2012

How often have you heard, “Kids are our future?” But do we invest in them? And what does that mean? Does that mean we save only some?

In 2007, the Crisis Center began an unique program called Safely Home. We know there are long-term impacts for kids and their families from running away. But kids don’t leave home without a reason. Research studies found 43 percent of runaway youths reported physical abuse, 34 percent reported sexual abuse before leaving home and 21 percent reported both — and fear of abuse upon their return.

Runaways are four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempts. They are at greater risk of medical problems once on the streets, including engaging in survival sex.

In cooperation with the Crisis Center’s Safely Home program, every Lake County police department helps by rescuing and transporting runaway youths to Alternative House. We thank law enforcement for their acts of concern. A youth’s brief stay is followed up by phone contact with his or her parents or caregivers to ensure a successful safe return. But sometimes they can’t go back.

Kids Count in Indiana’s 2011 Data Book reported a Lake County increase in child abuse and neglect from the 2005 base year to 2010. Long term, abused kids are more likely to experience delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use and mental health problems. They drop out of school, are expelled or suspended and have lower education levels. Two-thirds of people in drug treatment programs reported being abused as children. One-third will victimize their own kids.

Indiana is planning on giving $100 tax refunds next year to taxpayers — the result of huge cuts in services as funds were reverted to the state’s coffers to balance a budget and then the funds were "misplaced." Imagine losing track of so much money while people suffered? In this funding cycle, the Indiana Department of Child Services continues to cut services for children -- but only $16 million rather than the previous cuts of more than $200 million in the last three years. Meanwhile, kids are hurt. Some have even died as a result of abuse. How’s that for investment?

What happens to children if rescue never comes? What happens to our state if children are not a priority? How do we build skills and productivity to compete in our fast-changing global economy when we ignore investing in tomorrow’s workforce? Without help, these kids will have lower levels of personal income and higher levels of public assistance. Invest now or we pay later.

We do not live in a civic vacuum. Do we take personal advantage today over the public good tomorrow? Do we prefer our $100 tax refund? Or do we want Indiana to have better roads, better schools and safe children? In November, we will have an election, and we will choose. There are consequences to our choices.


A Day in CHINS Court

Maria Kwiatkowski

July 8 , 2012

A pregnant woman tries to commit suicide in a homeless shelter after leaving her other two children with an acquaintance.

A 13-year-old boy prostitutes himself for money to buy food.

An 8-year-old accuses her stepfather, who is a convicted sex offender, of forcing her to have sex with him. The girl tests positive for herpes.

These Lake County families are among those who recently appeared in juvenile court for a child in need of services, also known as CHINS, proceedings. A recent Times investigation found parents willing to claim they were guilty of neglect during CHINS hearings to secure needed services for their children with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.  But families in that situation don't typically appear at CHINS hearings. The majority of families in CHINS court proceedings face accusations of serious abuse or neglect.

Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura heard 10 such cases during a recent day in court.

The families involved live in northern and southern portions of the county. Some are poor, others middle-class. They come from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.  But in all cases, the Indiana Department of Child Services determined those region families were in desperate need of intervention.

Here are their stories.

(exerpt: Trapped

The 13-year-old Hammond boy just wanted to be free.

He told DCS investigators he ran away from home because his aunt didn't understand he was gay and trapped in a boy's body. She wouldn't let him wear ladies clothes, he complained. The boy's parents are incarcerated for drug-related offenses so his aunt is his legal guardian. He started running away from his aunt's home several months ago.

DCS officials filed CHINS proceedings against the aunt after she refused to pick up her nephew from the Crisis Center's emergency shelter because he kept running away. She told Bonaventura her nephew frequently was in trouble at school and home. He often was picked up by police for prostituting himself, she said.

The boy told investigators he prostituted himself for food. He had been missing from his aunt's home for three weeks before showing up at the Crisis Center with no shoes and looking unkempt.

Bonaventura told DCS to place the boy in foster care. "A group home would be torturous at best," she said. "He would be bullied, tormented."

The aunt said she was concerned the neglect substantiation could affect her job. Bonaventura said the woman could appeal to get her name removed from the state registry). [full story]



Wine Fest Features Food, Beverages, and Auction

Staff Report

June 6 , 2012

CHESTERTON | The Crisis Center’s 17th annual Wine Fest, Live & Silent Auction is slated for 5:30 to 9 p.m. June 14 at Sand Creek Country Club.

The event, “Northwest Indiana’s Biggest Night,” benefits the Crisis Center’s multi-faceted crisis intervention and prevention programs for children, adults, and families. Crisis Center services include the Safe Place outreach program; Alternative House emergency shelter, Teen Court youth development, and Crisis Contact, a crisis and suicide prevention hot line and designated call-center for the national Lifeline network.

Last year’s event was attended by more than 600 people and featured 300 silent auction items, gourmet food, fine wines and beer, plus live auction items. This year’s 60-person committee is led by Andy Arnold, Precision Control Systems; Leslie Kiefer, Centier Bank; Scott Steinwart; Citizens Financial Bank, and E. Thomas Collins Jr., Collins Interest Ltd.

The official event website, has details on tickets sales, a recap of last year’s event, and sponsorship/underwriting opportunities. The official Facebook page, keeps visitors up to date.

Individual tickets cost $95, and can be purchased on the official event website. Sponsorship levels range from $500 to $20,000, and underwriting from $1,000 to $25,000. This year’s fundraising goal is $250,000.

Silent and live auction items are welcome from businesses and individuals. To arrange for items to be picked up, or for additional event information, contact event coordinator Nikki Wielgos at (219) 938-2720.

The Crisis Center, 101 N. Montgomery St., Gary, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and contributions are tax deductible.



Former Foster Youths Share Experiences

By Chas Reilly

May 26 , 2012

MERRILLVILLE | Gavin Mariano and Jake Garcia grew up in different areas, but the two men led similar lives as children.

They had abusive families during their childhood, but later found the love and support they needed from foster families, they said Friday during a National Youth Advocate Program event honoring local foster parents.

Mariano said some of his family members were involved in gangs while he grew up in East Chicago and Hammond. He also was abused by his mother and brothers.

"I dreamt to get out of that horrible situation," he said.

He eventually called a runaway hotline and was taken to the Crisis Center in Gary.

He was placed in a foster family in Gary. Mariano said that family helped him during the "four crucial months" before he graduated high school.

"Being a foster parent is a wonderful thing," he said.

Mariano later graduated from Indiana University. He has worked at the Crisis Center since he received his degree, he said.

For Garcia, growing up in Joliet, Ill., involved physical and verbal abuse from his father.

Many of his family members also were involved with gangs.

He said he was "one of few to break that cycle."

Garcia was with two foster families during his junior and senior year of high school. He said those families loved and cared for him like he was their biological child.

"You guys can really change kids' lives," he told the group of foster parents.

Garcia said he currently works to help children by serving as a youth minister in Merrillville and operating teen camps in Crown Point.

The National Youth Advocate Program office in Merrillville currently has 44 foster homes in Northwest Indiana and about 70 children in those homes.



St. John man brings technology to bidding

By Leslie Baily

May 21 , 2012

Integrating technology into the silent bidding process is helping local and national nonprofits and organizations move beyond pen and paper.  AuctionsByCellular partners Philip Crutchfield, of St. John, and Jim Alvarez, of Downers Grove, Ill., see the benefits of taking bids to a new level.

"We turn silent auction bidding into electronic bidding," Crutchfield said. "With cell phone–based events, you can leave and if you are outbid, you instantly get a message. Our checkout process streamlines everything. We can print out invoices and are ready to process credit cards through our iPads."

At events, an AuctionsByCellular team helps participants register for the auction, providing avenues for anyone to bid whether they have a cell phone or smartphone or prefer to not use a phone at all.

Crutchfield said a smartphone user will receive a link with pictures and descriptions of the items up for auction – if these are provided by the organizations – as well as updates on the current bid. Cell phone users receive text messages while the staff is on hand with iPads to place bids for those who don't want to use a phone.

"The smartphone links can replace bid sheets at events," he said.

Crutchfield said the company also can serve as consultants after participating in more than 100 silent auctions since launching in May 2011.

"We are not just there for the night. We can give our opinion on what works and what doesn't," Crutchfield said. "People think more items means more money, but there needs to be competition and a manageable number of items so people can get through them all."

Crutchfield has found himself immersed in a new world after building a career in sales. He decided to seize the opportunity to partner on AuctionsByCellular when Alvarez approached him in 2011. The company's software team saw the potential of the service after moving out of a year–long testing phase.

"I had been selling forever, had a number of sales jobs and was ready to move on my own," Crutchfield said. "In September, I jumped in and had one of my first events at Notre Dame in South Bend. It went amazingly well."

Today, Crutchfield and Alvarez are looking to grow with teams already established nationally from Chicago to Las Vegas to Indianapolis to Denver. Their clients include the Crisis Center of Northwest Indiana, Opportunity Enterprises, Ronald McDonald House program and Make–A–Wish Foundation.

"It can be a challenge to help organizations get past the fear and get past what they've always done and OK to make a change. We can make the night so much easier and when bidders are instantly notified, they will often spend extra money," Crutchfield said. "When an organization raises $37,000 and it wanted to raise $16,000 – that's incredible. We see what effects the money can have. It's such an amazing feeling. You feel good about yourself."



Women executives honored by casino for Mother's Day

Staff Report

May 16 , 2012

Women executives honored by casino for Mother's Day

Enjoying the Pre-Mothers Day Reception at Majestic Star Casino are, from left, honoree Kris Prohl from The Arc Northwest Indiana, Corporate Director of Community Relations and President of the Barden Gary Foundation Chareice White, and honorees Helen Rutkowski of TradeWinds Services and Shirley Caylor of Crisis Center.


GARY | Majestic Star Casino hosted its annual Pre-Mothers Day Reception on May 11, honoring the executive directors of three organizations making a difference for women and children, in recognition of Mother's Day.

Executive Director Kris Prohl of The Arc Northwest Indiana, Director of Industry Helen Rutkowski of TradeWinds Services, and Executive Director Shirley Caylor of Crisis Center were honored.

Majestic Star team members purchased personal care products from their own pockets to donate customized gift baskets presented to the honorees - various departments held a fun competition to design the most creative basket. Trophies were presented to the food and beverage department for first place, security department for second place and table games department for third place.

The Arc Northwest Indiana supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in 23 group homes, as well as those working at centers in Crown Point, Gary, Highland and Hobart, and at 121 employers throughout Lake County.

TradeWinds Services helps individuals with disabilities grow to their potential success through speech, hearing and therapy services, and employment.

Crisis Center offers Crisis Contact and Reassurance Contact telephone lines, counseling services, Safe Place outreach to youth, early intervention and youth development programs, and referrals



Mother’s Day reception honors service organizations

By Lisa DeNeal
The Post-Tribune

May 11 , 2012

For the 11th year, Majestic Star Casino and Hotel honored local organizations that assist women and children in need by hosting them at a pre-Mother’s Day reception.  Chareice White, corporate director of community relations for Majestic Star Casino and president of the Barden Gary Foundation, said it was 10 years ago when a decision was made to provide more than monetary donations to people in need, and to get employees involved in making contributions.

This year’s honorees, the Crisis Center, TradeWinds Services and The Arc Northwest Indiana, received an array of gifts — everyday necessities many take for granted — for the clients they serve.

The gifts were purchased by Majestic Star employees. Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center, was awestruck by the embellished displays of everyday necessities, as each department also focused on the presentation of the toiletries, clothes, baby necessities and more.

“I feel like a kid on Christmas morning,” Caylor said of the gifts. “These displays and the love and warmth the casino employees put into buying these items shows a lot of generosity and love. The clients are going to be so excited.”

Caylor added that already this year 141 children have come to the Crisis Center’s Alternative House, an emergency shelter, with 116 of those children entering the center on their own.

Helen Rutkowski is industries director for TradeWinds Services. She, too, was touched by the outpouring of gifts from the casino employees.

Rutkowski shared a personal story of being pregnant 25 years ago, and of receiving news of potential complications. But she stayed positive because as an employee of TradeWinds, she knew what services they offered in helping children with special needs.

The tests turned out to be false-positives and their adult daughter is now considering a career in helping children with special needs.

Kris Prohl, executive director of The Arc Northwest Indiana, said that as a 24-hour provider of shelter and food and a provider of counseling, job training, referrals and other services to women, the Mother’s Day gifts from the casinos are deeply appreciated.

“It is amazing to know the employees here are such huge contributors; helping out people they do not know,” Prohl said.

Jason Gregorec, vice president of table games and VIP services at Majestic Star Casino, said the Mother’s Day reception is something the employees look forward to annually.

“The display of gifts you see are in high respect for the clients in these organizations,” he said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson applauded Majestic Star Casino for its generosity.

“Each organization holds a special place in our hearts in Northwest Indiana,” she said.

Trophies were given to the departments with the three best table designs. First place went to the food and beverage department, second to security and third to table games



Portage schools consider starting teen court

By Joyce Russell

May 7 , 2012

PORTAGE | Officials at Portage Township Schools will consider initiating a teen court for high school students facing expulsion.

At Monday's discussion meeting, School Board member Cheryl Oprisko and Associate Superintendent Ric Frataccia reported on their investigations into starting a court for Portage High School students. The two requested the initiative be placed on the board's May 21 regular meeting agenda for action.

Oprisko said the teen court would be operated primarily by students who would set punishment for peers who choose to go to the court rather than be expelled from the school for disciplinary infractions. The court would be operated under state guidelines, and student jurors would use sentencing guidelines to determine punishment.

Frataccia said the district would hire a professional, Sandra Porter-Phillips of the Crisis Center, to operate the court for the first year. Porter-Phillips, who has facilitated a similar court in Lake County, would train local school employees to take over the court after the initial year.

Teens entering the court would be facing expulsion from school, Frataccia said. They will already have pleaded guilty to their infractions. Consequences would range from community service to tutoring. The students also will be required to act as jurors in subsequent teen court proceedings.

The cost will be about $30,000. The district will be saving much of that money because it won't have to hold expulsion hearings and hire an attorney as a hearing officer, Oprisko said.

The court will be in Porter Superior Court Judge Julia Jent's chambers and will be overseen by Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper. Frataccia said the program is supported by both judges.

Frataccia said the court will have a positive impact on the students involved, allowing them more control over their lives and involving them in the realities of the court process


Expelled students could appear in front of ‘jury’

By John Robbins
The Post-Tribune

May 7 , 2012

PORTAGE — Get expelled from Portage High School and you might find yourself in front of a jury of your peers deciding additional punishment for your actions.

The Portage Township School Board heard from fellow board member Cheryl Oprisko and Associate Superintendent Ric Frataccia on implementing a “teen court”. Their hope is that everything be in place by Aug. 22, the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Under a Form 16 expulsion, a student has a chance to attend the Portage Alternative School at night to continue their education. Under this proposal, the student must also attend a peer teen court session where additional punishment, consequences in the words of Frataccia, is meted out to the student.

Consequences include serving on jury duty, restitution, performing community service or tutoring.

The only adults in the teen courtroom will be the judge and parents. The parents of the student will have to sign an admission of guilt form. Students expelled for drug dealing or weapons violations are ineligible for the program.

“I think there’s a real possibility of having a growth experience,” Frataccia said.

Sandra Porter-Phillips runs the oldest such program in the country for the Crisis Center in Lake County. Porter-Phillips has been recruited to set up the program for Portage. She will set up the program, run it and train her replacement over the course of the next academic year.

“She’s someone with a national reputation, Frataccia said. “She knows the ropes to set it up right the first time.”

The program is expected to cost $30,000, which will be offset by savings in attorney fees, according to Oprisko.

The board will take action on the teen court at its next board meeting on May 21, which will meet in the Portage High School West Auditorium.



Valparaiso Family YMCA joins roster of Safe Places

Staff Report

May 6 , 2012

Valparaiso Family YMCA joins roster of Safe Places

Above - Bob Wanek, Valparaiso Family YMCA CEO, stands in front of the Safe Place sign located on the front of the YMCA building.

VALPARAISO | The latest location to join the growing list of designed "Safe Place" sites in Northwest Indiana is the Valparaiso Family YMCA.

On April 30, the staff at the Valparaiso Family YMCA placed the "Safe Place" sign on the front of the building located at 1201 Cumberland Crossing Drive, making it the 117th business or public location in Porter County to do so.

The sign is an indicator to youth they can walk in and ask for a "safe place," if they find themselves in a precarious situation, such as being lost, stranded, being with an unsafe or drunk driver, or pushed out of their homes.

The program, operated by the Crisis Center in Miller Beach, is designed to empower youth to seek help for themselves and avoid further crisis on the streets. Since 1987, nearly 25,000 youth have sought shelter via the program; in 2008 the program extended to Porter County.

"The Valparaiso Family YMCA is very excited to serve as a Safe Place site. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to youth, families and the community," said Anne Brandt, Valparaiso Family YMCA Marketing Director. "Our members know that we offer a safe place for them to come and spend time, but the Crises Center's program allows us to now offer emergency shelter to them if they need help or find themselves in a dangerous situation."

Valparaiso Family YMCA employees are instructed to respond to a call for help by youth who may needed additional services, namely emergency shelter by contacting the Crisis Center, which sends employees to offer transportation to the shelter.

A complete listing of Safe Place sites in Porter and Lake County is available at


KV women serve their community in many ways

Staff Report

April 19 , 2012

WHEATFIELD | Kankakee Valley Women's Club was started for the DeMotte and Wheatfield area in 1973 by seven women wanting to serve their community. Gail Elsner was the first president of what was then the DeMotte Jr. Woman's Club.

Five years ago the club made a name change to better reflect its demographics and Kankakee Valley Women's Club was chosen since the area served is the Kankakee Valley School Corp.

Yet after nearly 40 years of serving this area with volunteer work, many residents know the club only for its Mother's Day geranium sale.

Saturday, the club is holding a child seat safety inspection day for the public at the Keener Fire Department, with certified inspectors, a balloon lady and face painting to entertain the kids.

May will bring the annual geranium sale and awarding of scholarships. The annual Bunco Bash will be held Oct. 11.

An invitation is extended to any female in the community 21 and older to join the club. Meetings are usually held at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of the month at the DeMotte Library, and guests are welcome.

Each year the club awards two, $500 scholarships to graduates living in the KV school district. This year they will be increased to $750 each.

Also offered is a $250 tech school scholarship, and a $500 scholarship to a female over 25 returning to school.

Hand-made Valentine cards are made for Oak Grove Nursing Home residents and a hymn sing and bingo is hosted by the club.

The club donated to an organization in Panama to supply clean air cooking stoves, donated to local food pantries, donated $225 to the two local fire departments, donated $300 to Wheatfield ambulance service to buy equipment for children and $225 to the Keener Fire Department two years ago.

Each year since 1989, with the help of community members buying gifts for children either living at the Crisis Center or on welfare living in the KV school district, the club hosts the Christmas Miracle Tree, distributing approximately $15,000 in gifts.

The club supports local servicemen and women serving in war zones with phone cards and goody boxes. Last summer, club members adapted T-shirts and shorts for soldiers with injuries through the Sew Much Comfort program.

The club has donated uniforms to the Special Olympics basketball team, supports the Crisis Center each year with supplies and donations, donates yearly to Riley's Hospital for Children, supports two local public libraries and the public school libraries.



EDITORIAL: DCS needs new direction, new director

By TIMES Editorial Board

April 13 , 2012

Before James Payne took over, the Indiana Department of Child Services was a troubled agency. It remains troubled. It's time for major changes.

A highly emotional meeting Wednesday between Payne and a small group of politicians and child welfare advocates reflects the anguish felt across the state when DCS fails to protect a child.

State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, took notice of the recent deaths of two Hoosier children.

Those are not isolated cases. The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday that at least 25 Hoosier children with ties to the DCS have died since 2007.

VanDenburgh also noted the death of 13-year-old Christian Choate, whose severely malnourished body was unearthed last May from a shallow grave in a Gary mobile home park. DCS workers had investigated multiple allegations of abuse and neglect in the years before the child's death but did not substantiate any wrongdoing.

Payne said a recent DCS report shows fewer children with prior DCS contact are dying, and that the number of children's deaths from abuse or neglect is declining. However, it remains too high.

Also of concern is Payne's decision to use a private company to place troubled children in foster homes when facilities designed to help these children — and which had been proved successful — were already in place. Children's homes like the Crisis Center, Christian Haven and Campagna Academy are more expensive than foster homes, sure, but they offer a nurturing and professional setting that some children need.

Foster care offers a family-like setting, but often without professional counseling and other services provided by residential care facilities. The decision on where to place a child should be based on what best serves the child's needs and not what's cheapest. DCS should be all about protecting children, not protecting the state's budget.

The Indiana General Assembly plans to set up a study committee this summer to take a critical look at how the DCS operates and the outcomes of its efforts. As Wednesday's meeting showed, many legislators are concerned about how DCS has failed children who needed protection.

Helping bring this to lawmakers' attention was the resignation last month of Dr. Antoinette Laskey as head of the Indiana Child Fatality Review Team. Laskey is a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and had been highly praised by Payne.

Laskey's letter of resignation, sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels, cited persistent conflicts with Payne.

"I can no longer participate in a process that is unable to work effectively in this state," she wrote.

Laskey's resignation should prompt Daniels to ask for Payne's resignation. The DCS needs a new direction. It needs a new director.

It is time for Gov. Mitch Daniels to replace Payne with a professional open to progressive ideas.



Church schedules anti-bullying workshop April 13 in Hobart

Staff Report

April 3 , 2012

HOBART | First Unitarian Church of Hobart, 497 Main St., will hold an anti-bullying workshop from 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 13.

The presenter will be Douglas Harper, a volunteer with the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. He has worked with the Gary Crisis Center.

Harper will cover the scope of bullying, including available resources and what preventative measures are in place.

For more information, call (219) 801-8190.



Drive Helps Crisis Center

By Lisa DeNeal
The Post-Tribune

April 2 , 2012

Story Image

Urban League board president Michael Suggs (from left); Larue Martin, UPS regional community relations representative; Urban League of NWI President/CEO Vanessa Allen; Crisis Center co-founder Shirley Caylor; Urban League of Northwest Indiana Young Professional and chairperson for the toiletries/underwear garments drive Che Wright; Crisis Center coordinator Bill Robinson and Young Professionals president Anne Edwards gather for a recent “Celebrating Courage” program. | Photo provided

The Urban League of Northwest Indiana’s Young Professionals affiliate delivered boxes of toiletries, underwear, pajamas, socks, laundry detergent and more to the Crisis Center Alternative House, 101 N. Montgomery St., March 24 to benefit the center’s youth clients.

The presentation was part of a “Celebrating Courage” program that included a financial literacy seminar held by Young Professionals member and community service and books chairperson Jennifer Holmes, who also coordinated a donation drive for the center.

“We, the Urban League Young Professionals, did a seminar here in February and afterwards one of the counselors gave us a tour of the center,” she said. “The counselor said sometimes the children come to the center with just the clothes on their backs. Hearing that, I felt we could do more than seminars.”

Holmes brought the idea to do a drive to collect toiletries, grooming products, personal hygiene items and more to Young Professionals president Anne Edwards and Urban League of Northwest Indiana President and CEO Vanessa Allen.

The Urban League Young Professionals then went through the journey of reaching out to the community asking for donations and the community answered.

“Students in the community, sororities, churches, the Urban League and UPS helped us tremendously,” said Che Wright, Young Professionals member and toiletry and undergarment drive chairperson.

Urban League Board member Larue Martin is the local UPS regional community relations representative. He said UPS’s donation for the Crisis Center totaled $1,100 worth of items for the youths.

“You have to realize that we could be one of the children who come here. I came from the projects and have been through some crisis in my life. UPS is about community service nationally and internationally,” he said.

Crisis Center co-founder Shirley Caylor thanked the Urban League Young Professionals and all who put the drive together.

“We’ve all had difficult times in our lives; no one can leave this earth without facing challenges. ... ” she said.



Valpo Joins Safe Place Program

By James D. Wolf
The Post-Tribune

March 24 , 2012

VALPARAISO — By mid-April, City Hall and police and fire stations will be designated “Safe Place” buildings offering temporary sanctuaries for children and teens who need help.

It will be the first time in Lake and Porter counties that a town or city hall has one of the yellow diamond Safe Place signs on it, said Shirley Caylor, executive director of Crisis Center Inc., which oversees the program.

Crisis Center plans to ask more local governments to do the same because they’re obvious choices — public buildings with easy access, Caylor said.

Portage is considering making its City Hall part of the program, she said.

Porter County buildings part of the program include Boys and Girls Clubs, Centier banks, the United Way building and 65 sheriff’s department vehicles.

There’s already some city property involved: V-Line buses have been Safe Place transports that take youngsters to one of the 14 participating businesses around Valparaiso.

Valparaiso City Administrator Bill Oeding said the only reason city officials hadn’t designated buildings before is that no one asked.

The possibility came up during an informal talk about mid-March, and when they brought it in, “we jumped on it right away,” Oeding said.

Mayor Jon Costas said at Thursday’s Board of Works meeting that having the sign on five city buildings sends a message that Valparaiso cares.

Before signs can go up, the City Hall staff and all three shifts at the fire stations and police station need to watch the training film and go through training materials.

Caylor said adults at the Safe Place buildings are trained to calm children and make them comfortable, then call the Crisis Center.

The Crisis Center picks children up and calls parents to let them know the children are safe.

Decisions about how to handle the problems are made from there, including possible counseling.

The children can go to a Safe Place for a variety of reasons from trouble walking home from school to family conflicts or abuse at home.

About 250 Lake and Porter county children took advantage of the program last year, the youngest being 12, Caylor said.

To view larger size, click image above (PDF)



Donations Sought for Crisis Center Youths

Staff Report

March 21 , 2012

GARY | Young Professionals of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana are conducting a donation drive through Thursday to benefit the Crisis Center located in the Miller neighborhood.

Donations can be dropped off at the Urban League offices, 3101 Broadway, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Thursday.

Monetary donations are also accepted.

"We are undertaking this donation drive because the young people who arrive at the Crisis Center many times come without the personal essentials they need for daily self care," said Che' Wright, co-chair of the drive.

Wright stressed that items should be new and in unopened packages. Items for males include briefs/boxers, undershirts, socks, toothbrushes and paste, deodorant, mouthwash and soap. Females need undergarments including panties and bras, socks, toothbrushes and paste, sanitary napkins, tampons, hair products, deodorant and mouthwash.

Items for both include shampoo, lotion and hair grooming products.

For further information, contact Wright at or call the Urban League office at (219) 887-9621.


In A Charitble Groove

By Luann Franklin
The Times

February 24 , 2012

Photo courtesy of The TIMES

Click here for full story (PDF)


In Step: Local notables ready to dance to a charitable beat for 2012 Dancing with the Local Stars

The Times

February 17 , 2012

Robert Scott, vice president for marketing and communications for Lake Area United Way, admires the determination and commitment of each year's group of "local celebrities" willing to "dance for a great cause."

The Dancing with the Local Stars contest at each year's annual ballroom dance competition in the Celebrity Ballroom of the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville has become one of the most anticipated "unique" charity events in Northwest Indiana each spring.

"It can be a little tough to find our selection of contestants willing to be in the spotlight, but our dancers always give it their all and never disappoint the crowds," Scott said.

This year's 7th Annual Dancing with the Local Stars Contest is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23, as part of the opening night launch of The 19th Annual Indiana Challenge, the four-day state competition through Feb. 26 at the Radisson in Merrillville.

The event annually brings more than 3,000 professional and amateur dancers to the region. As for our local celebrities, they are looking for votes and support while raising money during their dance displays that night.

This year's competing local celebrities are:

• Nicole Caylor of Northwest Athletic Club

• Sharon Sporman of Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness Schererville

• Sandy Martinez of East Chicago Transit

• Marti Rivas-Ramos of First Midwest Bank

• Ray Miranda of BP

• Barb Greene of Franciscan Physicians Hospital

• Gavin Mariano of Crisis Center

Tim and Sue Bourget of Second Street Dance Studio, who help coordinate the event, say the contest adds additional excitement and interest to the event.

"The contestants are provided 10 dance lessons to prepare for their ballroom moment," Tim said.

"Our judges are looking at timing, posture, technique, creativity, showmanship, styling and movement."

In addition to his own studio providing lessons, Tim credits the many other sponsor studios who also provide the courtesy lessons, such as Premiere Dance Studio and Gotta Dance Studio, both of Schererville, Arthur Murray Dance Studio, of Merrillville, along with Duneland Ballroom in Chesterton.



Editorial Advisory Board Member, Shirley Caylor: Indiana's Children Are a Promise

The Times

February 12 , 2012

Each Indiana child is a promise and a hope. Our job as citizens of our great country is to help fulfill their promise to us from us for us.

The call to the Crisis Center came in the midst of a major snowstorm. A little girl, barely out of a single-digit age, had been dropped off at a public building. Traffic crawled as people made their way home before the roads got worse. It was really cold with temperatures dropping toward zero. Our staff person got into a Crisis Center van and maneuvered around stuck autos to retrieve her and bring her to safety.

The little girl had no socks. Her shoes were too big for her small feet. Her coat was held together with safety pins. She hadn't had a bath in quite a while. Her mother had beaten her and told her not to come home. The little girl sat in sadness and bewilderment, waiting for what would happen to her next. She was one of almost 300 children and youths who come to Alternative House on their own through our Safe Place/Safely Home program.

Alternative House is the only place in Northwest Indiana where a young unaccompanied girl or boy can receive shelter and help without being in the child welfare system. Sometimes it is a family argument that has gotten out of hand. Financial or other stresses become overwhelming. Arguments and cold words push people apart who should care about each other. Kids become discards.

Nationally, 1.6 million to 2.8 million kids are pushed out or leave home each year. About 2,000 are kids from Lake and Porter counties. Many are never reported missing. Thanks to caring Lake County law enforcement, kids are transported to safety at Alternative House when discovered by police.

Federal statistics show Indiana has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the nation. Child poverty soared 22 percent in the last year. Indiana's centralized call center had an increase in child abuse reports, but they investigated a smaller percentage and substantiated an even smaller number. The system is failing too many.

Last year, money to help abused and neglected children was given back to the state's treasury to help the budget during the economic downturn. A total of $320 million has been returned. Reports of abuse and neglect have increased, even though the state is attempting to "work smarter."  The Crisis Center is under tremendous financial pressure to provide services to the kids whose lives at home are so bad they risk leaving on their own. There are no "per diems" for them. And the funding available does not match the need. These kids need help. We need help to give them care.

Gabrielle Gifford, the Arizona congresswoman is recovering from a gunshot to the head, said with hope, "We can change things for the better."  Yes, we can. When we keep the promise to our Indiana children, we keep it for ourselves, too. Someday, their job might be caring for us.

South Haven Boys & Girls Club youth wins in Regional Club Tech Digital Arts Festival

Staff Report
The Times

January 28 , 2012

VALPARAISO | Boys & Girls Clubs of America named Tyler Goodman the regional winner in its 10th annual Club Tech Digital Arts Festivals competition for his entry in the Photo Tech category. Goodman will move on to represent the Midwest region at the national level of competition for the 13-15 age group.

For the Photo Tech category, Boys & Girls Club members were asked to create a poster that showcased citizens engaged in activities that give back to their community or depicts someone who models good character. Goodman's poster creation, titled Building a Safe Place, showcased his creativity and tech skills learned at the South Haven club. The entry will be judged by a panel of national experts.

"Through the Club Tech Digital Arts Festivals we're able to inspire our future designers, game developers, filmmakers and musicians," said Dan Rauzi, senior director of technology programs, Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "It is amazing what our kids and teens can do when given access to technology and allowed to express themselves creatively."

Club Tech Digital Arts Festivals allow BGCA, along with founding sponsor Microsoft and Comcast, to give young people an avenue to get creative and design original pieces of digital artwork-from posters and PSAs to stop-motion animation and logos. The competition is one component of the Club Tech program which teaches critical technology skills.

"With Club Tech, members are introduced to the world of clay animation, robotics, game design, digital movie making, photo illustration, graphic design and music production," said Rauzi. "We're giving them real-world skills that will not only help them excel in school, but create a future career."


2012 Indiana Editorial Advisory Board

The TIMES Staff Report

January 1, 2012

Today, we introduce new members of The Times Editorial Advisory Board. They have agreed to share their opinions on issues of local and regional interest. Look for these familiar names and faces on columns in the Forum section over the next year.

• Nancy Adams, Central Porter County commissioner, Valparaiso

• Speros Batistatos, president and CEO, South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority

• David Bochnowski, chairman and CEO, Peoples Bank, Munster

• Peggy Buffington, superintendent, School City of Hobart

• John Cain, executive director, South Shore Arts

Shirley Caylor, executive director, Crisis Center

• Denise Dillard, chairman, Northwest Indiana Healthcare Council

• Constantine Dillon, superintendent, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

• James Dworkin, chancellor, Purdue University North Central

• Lincoln Ellis, executive director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana

• Michael Griffin, clerk-treasurer, Highland; chairman, Committee of 16+

• Joan Grott, Purdue Extension educator, Valparaiso

• Mary Harper, judge, Porter Circuit Court, Valparaiso

• Tom Keilman, director of government and public affairs, BP Products North America

• Lou Martinez, president, Lake Area United Way

• Michael McPhillips, deputy commissioner, Indiana Department of Transportation

• Brian Miller, police chief, Hammond

• Shar Miller, president, Prompt Ambulance, Highland

• Frank Mrvan, North Township trustee

• Kay Nelson, director of environmental affairs, Northwest Indiana Forum

• Dennis Rittenmeyer, former president, Calumet College of St. Joseph

• Michael Steinberg, executive director, Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana

• Harry VandeVelde, president and CEO, Legacy Foundation

• The Rev. Mark Wilkins, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church, Crown Point

• Nate Williams, chairman, Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.



Crisis Center Celebrates 40 Years with Dinner

The TIMES Staff Report

December 10, 2011

GARY | Crisis Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a dinner for supporters, donors, board members, staff and volunteers.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Crisis Center, 101 N. Montgomery St.
Crisis Center began in January, 1971 with volunteers who created a hot line called "The Rap Line" after a local youth committed suicide.

The free service continues today as "Crisis Contact," is accessible at (219) 938-0900, and is linked to the national suicide prevention line. Hundreds of calls are received each month.
Co-founder the Rev. Dr. Donald G. Capp used his persistence to obtain initial funding from the city of Gary's revenue sharing funds, and the center has grown to include the Alternative House emergency shelter for children and youth, Safe Place outreach to youth in crisis, Teen Court prevention and early intervention services for youth, and low-cost counseling services for community residents.

Executive Director Shirley Caylor has encouraged former staff members, volunteers and community leaders to attend Wednesday's dinner and help celebrate the mission of "helping people help themselves."
For more information, visit or call (219) 938-7070.


Lake Area United Ways Donates Computers to Agencies

By Sue Reed


November 3, 2011

Lake Area United Way, working in partnership with Net Literacy and the Indiana Association of United Ways, recently distributed 156 updated computers to 13 community organizations. The computers will be used primarily in job training and computer lab settings so clients can increase their literacy skills.

The recipient agencies include Boy Scouts of America, Calumet Council; Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana; Catholic Charities; Crisis Center; Gary Life Education Initiative; Girls Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana; Greater Works; North Township Trustee's Office; The Salvation Army; Sojourner Truth House; Urban League of Northwest Indiana; United Neighborhood Organization; and YWCA of Northwest Indiana.

The donations were made possible by Net Literacy, which refurbishes old computers and redistributes them with the help of middle and high school student volunteers. Net Literacy has provided computer access to more than 150,000 Hoosiers in 20 counties, with chapters in three other Midwest states.


Chesterton's Shirley Caylor Leads Crisis Center in 40th Year

Staff Report

The Chesterton Tribune

November 4, 2011


Editorial: Residential Care Best for Some Kids

By The TIMES editorial board


October 27, 2011

Dead or in prison.

That's the fate Titus Cade, a freshman at Vincennes University, said awaited him if a probation officer hadn't pushed to enroll him at Christian Haven in Wheatfield.

Similar stories come from many who found help in youth homes serving neglected and troubled children.

A boy given direction at the Crisis Center in Gary grew up to serve on a U.S. Secret Service detail.

A girl from the Carmelite Home in East Chicago thrived in a Navy career.

Over and over, the testimonies to the success of residential care facilities for children can be heard.

Unfortunately, such stories may be coming to an end.

James Payne, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, has directed more and more children be placed in foster homes rather than residential care facilities.

His reasoning: Children belong in a family or family-like environment.

Those operating residential care facilities agree children develop best as part of their caring family, but when that is not possible — for a wide variety of reasons — children are most often best served by placement in a nurturing and professional setting.

Foster care, it is argued, provides children a family-like setting but often without helpful structure and professional counseling.

Steve Grygar, owner of three businesses in San Diego, came to Christian Haven as a 13-year-old self-described "troubled kid who carried a gun." He credits psychologists serving the youth home who were "there to care and listen to me" for turning his life around.

"I don't think (foster care) could have handled my problem," he said.

Northwest Indiana probation officers, therapists, case managers and judges have found the region's nearly dozen youth homes a place to help troubled children rebuild their lives.

Payne, instead, describes it as a "culture of placement." He favors foster housing for children.

He does so even though the system of foster homes has been described by some as warehousing children. As many as 10 or more children have on occasion been assigned to a single foster home.

Residential care administrators cite what they call "failing up" as a trend among children assigned to foster care — children bounced from foster home to foster home. One case The Times learned of was a boy assigned to 21 different foster homes.

What's so special about the likes of the Crisis Center or Christian Haven? The youth or residential homes, which offer counseling multiple times each week, have professional staff available 24 hours a day and tailor programming to the needs of children.

They offer a structured environment built around an atmosphere of understanding and care.

But some wonder if shifting children away from the residential/youth homes to foster care is more about money than what is best for children.

Patrick Oatis, executive director at Christian Haven, notes it is cheaper to place a child in a foster home than a residential facility, even though residential facilities can provide more intensive, more frequent professional services.

Then, too, there is a matter of the state not allocating the youth homes the full amount of allocated dollars. It became necessary for the Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies to file suit against the state — Payne's agency — to gain a full share of the funds. The state settled out of court.

Hopefully, the Department of Child Services' shift from residential youth homes to foster care is not linked to the state's failure to win this lawsuit in federal court while under Payne's direction?

Money should not be the deciding factor in helping children.

Shirley Caylor, the Crisis Center's executive director, puts it best by saying, "Cheaper is not less expensive when children's lives are damaged by multiple placements (in foster homes) and disconnections." We agree.

The network of residential youth homes has worked well in Northwest Indiana, in some cases for nearly a century. The state needs to rethink its decision, recognizing the value of the caring youth homes serving this region.



Children in Peril: Youth Homes Challenge State Decision to Put Foster Care First

By Kathleen Quilligan and Marisa Kwiatkowski Times Staff Writers


October 23, 2011

The man from Texas wanted to show his wife and 4-year-old son where he grew up.

So the family made the trip to Schererville, stopping at Campagna Academy -- formerly known as Hoosier Boys Town -- where the man lived in the 1960s as a child.

"I would have been in gangs or in prison without Hoosier Boys Town. It made me a man," the man told Scott Sefton, the senior director of development and public relations for Campagna Academy.

Although the facility's name has changed, the stories of residents whose lives were improved are the same. Such as a 14-year-old boy who came to Campagna in 2002 and, after three years there, left with his GED. Today, he's in the Army and graduated in May from Murray State College, where he majored in criminology. His goal is to work with youth in a residential care facility, Sefton said.

But Campagna's and similar facilities' ability to help such children in the future may be in jeopardy. The Indiana Department of Child Services more often is shifting children into foster care rather than residential placement facilities such as Campagna.

About a dozen residential placement facilities are licensed in the seven counties in Northwest Indiana and roughly 140 are licensed throughout the state. A residential facility is a secure campus where children receive treatment services and 24-hour care after being removed from their homes or foster homes.

DCS officials say children are better off in the least-restrictive, most family-like environments.

Residential placement administrators agree children are better off with their families but, when that is not an option, administrators said their facilities are a good place for children to thrive. Administrators said they worry DCS' shift will leave behind children who need the more intensive services their facilities provide.

A culture of placement

Historically, children in Northwest Indiana stayed in residential facilities for multiple years.

DCS Director James Payne called it a "culture of placement" that existed among region case managers, probation officers, therapists and judges. In northern Indiana, 57 percent of children in out-of-home placements lived in residential care, while only 7 percent in the southern half of the state did, he said.

"It was just the way things were, and people were satisfied with it," Payne said.

But state officials were dissatisfied with the system and committed to reducing the number of children in out-of-home placement, as well as reducing the disparity among how different counties handled child welfare.

In September 2005, Payne told residential providers that DCS officials would focus on keeping children with families or in family-like environments such as with relatives, siblings or in foster homes.

He said extensive research at the national and local levels has shown that is what's best for children. Other states, including Utah, Maine and Virginia, made similar shifts in recent years.

"The goal is to look at residential placement not as a destination but as a service that has a limited period of time," Payne said.

DCS implemented its policy shift in May 2007 -- after first doubling its workforce, training its staff and implementing a standardized tool to help determine the best placement of a child. From May 2007 to August 2011, the number of children in residential placement facilities dropped 55 percent, data provided by DCS shows.

Administrators of residential facilities in Northwest Indiana told The Times they didn't see a difference in placement until earlier this year. Payne said it took longer to develop resources in Northwest Indiana to support keeping children with families.

"There's always going to be a need for residential placement facilities," DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth said. "There are children who are so physically and emotionally damaged that they're going to need a place with 24-hour care and services that these facilities provide."

But residential-placement facility administrators are concerned that, in their view, DCS does not see residential placement as a viable first choice for children.

Failing up

Some children in local residential facilities first bounced from foster home to foster home -- as many as 21 in at least one case -- before being placed in a residential facility. They are children with behavioral or psychological problems.

Residential administrators call it "failing up" -- placing a child in the least-restrictive setting available and, if that doesn't work, moving the child into more and more restrictive settings. Residential placement facilities are considered the most restrictive setting outside of a juvenile detention center or prison.

Administrators said the "failing up" mentality can further traumatize children who crave stability.

Patrick Oatis, executive director of Christian Haven in Wheatfield, said every time a child "fails," it makes the next step more difficult and disrupts any prior relationship he or she may have built.

"The certain harm of removing a child from a home is less traumatic than the potential harm of leaving a child in a home," he said. "Kids who've been shot, lost family and friends, (been) sexually abused ... these kids need respite and to see they have something to offer society. Having them fail in multiple systems makes that impossible."

DCS Director Payne agreed, saying his agency's goal is the fewest placements possible.

"When you talk about 16 placements (in a row for one child), my heart aches for those kids," he said. "That should never happen. ... We all hope that the first placement is the only placement."

Payne said those multiple placements likely date back to the years before DCS used CANS -- an evidence- and research-based assessment tool -- to help determine what level of care a child needs. He said caseworkers do the best they can to find the right placement first.

Children under DCS supervision in Indiana average 2.5 consecutive placements, DCS records state. In Lake County, they average 2.8 placements; Porter County children average 3.1 placements.

"I think we're better than we were 10 years ago," Payne said. "We're better than five years ago. In five years, we'll be better than we are now, but it is still going to be that there are some kids who do need multiple placements."

Realistic first placement

Oatis and other administrators said they believe residential facilities are realistic first placements for children with more intensive needs.

Residential placement facilities, which offer therapy multiple times a week, have staff available 24 hours a day. Some facilities offer special services, including psychotherapy and using horses or wilderness retreats to teach children from urban areas about nature.

Oatis noted it is cheaper to keep a child in a foster home rather than a residential facility, but he said facilities can provide more intensive, more frequent services. For example, a child living in a foster home may receive therapy once a week, while a child in residential placement may receive multiple one-on-one and group sessions, Oatis said.

Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center in Gary, acknowledges DCS has a difficult decision to make when determining the best placement for a child. She said she believes DCS officials think they are doing the right thing by moving children away from residential facilities, but she disagrees.

"Cheaper is not less expensive when children's lives are damaged by multiple placements and disconnections -- cheaper in the short term, more costly in the long term," she said.

DCS Director Payne said there are children who need the security and services offered by residential providers. He said the state agency's decision to use residential placement more sparingly has nothing to do with dollars and cents.

"This is not about money," Payne said. "It is strictly about what is best for children."

Administrators of residential facilities, who rely on DCS reimbursements and donations, said DCS' shift away from residential placement has hurt their bottom lines.

Changing times

Elena Dwyre, interim CEO of Campagna Academy, said the shift in placements has been "devastating" to financial stability for placement facilities. Facilities have fixed costs such as buildings, energy and insurance, she said.

The money residential facilities receive from DCS per child per day doesn't cover costs, but it is steady income as opposed to donations, which can fluctuate.

"We have seen a decrease in planned giving and overall fundraising monies compared to the last three years," Dwyre said, adding there has been an increase in volunteer time and product donations as opposed to cash donations.

Payne said he realizes the state agency's shift has been challenging for residential providers who invested time and money into taking care of children in need.

"While we recognize that those who have been involved with residential facilities have a passion and commitment, our passion, commitment is not toward a facility," he said. "It is what's best for kids."

Payne said the average residential facility is at 53 percent occupancy.

"We have an overabundance of beds available in the state of Indiana for the demand," he said. "Eventually, some adjustments are going to have to be made in that."

Doing more with less

Cathy Graham, executive director of the Indiana Association of Residential and Child Care Agencies, said some residential facilities have closed cottages or wings of their buildings to adjust.

At Christian Haven, Oatis estimates he's working with a budget about $100,000 less per month than last year. He said he's making those numbers work because he has no other choice.

Sister Maria Giuseppe, administrator of Carmelite Home in East Chicago, said the nonprofit organization will face a $1 million deficit by the end of 2011. The facility serves about one-third the number of children it served a year ago.

Crisis Center's Caylor said the number of children placed by DCS and the number of days those children stay at Crisis Center, called units, are nearly half what they were last year. From January 2010 to June 2010, 4,433 units were reimbursed by DCS at the facility. By contrast, from January to June of this year, the number was 2,598 units.

Gina Arce, 18, of Hammond, was placed at the Crisis Center twice -- the first time when all of her brothers and sisters were removed from her father's home, and the second time after a fight with her mother in which she was kicked out of the house. Arce said her first time at the facility, when she was 16, scared her because she had never been away from home. But she credits her second time at the Crisis Center's Alternative House with getting her to stop cutting classes at school and helping her graduate in June. Today she is enrolled in a local veterinary science program and plans to be a veterinarian.

"It made me feel safer to be around a lot of people," she said. "They let me know I was safe. ... It's a good place. It made me realize a lot."

Stories such as Arce's are why Caylor believes the role of the Crisis Center is important and why she is worried about the facility's future.

"We'll probably have to make more cuts," Caylor said. "We'll continue to be a runaway and homeless shelter, and will continue to be an emergency shelter to children and youth. We'll turn off the lights and lower the heating bill if we have to."

*Times Executive Editor William Nangle is a board member at Crisis Center.


Who's Who in Indiana

Building Indiana Magazine

August 2011

Crisis Center's Gavin Mariano was featured as one of the 'Who's Who in Indiana'.  See images of the magazine with Mariano below.

                   (Click to enlarge as PDF view - allow a moment to load)


Who's Who in Indiana

Building Indiana Magazine

August 2011 edition

Building Indiana Magazine summarized the action at the recent Wine Fest...

  (Click to enlarge as PDF view - allow a moment to load)


Help is a Phone Call Away

By Sue Ellen Ross


June 22, 2011

Out of a 1970 tragedy involving a Gary teen came the inspiration for a telephone “hotline” to help people in crisis. Forty years later The Crisis Center, in Gary, offers many services and has become a staple of the community.

At the beginning, “We wanted to provide free information over the phone for people who had problems and needed help,” said Shirley Caylor, Crisis Center executive director. “At the time, it was a novel idea. There were situations that people were experiencing where there were no resources.”

The impetus for the phone help was a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide. There were no warning signs, according to her friends and family, but her boyfriend had committed suicide the year before. Family and friends were left stunned, wondering if it would have made a difference if she had someone in whom to confide.

The girl’s cousin discussed the situation with Debbie Capp, whose father was the Rev. Donald Capp, pastor of the 43rd Avenue Presbyterian Church in Glen Park. In turn, Capp talked with his wife Shirley about the need to offer some type of help for young people in crisis.

“My husband’s reaction was, ‘let’s do something.’ There was a need to address this issue,” Caylor said. “We felt that if it needed to be done, it could be done. And we believed we could do it.”

Caylor began writing grant applications and the telephone “Rap Line” was started in 1971. Callers were given referrals to agencies and organizations relevant to their problems.

“The hotline has continued, but we changed the name to ‘Crisis Contact,’ since the word ‘rap’ has a different meaning today,” Caylor said. The hours have been expanded to 9 a.m. to midnight.

Two years after the hotline was started, and, with the organization responding to calls from run-away children, the Gary Runaway Center opened in a donated Gary home. The need to house children in problem situations for longer terms was met with the opening of Alternative House in 1976. On Van Buren Street in Gary, the building accommodated both males and females for short periods of time.

“These are not delinquent children,” Caylor said. “They just need a safe home.”

Alternative House is now within the current Crisis Center building at 101 N. Montgomery St.

Nikki Wielgos has been employed with the Crisis Center for 21 years, She currently serves as Safe Place coordinator, overseeing the agenda and Safe Place sites.

“It’s challenging to get the word out about this program, but it’s a great feeling when you pick up a runaway and reunite them with their family.”

Businesses displaying Safe Place signs in their windows will help children in emergency situations by contacting the Crisis Center, she added. “We continue to conduct outreach, trying to help as many kids in crisis as we can.”

Capp was able to see his dream realized before he died in 1999. Now, 45 employees work at the various departments in the Crisis Center.

Other programs that have been added to the Center’s agenda include: Reassurance Contact, which provides free daily or weekly ‘wellness check’ phone calls for homebound, disabled or elderly residents; counseling services, with fees charged on a sliding scale; Teen Court, a project that allows teenagers to act as clerks, bailiffs, jurors, defense and prosecution lawyers, deciding sentences for youth offenders referred by the police department; and Youth As Resources, which gives kids the chance to serve on an advisory committee and provides small grants for service projects for children to perform in their community.



Adventures in Everyday Living

By Pat Colander

Lake Michigan SHORE Magazine

June 8, 2011

Tonight don't miss another social event of the season when Shirley Caylor gathers Gary Crisis Center supporters and friends including Pat and Karren Lee, Tom and Sylvia Collins, Bill and Rita Nangle, Julie and Bill Masterson, Gavin Mariano, Brett Riley, Deb and Scott Anselm and a host of luminaries for the annual wine-tasting and silent auction at the Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton. Also this week we are reporting an outstanding Beaux Arts Ball with record-breaking attendance including a surprise guest appearance by Artist Scott Covert and Arts Patron Dani Lane (first-timers) of New Buffalo and Kathy and Karl Dennis from Michigan City, plus the usual contingent of disco-loving baby boomers, Chicago swells and other arts education aficionados.


Crisis Center’s Wine Fest Helps Mark Center’s 40-year Anniversary

Lake Michigan SHORE Magazine

May 23, 2011

The Crisis Center's 16th annual Wine Fest, Live & Silent Auction-"Northwest Indiana's Biggest Night" is slated for Thursday June 9, 2011, 5:30pm - 9:00pm, at Chesterton Indiana's premier, private Sand Creek Country Club. The event is attended by the "who's-who" of Northwest Indiana and all proceeds benefit the Crisis Center's multi-faceted crisis intervention and prevention programs for children, adults and families. This event is being celebrated during the center's pivotal 40th anniversary year, which also saw a 10,000 sq. foot building expansion supported by proceeds from prior year fundraisers.

Last year's event was attended by over 700 people and featured nearly 300 silent auction items, gourmet food and fine wine and beer tasting, plus dazzling live auction items. This year's 62-person committee, led by chairmen: Andy Arnold, John Diederich, and E. Thomas Collins, Jr., began organizing this year's event late last year.

The event website, has all the details, including tickets sales, a recap of last year's event, and sponsorship/underwriting opportunities. Individual tickets cost $85.00. Sponsorship categories range from $500 to $10,000, and underwriting from $1,000 to $25,000.

Silent & live auction items are welcomed from businesses and individuals, and can be picked up. All contributors will receive well-deserved recognition in the event program, signs, website and post-event newspaper ads depending on the level. The Crisis Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and contributions are tax deductible. Individuals, organizations or businesses interested in supporting or attending this year's event may contact the Crisis Center's event coordinator, Nikki Wielgos via the website or directly at 219-938-2720.

The Crisis Center, located in the Miller Beach community, offers support for youth, adults, and families in crisis through a range of programs. In 2010, nearly 14,000 people from virtually every community in Northwest Indiana, as well as areas throughout the state and country received help.



Crisis Center Spreads Wings

Photos by John Luke

The Times

April 12, 2011


Students Spend Spring Break by Helping NWI Non-profits

By Phil Wieland

The Times

March 14, 2011

VALPARAISO | As thousands of college students head to Florida beaches to celebrate spring break, a group of students has come to Northwest Indiana, and it's not for the beautiful weather.

Eighteen students from the University of Louisville will be in Lake and Porter counties this week during their alternate spring break to help several nonprofit agencies. Volunteer projects range from cleaning and moving a food pantry to painting apartments.

The volunteers in the past worked through the interfaith center on the Louisville campus to clean up damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

They spent Monday participating in projects for Valparaiso's Housing Opportunities and will resume that work today, and on Thursday they will be at the Crisis Center in Gary's Miller Beach and at two food pantries.

They landed in this area because Curtis Peters, one of the campus pastors with the interfaith center, is a Valparaiso University graduate. He said he knew about the need in Gary and contacted Kathy Wojkovich, of the United Way Regional Volunteer Center, who set up the group's itinerary. [more]


Crisis Center's Shirley Caylor in 'At Your Service' Profile

By Sue Ellen Ross


January 31, 2011


Crisis Center's Gavin Mariano in The TIMES 'First-Best' Ad

The Times

January 20, 2011


Local children of incarcerated parents suffer sentences of their own

By Sarah Tompkins

The Times

January 2, 2011

Billie Chette and her husband, John, had planned to meet on a Wednesday for an ultrasound appointment to check on her pregnancy before going to church.

John called at the last minute, apologizing and saying he had to do a roof estimate, Billie said. During his second call, John told her that he loved her -- and that federal agents soon would be calling.

Billie's husband of seven years now is serving a prison sentence almost as long for robbing three Lake County banks.

"He said he did it because we were going to lose the house," Billie said, recalling her shock when she found out after his 2009 arrest. "But we were going to lose the house because of his (heroin) addiction."

Billie and John Chette are not the Lake County couple's real names. All family names also have been changed, which Billie requested to protect their children's privacy.

Once the sole breadwinner, John, 37, has left behind five children, his soon-to-be ex-wife and two children from a previous marriage. Billie, 35, said she now works three jobs, trying to stretch the $2,200 she makes each month to cover bills and feed her children.

"We were victims just like the victims at the bank," Billie said, adding that her older children have had to help care for their younger siblings.

About 20,000 Hoosier children and 30,000 Illinois children last year had parents serving state or federal sentences. And nationally, almost one in 10 children will have a parent incarcerated at some point in his or her life, according to calculations using federal and California Research Bureau statistics.

Government studies show that many children with incarcerated parents have academic and social problems as they try to adjust. Yet, there is little to no assistance built into the system, either federally or at the state level, for families dealing with the sudden loss and financial burdens.

Calls to the federal Bureau of Prisons were not returned.

And often, the children of prisoners follow in those footsteps to crime.

"I'm old enough now where I'm representing children of people I represented years ago," Highland attorney Mike Bosch said, adding he sees that cycle multiple times each year.

Effects take many forms

Mary Beth Bonaventura, judge for Lake County juvenile courts, said juvenile judges often see youth with incarcerated parents, but she did not know whether the lack of a parent or the trauma of incarceration had a greater effect.

"It's a difficult situation all the way around," she said about a parent facing jail time. "It's tragic for the child, and it's tragic for the parents."

For minors who show behavioral problems, Bonaventura said places such as Gary's Crisis Center can offer aid.

"There are a lot of us out there who can help them without ultimately getting them involved in the criminal justice system," Bonaventura said. [more]


Crisis Center's 40-year anniversary ad in 2011 Dex Yellow Pages

Crisis Center staff report

December 20, 2010


Youth group packs donations for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan

Times staff report

The Times

November 16, 2010

HAMMOND | The Crisis Center's youth-led group Youth As Resources brings items to pack and prepare for shipment to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jean Shepherd Community Center, 3031 Mahoney Drive.

High school and college-age students are being recruited to collect donated items. Pizza will be served. To get a list of the suggested items to donate, go online or call. Those who attend must bring donations.

For more information, call (219) 938-7070, e-mail or visit


Chase Foundation awards $125,000 in grants

Times staff report

The Times

November 8, 2010

HAMMOND | The JP Morgan Chase Foundation is awarding $125,000 in grants to eight nonprofit organizations that serve Northwest Indiana residents.
The organizations receiving funds from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation are:
Crisis Center Inc. — The Chase grant will help children living in shelters get back and forth to school, providing stability in their studies.

The Homeownership Programs of the Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance — Chase's grant helps provide foreclosure counseling and resource fairs, homeownership education, and financial literacy workshops and seminars.
South Shore Arts The Skin You Live In — Chase is funding the arts-based literacy and diversity program for second-grade students in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Lake Station and Merrillville. The Skin You Live In program reflects the book's goal to develop literacy skills through friendship, social acceptance and diversity.
Valparaiso Family YMCA Strong Kids Campaign — This annual campaign helps low-income adults, families, single-parent families, children, and people with disabilities and special needs.
Tradewinds' Youth Employment Readiness Program — The grant from Chase will help youth ages 14 to 24 develop practical work and job-readiness skills.
The Kids Cafe program of Second Harvest Food Bank — Kids Cafe provides free meals and snacks to low-income children in community locations such as Boys & Girls Clubs, churches and public schools. Chase's grant will help in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond and Lake Station.
The Technology Development program of the Northwest Indiana Forum — Chase's funding will help create a plan to bring broadband and fiber-optic access to all communities in the region. The funds should help the region attract new businesses and create jobs.

The Building Financial Stability and Independence program of the United Way of Porter County — Chase is helping to set up Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites in Lake and Porter counties to assist low- to moderate-income families prepare and submit income tax returns.

"We invest in organizations that are making a real difference in our community," said Mike Lisac, vice president of commercial banking for Chase. "They have proven they can help local residents prepare for the future."
Chase serves Indiana through 194 branches.



What is the Key Ingredient to the Success of Gary?

October 28, 2010

Shirley Caylor

GARY | Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crises Center Inc.

Business and political leaders from throughout Northwest Indiana gathered at the Genesis Convention Center in downtown Gary to launch the Gary and Region Investment Project.

"The commitment of all of us here is to really do something concretely ourselves to make this happen."

-- Karen Pulliam, president, Gary branch of the NAACP

"Action, not just talk. We need tasks assigned and followed through."

-- Shirley Caylor, executive director, Crisis Center

"The key is transportation-oriented development. I think both the industrial job-producing part of that and residential building part of that (are key)."

-- Pat Lee, head of Lee Companies Inc. out of Gary

"You have to make it, mine it, grow it or move it to encourage economic development."

-- Jill Ritchie, manager of public policy and governmental affairs, United States Steel Corp.

"Cooperation with our region because we're in a global economy. ... The key is business and investment."

-- David Castellanos, 1st American Steel LLC

"I don't think there is one. It's a combination of things: regional assistance ... financial stability ... promoting a positive image."

-- Joe Stahura, mayor of Whiting

"The key ingredient is certainly a regional economic strategy that ties to the suburbs. We have to get all the economies working together. Get trained and job-ready."

-- The Rev. Cheryl Rivera, Interfaith Federation

"The key ingredient is to find a way to get this information to trickle down to the people who aren't in this room and to get them involved and engaged in the process of making the region better. If you can garner that (grassroots) support, a lot of other things will take place."

-- Raymond Davis, recruiter, Purdue University Calumet Upward Bound program


Porter County Sheriff Department Safe Place News Conference

Courtesy of Porter County Sheriff Department

October 27, 2010

Porter County Sheriff David Lain will hold a press conference September 22that 1:00 pm,
at the Porter county Sheriff’s Department training room.

The Safe Place program is a crisis intervention program for youth that have run away or have a history of running away. This collaboration between Safe Place and the Sheriff’s Department will provide round-the-clock access to youth in crisis. Each Porter County Sheriff Department squad car will display a Safe Place decal. [more here]

Above (L-R): Kate Marencik, Crisis Center Alternative House Coordinator; Gavin Mariano,

Crisis Center Public Relations Specialist, Sheriff DavidLain, Porter Co. Sheriff Dept;

Nikki Wielgos, Crisis Center Safe Place Coordinator


Crisis Center expansion marked by remembrance


The Post-Tribune

October 20, 2010

GARY -- Crisis Center, Inc. was founded out of grief, but its mission has helped thousands of youth by offering a place to stay and a way to cope.

On Tuesday afternoon, it recognized the inspiration behind its efforts at a ceremony.

Above - Dale Pupillo speaks next to photo of Leshk.

Photo courtesy of the Post-Tribune

Karen Leshk was a 17-year-old Merrillville High School student when she committed suicide in the summer of 1970.

Her cousin Dale Pupillo, who was 17 at the time, was upset and talked with his friend Debbie Capp about Leshk's death. He lamented that maybe she would have been saved "if she'd only had someone to talk to."

Capp put Pupillo in contact with her father, the Rev. Don Capp, and they established a crisis hotline, called the Rap Line.

Within a few years, volunteers started to help runaway and homeless teens by providing an emergency shelter, as well as offering counseling, a Safe Place, and delinquency prevention.

The shelter provides services to about 435 people each year, with a maximum of 52 people living at the shelter at a time.

Executive director Shirley Caylor estimates that the center has helped 500,000 people in its 40 years of existence.

"Each life touches so many others," Caylor said.

Nearly a dozen of Leshk's family members were present as Caylor -- one of the first hotline volunteers -- unveiled Leshk's senior high school photo in the Crisis Center's lobby.

It was an emotional moment for Leshk's mother, Tina, but she's also proud of the outreach that grew out of the tragedy.

"It brings back the night when I found her, but some wonderful things have come through this," Tina Leshk said. "What (Dale) started, we hope that he's helped a lot of people."

Pupillo moved away after graduating from Merrillville High School, but he's come back to the area regularly to witness how the center has grown.

"It's overwhelming to see what they've done," Pupillo said. "I'm very proud that it has kept going all these years."

Pupillo is currently a secret service agent in Vice President Joe Biden's detail.

Family members remembered Karen Leshk as they toured the nearly finished 10,000-square-foot addition to the center. It will nearly double the shelter's available space, by providing a multi-purpose room, more spacious boys dorm, and several common rooms.

Pupillo recalled his cousin as a tomboy, who he'd ride bikes with in the woods. He recalls watching the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in her basement.

"She was a senior when I was a sophomore," Pupillo said. "And just to have her acknowledge me in the halls was pretty neat."



Crisis Center recalling teen's suicide, catalyst for agency

Times staff report

The Times

October 19, 2010

GARY | The Crisis Center, Inc. will remember the Lake County teenager who was the catalyst for the creation of Crisis Center at 2 p.m. today by presenting her picture to her mother and family members.

In 1970, 17-year-old Karen Leshk's suicide led to the creation of one of the nation's earliest crisis lines in 1971, then called Rap Line.

Today Crisis Center services include Crisis Contact, formerly called Rap Line; Alternative House, an emergency shelter for youth; Safe Place outreach; Teen Court delinquency prevention; counseling services; Youth As Resources; and Reassurance Contact.

"Through the tragedy of this girl's death, thousands of other lives have been saved through the services of the Crisis Center. Her death counted for something," Executive Director Shirley Caylor said in a statement. - By Times Staff



At your service: Julie Bieszczat

By Sue Ellen Ross


September 27, 2010

Residence: Crown Point.

Family: Husband, Tony Bieszczat, and son, Trevor Bieszczat.

Occupation: vice president of Barney Enterprises Management Services and president of Northwestern Medical Imaging

How long have you had those positions? "Three years."

What are your responsibilities? "My responsibilities include owning and operating Northwestern Medical Imaging, an MRI and CT diagnostic imaging facility, and overseeing our real estate holdings within the state of Indiana, and the ownership and operation of Wendy's restaurants, which we are most well known for in the community."

What's the most challenging part of your job? "Our businesses are diversified into so many different industries that it sometimes is difficult to 'switch industry gears.' "

What's the most enjoyable part of your job? "Working with great people. All of our businesses have unique individuals in them who are a pleasure to be around."

How do you handle a difficult situation with a customer? "First, I apologize for the situation, empathize with them and listen as they explain the circumstances. Then I ask what can we do to make things right. Listening to them is so important."

What other jobs have you held? "Before moving back to Crown Point from Indianapolis, I worked for Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis as the production purchasing manager. I was employed with Delta for 11 years."

Why did you return to Crown Point? "My father, John Barney, is the founder of Barney Enterprises, and he asked me to work with him. I always have loved working in the business world and it seemed like a great opportunity to learn more, grow and keep the family business going in the future."

In what ways are you involved in the community? "Since moving back to Crown Point, I have seen how much the business leaders and other people in the Northwest Indiana community give back to those in need. I have been involved with the Gary Crisis Center for three years to help plan their wine fest and auction, held in June each year. Also, I've been part of the Crown Point Community Foundation to help to plan its annual gala event in November, which provides funding for its operating budget. And most recently, I have become a member of the board for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana. Giving back to the community is something that Barney Enterprises Management Services feels very strongly about and will continue to do in the future."



Porter County Boasts More Safe Places

BY Susan Emery


September 23, 2010

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | The Porter County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday it has joined a program that helps youngsters who may be abused, neglected or homeless.

The national program provides children ages 6 to 18 with access to immediate help and resources through a network of sites at agencies and businesses.

There are 36 sites in Porter County, including YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries and fire departments. Each site displays the Safe Place yellow-and-black diamond-shaped logo. Children will see the logo and know help is available.

Porter County Sheriff David Lain said the logo will be placed on all

65 police squad cars. He said the program supports department efforts to build a positive rapport with children.

"We think it's important for the sheriff's department to reach out and develop another positive approach to youth," Lain said.

The program also gives officers another option when called to a domestic disturbance involving a parent and child, said Kathleen Marencik, coordinator of Alternative House, a temporary emergency shelter for youth located in Gary's Miller neighborhood.

"There may be no arrestable offense, but clearly there's an emotional one," Marencik said. "This is an opportunity to have someone removed from the situation, but they're offered services as opposed to a record."

Officers can refer youth for counseling to the Crisis Center Inc. of Northwest Indiana, which administers Alternative House and Safe Place programs.

Implemented in Lake County in 1987, Safe Place expanded to Porter County in 2008.

Safe Place Program Coordinator Nikki Wielgos said Chicago joined the list of cities with Safe Place programs last week. She hopes public service announcements and visits to local schools will help build the program in Porter County.

"I think we're seeing an increase in public awareness," she said.

For more information about Safe Place, visit or


Patrol cars offer safety to youngsters in trouble



September 23, 2010

VALPARAISO -- Porter County Sheriff's Department patrol cars now sport yellow, diamond-shaped stickers to let runaways and homeless youths know the cars are a safe place to go.

At a news conference at the Sheriff's Department on Wednesday, Sheriff David Lain and representatives from the Crisis Center Inc., a youth shelter in Gary's Miller section, kicked off the initiative, the latest in an effort to create awareness about the Safe Place program.

Learn more

To find Safe Place locations in Northwest Indiana, go to and click on the Safe Place logo.

The stickers turn the patrol cars into mobile sites, so youths can be transported directly to the Crisis Center to receive services, as well as making both young people and their families aware of the services available if police are called during a domestic situation, said Kathleen Marencik, coordinator of the Crisis Center's Alternative House program.

"Officers are paid to uphold the law. They're not paid to be social workers," she said. "It's an opportunity to have someone removed from the situation, but be offered services as opposed to a (police) record."

Safe Place, which started nationwide in 1983 and began in Lake County in 1987, provides a place for vulnerable youths to go when they need help. In Lake and Porter counties, those places include fire departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, libraries and some banks and restaurants.

Staff members at those places -- which have the yellow stickers in a window -- can contact the Crisis Center, which will send someone to pick up the child.

Shelter staff will do an assessment, contact the youth's family and make service referrals as necessary,

said Nikki Wielgos, Safe Place coordinator for the Crisis Center.

Safe Place started in Porter County about a year and a half ago, though Porter County is ahead of Lake County in offering up its sheriff's vehicles for the program. About half of the department's cars have the stickers, and all 65 of them will have the stickers within a month.

"This is something Porter County is in the vanguard of doing," Lain said.

The Crisis Center has 52 beds and serves children age 6 through their 18th birthday. Marencik said 193 children used the center's services last year, and the center has the capacity to assist Porter County youths. Porter County does not have a shelter for homeless and runaway children.

Only one Porter County youth has used a Safe Place location here so far, but Gavin Mariano, spokesman for the Crisis Center, said the county's program is still in its infancy.

"Having knowledge of that sign is the most important part," he said.



Goal of LNI is building better leaders, better region

By: Deborah Laverty


July 25, 2010

Nearly 30 years have passed since Shirley Caylor's graduation from what is now known as Leadership Northwest Indiana.

Yet the lessons learned back in the early 1980s are still fresh for Caylor, executive director for the Crisis Center in Gary.

And they are lessons -- which include improving life in Northwest Indiana --  that will continue to be taught as the 30th LNI class begins next February.

Caylor said of the program was important to her because she gained a better understanding of all that goes on in Northwest Indiana including the opportunities, the agencies and the businesses.

"It was a wonderful experience. ... One of the values is that it allows you to make connections," Caylor said.

Making better connections, between all of its past graduates, is just one of the current goals of the organization, Leadership Northwest Indiana Executive Director Keith Kirkpatrick said.

"We're trying to improve the quality of the program and improve the impact on the region. Now with the number of our graduates, some 700 people, we're trying to figure out how to strengthen those connections and facilitate the sharing of resources and helping each other," Kirkpatrick said.

The first leadership class started in 1982 under a program formerly known as Leadership Calumet.

The classes stopped meeting in the mid-1980s, resurfacing again in 1990 under the auspices of Indiana University Northwest, Kirkpatrick said. [more]



Mark Maassel - Who's Who in Indiana

Building Indiana Magazine

July/August 2010

Click image to visit official site


Round Trip

By Jerame Hicks

Nosotros/Us online magazine

July 2010 edition

When most elementray students find out that they are going on a field trip they go absolutely nuts. When high school students find out they being forced to go somewhere they usually just say “why?” That may not be the case for students from Clark High School. The Latino Club from George Rogers Clark High School in Hammond, Indiana had the opportunity to be apart of The National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) NationalLatino Advocacy Days and Lidres Congreso. The events took place at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The National Advocacy Days invalid more than 320 NCLR Affiliates, community leaders, and youth from throughout the country that convened to learn about and advocate for issues that impact the Latino Community. Participants received intensive training on policy and legislative advocacy. They met with members of Congress to discuss reform issues that affect the Latino community. The Lideres Congreso featured educational presentations and inspirational messages from NCLR staff and community leaders, informed and supported the efforts of young Latinos and taught them how to maximize community impact, network and explore career options.

Finding the ways Jerame Hicks and Debbie Treviño were the two main people to get this trip underway. Hicks who is the Middle
School’s Special Education Instructor, Athletic Director, Head Varsity Wrestling Coach, and Co-Sponsor of the
Latino Club assembled a group of students and harped the significance of making a trip like this occur. With five years at Clark High School, the school has never sent any students to locations further than Chicago/Indiana.
“The Clark High School Latino Club has attended various leadership conferences throughout the state of Indiana and surrounding Chicagoland area throughout the years. We have had experience traveling, but never to the extent and distance in which we were able to travel to Washington D.C,” said Hicks. One could only imagine the amount of work needed to put into a trip like this, but for this group the hard work paid off tremendously. “It was very difficult to plan, secure funding, and
execute this type of endeavor. Most, importantly, we had a tremendous amount of support via local organizations
(Sheriff Roy Dominguez, Hammond Hispanic Community Corporation, Youth As Resources, Crisis Center, Inc., Centier Bank, Latin Media, JAN-PRO of Northern Indiana, and Miguel Torres School of MMA), the School City of Hammond, and more specifically the community.” [read entire story]


Fruit of the Vine

By Marge Kullerstrand


April 25, 2010

INSIGHT: Hospice continues to sow the seeds of hope

The Crisis Center staff and committee members are hoping for great weather and another outstanding Wine Fest and Auction fundraiser from 5:30 to 9 p.m. June 10 at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for at-risk youths and their families throughout Northwest Indiana. Established in 1971 to help prevent teenage suicide, it helped more than 10,000 people last year.

In November, 2009 construction of a $2.5-million expansion project to renovate the Crisis Center's boys' dormitory and add an indoor recreation area was begun. It is the success of fundraiser that make that project possible.

Besides great auction items, fine wines and premium beers, there will be an incredible array of hors d'oeuvres prepared by the outstanding Sand Creek staff.

Crisis Center Director Shirley Caylor is thankful for all underwriters, sponsors, committee members, contributors, ticket buyers, staff and volunteers.

Consider giving a gift that will help the Crisis Center. There are many ways to donate, including gift annuities, bequests and cash gifts. Call (219) 938-7070, ext. 2727.


First Midwest donates to Crisis Center


April 22, 2010



Morton Senior on Track for Success at VU

by Sue Berro


April 21, 2010

Academic success and leadership go hand in hand for Morton High School senior Frank Rodriguez, 18.

The son of Frank and Sandra Rodriguez, of Hammond, will represent the school as its candidate for the Lilly Endowment Scholarship. He is named to the principal's honor roll, taking Advanced Placement economics and principles of biomedical technology, a Project Lead the Way class.


Rodriguez is active in speech and debate, mock trial, Art Club and Key Club. He also is president of Ignite Mentors, a program that all freshmen participate in to help them transition to the high school environment. Activities foster a sense of community

and a connection with upperclassmen and meetings provide open discussion of possible obstacles and ways to avoid them. He was selected to serve as president of the group by Ignite coaches and school counselors. As he prepares to leave Morton, he is helping train new mentors to carry on the program.

In addition to school activities, Rodriguez is a member of Youth as Resources, an organization sponsored by The Crisis Center. Members plan and coordinate fundraisers to benefit charitable organizations they select. This year they included Boys and Girls Club of East Chicago and Clark Middle School.

Rodriguez was one of eight students to represent Morton High School at a Rotary Club workshop at Purdue University Calumet. Last year he was one of two students from the school selected to attend HOPE, Hispanic Organization Promoting Excellence, at Indiana University in Bloomington. In the fall, Rodriguez will attend Valparaiso University to major in political science and sociology.


Wine Fest Save The Date

The Post-Tribune

March 16, 2010


At Your Service: Audrey Byrd

by Sue Ellen Ross

The Post-Tribune

March 3, 2010


COMMUNITY: Region continues to dig deep for nonprofits

By Marge Kullerstrand


February 14, 2010

In Northwest Indiana if you see women in formals and men in tuxes and it's not a wedding, the odds are they are attending one of the many fundraising galas to support a nonprofit in our area.

The region has a reputation for its generosity. No matter how dark things seem economically, the community takes care of its neighbors. And the local nonprofits rely heavily on this generosity.

Even in a good year it is a struggle for organizations like Campagna Academy and Hospice of the Calumet Area to raise the funds needed to assist residents at the start and the end of their lives.

Organizations like Nazareth Home, the foster home in East Chicago which provides 24-hour care to medically compromised children, receives a stipend from the government. But as any foster parent will tell you, it's not enough.

The region has services such as the Crisis Center in Gary which provides everything from a 24-hour suicide hot line to a temporary shelter for children in trouble. In Valparaiso, The Caring Place provides shelter and safety for both men and women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. It also provides a women's recovery program and more regardless of ability to pay....



Resources Available to Help Cope With Despair

COMMENTARY by Bill Vargo appearing in The TIMES

January 17, 2010

Growing up in my family there was a certain amount of sadness that seemed to permeate the discussion of family history. Both of my grandfathers battled depression with varying degrees of success. In fact, my maternal grandfather had committed suicide many years before I was born. 

This story had seeped into the discourse as we knew the event had marked my mother and her siblings in various ways. It was the summer of 1950 and the family had gone to the movies, my grandmother and her six children ranging in ages from 3 on up to about 15 years of age.

The movie must have been delightful because this was a family that could scarcely afford such an indulgence in spite of the booming economy of the early 1950s. What happened next when one of my aunts, a very young girl at that time, opened the door is the stuff that any family member who has been through such a scene can relate to. It was the culmination of desperation and in a word, gruesome. 

Many years later, I am not sure that my aunts or uncles, let alone my grandmother, could quite grasp what had led to this final act of hopelessness. In fact, all across the United States and Northwest Indiana, the grim statistics point to suicide as the 11th leading cause of death nationally. Among teens that figure jumps to the third leading cause of death just behind accidents and homicide.

Suicide tends to get more attention at this time of year because of the correlation to seasonal affective disorder, better known as the winter blues. While that is true, according to Portage Police Chief Mark Becker, "studies have shown that 14 million people experience suicidal thoughts, which is more than those who experience symptoms of a heart attack."

Further, Becker relayed an acronym he learned - TALK - from a presentation titled "Safe Talk," which helps us gauge suicidal tendencies among family or friends. TALK stands for tell, which is the person verbalizing the desperation; action, which is the recognition of reckless behavior exhibited by someone close to you; listen to the tone and the emotions for feelings of hopelessness and keep that person safe and get them the care they need.

"Suicide is a coping mechanism, it is a final remedy when all else has failed. It is certainly not a sign of weakness," Becker said.

The good news is we have resources that we can turn to, unlike my grandmother and her six children.  Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in Lake County (219) 322-3233 as well as Crisis Center Inc. in Gary (219) 938-7070, the Northwest Indiana Suicide Prevention Council (219) 757-1972 and Southlake Center for Mental Health (219) 736-7200.

The actions that we take today may not be remembered in the years to come but the alternative is a future of "what ifs."


Gary Rotary Donates to Youth


January 7, 2010

Gary Rotary donated stuffed toys to be distributed to the children and youth at the Crisis Center’s Alternative House, which is a teenage shelter in Gary, and Edgewater’s Alpha Center, a youth residential facility in Gary. Gary Rotary meets for lunch every Thursday at the Miller Bakery Café.

Photo provided by Gavin Mariano. Gary Rotary members pictured from left to right are Joel Palaschak, Patty Kostro, David Rose, Danita Johnson-Hughes, Joyce Davis, Shirley Caylor, Don Parker, Carl Hunter and Jim Huson.


Shelter for Youth Begins Building $2.5 Million Expansion

By Mary Owen

The Post-Tribune

December 3, 2009

T he area's only emergency short-term youth shelter broke ground recently on a $2.5 million project will expand the Crisis Center in Gary by 10,000 square feet, ending years of squeezing multiple bunk beds into one room and placing beds in the activity room. It also will expand limited recreation space.

"This building is going to give them a place to live, a place to learn and a place to play," said Shirley Caylor, the Crisis Center co-founder and executive director.

The center provides emergency shelter for boys and girls ages 6 to 18, who may stay from a couple of days to a couple of months. The children receive counseling and transportation to school during their stays and, when they leave, center officials track their progress for a year.

The center, at 101 N. Montgomery St., is in a residential neighborhood and has 52 beds, split equally between boys and girls. The expansion will not increase capacity but will add -- besides the new dorm rooms -- an indoor recreation center. It also will renovate former boys' space into offices and family meeting areas.

A girls dormitory wing was added in 2000 and allows the center to house a maximum of four girls in a room. The boys now have at least eight in a room.

The project will be the center's third expansion onto the former church building in which it started in 1971. The boys dorms are in the original fellowship rooms.

About $1 million has been raised, including $95,000 in federal money from a 2009 appropriations bill supported by U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

"There is a need being met here," Visclosky said.

Earlier, he told a story about his experience 10 years ago while riding with Merrillville police officers. He said they had no option but to jail a teenage girl whose mother kicked her out of the house.

Now, police officers in Lake County have the option of bringing youths to the Crisis Center 24 hours a day, Caylor said.


Majestic Star Donates Turkeys to Local Organizations

Staff Report


November 29, 2009

GARY | Majestic Star Casino donated 410 turkeys to local organizations on Tuesday.

The management team at Majestic Star donated turkeys for Thanksgiving to the following organizations; Second Harvest Food Bank, Rainbow Shelter/The ARC, Sojourner Truth, Brothers Keeper, The Crisis Center, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Salvation Army, Gary Neighborhood Services, Antioch Baptist Church, Friends of Northwest Indiana, Trinity Cathedral Church, Reeds Temple and student ambassadors of West Side High School, the Barden Gary Foundation scholarship student ambassadors.

Turkeys were distributed by the organizations to local families in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Majestic Star Casino is located at 1 Buffington Harbor Drive in Gary.


Gary Crisis Center to start $2.5 million-dollar expansion

Construction to include dorm renovation, recreation center

By Sarah Tompkins


November 20, 2009

About 18 years ago, Gavin Mariano ran away from the verbal abuse and gang activity in his East Chicago home to the Gary's Crisis Center in the Miller Beach area.

"I knew it wasn't the life I wanted," said Mariano, now 35. "I needed to make a drastic change."

That was 1991. Today the center helps more than 400 youths each year, and Mariano said it is about to evolve even more.

Construction of a $2.5-million expansion project to renovate the Crisis Center's boys' dormitory and build an indoor recreation area will begin Monday. The Crisis Center offers emergency shelter, counseling and early intervention services to youth, as well as community services to adults and seniors.

With support from the center, Mariano returned to high school. He raised his GPA from below a 2.0 to a 3.5 by the time he graduated from East Chicago Central High School. He graduated from Indiana University Bloomington and now works for the center that he said changed his life.

"Our goal is to change the future of children for the better, and therefore make it better for all of us," said Shirley Caylor, the center's co-founder and executive director.

Right now the center has two large dormitories, each housing up to 10 youths between the ages of 6 and 18, she said. After the construction, smaller dorms will house up to four children of similar ages.

The recreation area will give the children a place to play and be creative during long winters, she said. Construction is expected to be finished by early summer.

"The expansion is really going to allow kids just to feel like they're at home," Mariano said. "Not only will it give them more elbow room, but I think it will give them more opportunities to be involved in their own healing."

The construction will be built on the center's existing property, and savings generated from center fundraisers over the last 10 years will fund the project.

"We are still a little short, so we still hope we can gain some more funds to complete the construction," Caylor said. "But if necessary, we'll get a mortgage."

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky secured about $95,000 for the center to purchase computers for the children and other equipment.

"(The) Crisis Center is an invaluable asset to our community and a testament to the good that exists in people's hearts," Visclosky said in statement. "It is an honor for me to support their work."

After the construction, the center will be two-thirds larger than when he was there as a teenager, Mariano said.

"I was very happy that I came full-circle in my life," he said. "None of it would have happend without the Crisis Center."



Munster Senior Lauded in Science Competition

Getting To Know: Neil Kondamuri

By Sue Bero


November 12, 2009

Neil Kondamuri, 17, of Munster, has received top honors in a premier national high school science competition.

Kondamuri was named a semifinalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Siemens Competition is the nation's leading original research competition in math, science and technology for high school students and is administered annually by the College Board. A record number 1,348 projects were received and 318 were named semifinalists along with 96 students being honored as regional finalists.

Kondamuri's project originated last summer during a two-month high school honors science program at Michigan State University. Working along with mentor Zachary Huang, PhD, Kondamuri discovered new modes of learning in honey bees.

The project titled Relay Landscape Learning tracked honey bees' ability to learn navigational cues to return to a home base when released from different distances. He later submitted the project to Siemens and as a semifinalist received a $1,000 scholarship.

"I was in my room and looked online and was very excited," he said of being named among Siemens' class of 2009. "I jumped up and pumped my fists."

The son of Shaun and Padma Kondamuri, the Munster High School senior has received other honors as well. He participates in the business club DECCA. Last year he and partner Vivek Dasari received first in state for Internet marketing. As a sophomore they ranked 10th in the world in the international competition.

Kondamuri is the school's team captain for We the People. They compete at the district level on Friday and hope to advance to nationals. He's also team captain for the debate team, treasurer for student government and plays varsity tennis.

Outside of school, Kondamuri is an active member of Youth as Resources, a nonprofit organization in Gary that raises money for the impoverished. He was a panel member at an anti-poverty forum and last year helped with flood relief.

Kondamuri is applying to the University of Michigan and Stanford University to major in biology and is considering going into law or medicine.



Precision Celebrates The Crisis Center with 2nd Annual Ladies’ Night Out

By Dave Van Dyke, guest columnist


October 29, 2009

Along with creating the neighborhoods we call home, builders across the nation often contribute much more to their communities. Through their participation in countless charitable organizations and through the generous donations of money, materials and volunteer labor, home builders demonstrate that they are leaders when it comes to improving our communities and making them a better place to live.

Even in today's uncertain economy, which has drastically affected our industry, you'll find home builders continuing their support of community outreach activities through the generous donation of time and resources. While the scope of these community collaborations ranges greatly, the impact is always significant for those who are shown this true sense of community.

For example, last year we used our resources to create a festive evening full of ideas for holiday decorating, entertaining and gift giving, all in the spirit of contributing to an important community asset, The Crisis Center of Northwest Indiana.

Serving both Lake and Porter counties for more than 20 years, The Crisis Center provides a full range of services and referrals for anyone in personal crisis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. From free weekly "wellness checks" via telephone for elderly, disabled or homebound citizens, to low-cost quick and easily-accessible counseling services, The Crisis Center also provides an Alternative House for runaway, homeless, pushed out, abused or neglected youths ages 6 to 18 and fast help for youth in crisis situations at a variety of accessible locations including libraries, fire stations and participating businesses.

The Crisis Center helps well over 10,000 people during an average year. According to Nikki Wielgos, the numbers have jumped a bit this year with so many families going through stressful times and an even greater increase is expected with the holidays coming up.

Drawing upon the success of last year's debut event, which brought over 300 guests to Winfield's Deer Creek Estates, Precision is looking forward to welcoming even more guests to Crown Point's Summer Tree Estates on Friday, November 13th from 6-9pm.

The ever-growing list of vendors ready to dazzle you with their holiday finery throughout this extraordinary evening includes many familiar faces from last year as well as a good number of new surprises.

Guests will enjoy appetizers, treats and beverages as they tour the elaborately decorated homes and are asked to make a $5 donation to The Crisis Center in exchange for their first five raffle tickets. All of the venders are extremely generous with raffle donations which include merchandise and gift certificates, and agree to contribute 10 percent of their sales for the evening to The Crisis Center. Precision then matches their total and doubles the contribution.

New this year, Limo Emporium of Crown Point will be providing their shuttle bus service from home to home.

To register for the 2nd Annual Ladies' Night Out with Precision Homes for the benefit of The Crisis Center of Northwest Indiana, call Laura Pelcher-Lear in our Highland office at (219) 924-0044.

To reach The Crisis Center daily hotline, call (219) 938-0900 or 1-800-519-0469. For the 24-hour hotline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis Center volunteers are always needed and professional training is offered free of charge. For more information on how you can help, call (219) 938-7070 or visit



Data-driver Program Aims to Lift Students

By LuAnn Franklin


September 23, 2009

GARY | Technology and Web-based data collection now will be used to link area students with community resources committed to helping youth graduate from high school and prepare for success in life.

Organizers say the partnership, dubbed South Shore Connection, is the nation's first collaborative effort between community groups and school districts to help students reach their educational potential by tracking school performance and participation in after-school community programs.

Announced at a news conference Tuesday, the effort is a partnership between the Legacy Foundation, Lake Area United Way and the Foundations of East Chicago. The public school districts of Gary, Hammond and Lake Station will be the first in Lake County to participate in the project, which is designed for students in kindergarten through high school.

Talks also are being held with school administrators in East Chicago and Merrillville to join the program, said Mike Davis, chair of the Lake Area United Way's Vision Council.

"Our goal is to reach all schools in Northwest Indiana," Davis said.

Participating schools will track student attendance, grades, behavioral issues and accomplishments. That information can be shared with community organizations providing after-school programs, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA's and the Salvation Army. The organizations will track students participation and share the information with their schools.

"We can get a picture of where the child is," said Lincoln Ellis, CEO and president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana. "We can identify the child who is involved and the child who is going nowhere and get them engaged by referring them to a community program."

More than 20 nonprofit organizations already have signed up to participate in South Shore Connection, Ellis said. They include the Crisis Center, Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Purdue University Calumet, the Salvation Army, Tri-City Alternative Action Programs, Mission of Jesus Christ Church and South Shore Arts.

An Arizona-based company, nFocus Software, will provide the computer program, called Kid Tracks, that will be used to track student data. Company president Ananda Roberts said student only spend 13 percent of their childhood in school.

"We have to focus on the 87 percent of the children's lives that they are not in school," she said.

South Shore Connection aims to improve student attendance, boost elementary school math and reading skills and, for older students, raise high school graduation rates and encourage enrollment in college preperation courses and scholarship programs. The program will track student performance and participation in community programs.


Services and Accomplishments Featured at HHCC

By Ruth De La Garza


September 9, 2009

Alejandro Maya is the child of Mexican immigrant parents; he knows the struggles his parents have gone through.

"My dream is to become an immigration attorney and leave an impact," added Maya.

Maya may be well on his way to his dreams. He is a student at Wabash College sharing his experience at the 2009 National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and CSI in Washington DC.

Maya addressed the HHCC' - Hammond Hispanic Community Committee September monthly meeting

He thanked the HHCC for being one of his sponsors for the D.C. trip, and for their guidance and support.

"I took full advantage of my experience, and I appreciate everything you've done for me." said Maya.

Also addressing the HHCC was Gavin Mariano Program Coordinator, Public Relations Specialist for the Crisis Center out of Gary.

Mariano described various services and programs at the Crisis Center offers, including the 24/7 crisis/suicide hot line; and "Safe Place."

Signs are posted at libraries and churches int he area as outreash to are ayouth seeking help, temporary refuge is available there, and to provide assistance in crisis situations.

"What they do is highly commendable (referring to the Crisis Center)," said Jerame Hicks teacher at George Rogers Clark Middle School in the School City of Hammond.

Hammond Hispanic Community Committee President Sylvia Planer also talked about the importance of Hispanics being counted in the 2010 Census and what the HHCC and other Latin American organizations in NWI can do to help spread the word that Hispanics need to be counted to get monies for their communities.For additional information about HHCC contact Sylvia Planer at (219) 852-3660.

And for information on the Crisis Center call: 219-938-7070 or visit their website at:


Rolling Closures Begin on East Porter Road for Sewer Project

By Kevin Nevers

Chesterton Tribune

August 26, 2009

Rolling closures on East Porter Ave., between South Calumet Road and Ind. 49, have begun.

They will remain in effect for one to two weeks, Chesterton Town Engineer Mark O’Dell told the Town Council at its meeting Monday night, and motorists are best advised to avoid that stretch of East Porter Ave. as much as possible.

Detours through the Morgan Park neighborhood will be posted for the duration of the work, O’Dell said, but under Town Code semis--any vehicle, in fact, with a height greater than 10 feet--are prohibited from traveling in Morgan Park to protect the trees. Signs warning off semis have been placed on the approaches to East Porter Ave.

Woodruff & Sons of Michigan City is laying a new sanitary sewer force main as part of the upgrade of the Dickinson Road lift station. The Lake Erie Land Company is paying for that upgrade.

Demo Bid

In other business, members voted 5-0 to take under advisement the single bid received for the demolition of the fire-damaged house at 616 S. Second St.

The bid, from Tri Inc. of East Chicago: $8,190.

In June members voted 4-0 to have the house demolished after determining that its owner, Terry Long, had failed to comply with an order to remove debris from the property.

No Action on Safe Place

Meanwhile, members agreed by consensus to take no action yet on Fire Chief Mike Orlich’s request to permit the CFD to participate in the Safe Place program for troubled youth, under which teens at risk or in trouble could seek a temporary haven at the fire station, pending arrangements with the Crisis Center in Gary to get them counseling or other assistance.

Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd, first wants a legal opinion from Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann on any liability issues. “Otherwise,” he said, “I think it’s a great idea.”

The advantage of the CFD’s joining the Safe Place program, Orlich said, would be that the fire station is open 24/7, while the other havens in the area operate only during business hours.


Suicide Rate on Track to Break Records

By Kathyrn Kattalia

The Times

July 5, 2009

When Survivors of Loss due to Addiction and Suicide first started offering grief counseling to people dealing with the loss of loved ones to suicide, it was typical for only three people to seek services. Since then, the program has experienced a surge, helping three new people this June alone.

"The group has really resurrected in the last three years," said Mary Hodson, executive director of Mental Health America of Porter County and SOLAS. "We're getting more and more phone calls. People are calling now before they've even buried their loved ones."

The number of suicide cases confirmed since Jan. 1 has already exceeded the number of suicides reported in all of 2008, Porter County Coroner Vicki Deppe said. While there were 15 suicides confirmed in Porter County last year, there have already been 22 cases reported so far in 2009. The number threatens to surpass the 29 suicides reported in 2007, the highest number recorded in 14 years.
"In a crisis situation, we want people to be able to link up with someone who can pick up the phone immediately and listen to them," Hodson said. "No one really wants to commit suicide. They're really crying for help."

Hofmann said that while there are many reasons why people might consider suicide, there are a number of warning signs to look out for such as increased levels of anxiety, depression, recklessness, mood changes and substance abuse.

"When a lot of these factors are showing up, those are good triggers of whether or not it's time to have a conversation with that person over whether they're having suicidal thoughts," Hofmann said. "With a lot of individuals who have successfully attempted suicide, there seems to be a series of things that have happened and they thought suicide was the only answer. Of course, it's not."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free, confidential services to anyone in suicidal crisis. The 24-hour service line can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE. Porter-Starke Services also has a free, 24-hour service at 219-531-3500. Survivors looking for support can call Mental Health America of Porter County at 219-462-6267.


Day of Action, Night of Fun

By Jerry Davich

Post-Tribune columnist

June 10, 2009

I don't care for wine. I never took part in an auction. And I'm not a country club kind of guy.

But I'm still attending the Crisis Center's 14th annual Wine Fest & Auction, dubbed "Northwest Indiana's Biggest Night," this Thursday evening at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

The event includes gourmet food, fine wine and beer tasting, and a silent auction of more than 200 items, including a donated "Connect With Yourself" gift basket with a copy of my book and related items.

I'm simply a fan of the Crisis Center in Miller, which has provided needed services for children and families since 1971, so I'll be there and I hope you will, too.

Earlier that day, another good cause will be taking place at the United Steelworkers Local 1010 Union Hall, 3703 Euclid Ave., East Chicago.

There, local and national organizations will host a "National Day of Action" town hall meeting to address this region's loss of jobs, homeowners and, in too many cases, hope. For information visit , or call Diana Sandlin at 201-7582.

Connect with Jerry Davich at 648-3107 or You can also find Jerry on Twitter at @jdavich.


Times seeks talented people in business younger than 40

Times Staff Report

June 7, 2009

The Times and its BusINess publication seek nominees for its fifth annual 20 Under 40 awards.

The awards honor 20 people under 40 years of age who are have shown leadership and are helping grow and develop Northwest Indiana.

Nominations can be completed online at as early as today through Aug. 1. Nominations should include the nominee's name, business and, in 500 words or less, a brief summary of the nominee's career and reasons why the person is being nominated. Letters supporting the nominee are appreciated.

Winners will be announced Sept. 27 in The Times, on and in Northwest Indiana's premier business publication, BusINess.

"The Times Media C. and BusINess magazine are proud to recognize these outstanding individuals," said Times Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. "These men and women are the best and the brightest of our young leaders who will shape the future of Northwest Indiana for many years to come."

Last year's 20 Under 40 awardees include Michael Charbonneau, NIPSCO's manager of communications and public affairs, Gavin Mariano, program coordinator for the Crisis Center in Gary, and Leslie Robinson, owner of Mane Image in Merrillville.

"The 20 Under 40 award is probably the most significant and inspiring honor that our BusINess publication gives, because it identifies the talented leaders of tomorrow, outlines their success strategies and signals that Northwest Indiana has high expectations for them," said Pat Colander, Times Associate Publisher and Editor of Niche Publications. "Raising the bar on high-achievers will probably lead to even more success in the future."


We Are The Sum of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Guest editorial by Shirley Caylor


June 7, 2009

So much happens every day that we get only a glimmer of reality even though our methods of getting information have increased dramatically. History happens while we are living through it. What are we saying to ourselves about it?

Jon Meacham, in a Newsweek article, said, "When we are at our best, history and heroes enable us to look ahead, not backward. We are the sum of the stories we tell ourselves." When I read letters to the editor, I am surprised at the wide range of strong beliefs. Each person is certain they are right. Their personal history has led them to their conclusions.

The U.S. economy tanked just before our presidential election. We chose the man who said, "Yes we can." As we celebrate our national holidays, Memorial Day and Independence Day, I think the "yes we can" belief is indeed what our country was founded on. Two hundred plus years ago, those young colonialists in America believed they could defeat the great English empire, so they did.

Our country has time and again chosen to believe that "yes we can." Confronted by wars off both our Atlantic and Pacific coasts during World War II, we sent our young men off to fight, believing in our destiny, in freedom and liberty for all.

In each era, those words of belief are used differently. President Reagan called It "morning in America." He meant that our national psyche always sees tomorrow as a new dawn, a new chance. That inherent national psyche takes our present reality and determines the future.

Part of the problem is our future is tied, bound by our individual pasts and the weight of the present. We need heroes to call us forward, to indeed say, "Yes we can." The newest Star Trek movie tells again of a future where mankind sets off to "boldly go where no man has gone before," a future where different races of people work together to problem solve and where impossibilities become possible because of imagining solutions.

In our lives and in our country, we always stand on the cusp of possibility.

Recently, our astronauts did an unbelievable job in fixing the Hubble telescope that looks out into the depths of space and back in time, almost to creation.

That "yes we can" attitude fixed our eyes again, not just on stars, but on infinite possibilities.

The stories we tell ourselves got us to today. Let's pick our heroes, tell their stories, give them names, celebrate their diversities and believe in ourselves. Be a hero. We create the future we are waiting for.

Shirley Caylor is Executive Director of the Crisis Center. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.


Crisis Center and UNICEF raise funds to help children

By Marge Kullerstrand


May 3, 2009

The Crisis Center is hoping for another outstanding Wine Fest and Auction fundraiser from 5:30 to 9 p.m. June 11 at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for at-risk youths and their families throughout Northwest Indiana. Established in 1971 to help prevent teenage suicide, it helped 10,714 people last year.

Besides the great auction items, fine wines and premium beers, there will be an incredible spread of hors d'oeuvres prepared by the outstanding Sand Creek staff.

Crisis Center Director Shirley Caylor is thankful for all underwriters, sponsors, committee members, auction contributors, ticket buyers, staff and volunteers.

This year's committee includes Andy Arnold, John Diederich, E. Thomas Collins, Jr., Sue Arnold, Speros Batistatos, Bruce Bergland, Julie Bieszczat, Charlie Blum, David Bochnowski, Keith Bruxvoort, Bonnie Coleman, Joyce Davis, Vic Demeyer, Denise Dillard, Timothy Fesko, Karen Fulkerson, Bunny Furlin, Helen Garrison, Pat Giannini, Fred Halpern, Linda Hazen, Yvonne Hoff, Katie Holderby, Leslie Kiefer, John Kerr, Patrick Lee, Tammy Lynch, Mark Maassel, Julie Masterson, Rick Mazer, Thomas McDermott, Bishop Dale Melczek, Shar Miller, Suzanne Mulshine, Don Nagdeman, Rita Nangle, Doug Olson, Paul Onest, JoAnn Plank, Tom Ploski, Craig Pratt, Colleen Reilly, Susan Richardson, Andrea Pearman, Joe Quinn, Cindi Rucinski, Janet Schulte, Linda Skolak, Lisa Tatina, Tom Sourlis, Scott Steinwart, Dave VanDyke, Glenn Vician, Tamara Young-King, Donald J. Weiss, Robert Welsh, Bruce White, Marty Wielgos, Shirley Caylor, Barbara Wisdom

and Nikki Wielgos.

Consider giving a gift that will help the Crisis Center. There are many ways to donate, including gift annuities, bequests and cash gifts. Call Caylor at (219) 938-7070, ext. 2727, or Wisdom at (219) 938-7070, ext. 2710.

Above - At the 2008 Wine Fest (L-R): Pat Lee, Sylvia Collins, Tom Collins, and Shirley Caylor


Crisis Center expands to Porter County

By Stephanie Vega


April 30, 2009

The Crisis Center in Gary has several programs aimed at helping at risk youth in the area, and now one of their programs has expanded.

For 23 years, Safe Place has been providing access to immediate help and supportive resources for young people in crisis through a network of locations throughout Lake County. Now, there are Safe Place locations in Porter County, and it's a big accomplishment for the Crisis Center.

"It's one of the biggest milestones we've ever had," explained Gavin Mariano, Safe Place program assistant. "This means that there is a geographically wider group of kids that we can help, and that is what's important."

There are 31 different locations in Porter County that have agreed to display the Safe Place logo. Each one of the sites will go through training and learn how the program works so when kids come to their location, they can put them in the right direction. "It's very important that when people sign up to have their business be a Safe Place location that they agree to training," said Mariano. "They don't mediate or council the kids, they just provide them with a safe place to go, and then they call us."

While the Safe Place program continues to grow, the Crisis Center is tackling another big project aimed at helping a different group of people in the area.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has launched a Spanish version and the Crisis Center will be the designated call center for the hotline. "There is an absolute need for a bilingual suicide hotline," explained Willie Perry, program coordinator for the Crisis Center. "Research showed there was a group of people not being serviced, and Latinos here in Lake County have asked for this."

The hotline provides those in need with someone to talk to and someone who will listen, and it's someone who speaks their language. "It's extremely important to have bilingual counselors because often times we get Spanish speaking callers and there's a concern in their voice if someone will understand them and be able to listen," Perry added.

The hotline is available for people 24/7, and for those calling between the hours of 9 to 11:00 p.m., they will get a person on the line from right here in Northwest Indiana. Right now, the Crisis Center has one Spanish speaking volunteer but they are looking for more.

"We are looking for someone who has the ability and willingness to listen, someone who cares, a person looking to give back to the community," said Perry. "Volunteers will receive intensive training, and will not be allowed on the phones until they are properly trained."

For those interested in becoming a hotline volunteer, contact Willie Perry at (219)938-7070 extension 2708. And to find out more about Safe Place, go to

For those seeking advice and support, from the Spanish National Suicide Prevention Hotline call 1-888-628-9454. The hotline is provided by a Lifeline Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Above - (L-R) Crisis Center employees: Gavin Mariano, Nikki Wielgos, and Willie Perry



Duneland Boys & Girls Club becomes a designated Safe Place site

appeared in Chesterton Tribune

April 24, 2009


Leaders to carry out One Region goal

By Susun Erler


April 17, 2009

MERRILLVILLE | A leadership grant awarded Ivy Tech Community College will be directed to advancing educational goals in a seven-county area.

"We'll leave no stone unturned," the college's Bill Thon told a gathering of the One Region: One Vision Advisory Council on Thursday. [more]

Above - (top, center) Shirley Caylor, One Region One Vision member and Executive Director, Crisis Center Inc


L.C. prosecutor to speak at Crisis Center

TIMES Staff Report

April 15, 2009

GARY | Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter will speak to children at the Gary Crisis Center at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Carter is expected to talk about making the right choices in life, according to the Lake County prosecutor's office.

To schedule a speaking engagement for Carter or a staff member, contact spokeswoman Diane Poulton at (219) 755-3720, ext. 360.



Iola Emery 1934-2009

appeared in the Post-Tribune

April 15 - 17, 2009

IOLA EMERY Gary, Indiana August 13, 1934-April 13, 2009 Iola Emery, a shining star, departed this life early Monday morning. For her entire life of seventy-four years, she was a loving daughter, dutiful wife, wonderful mother, an irreplaceable sister and a remarkable grandmother and great grandmother. She was highly treasured among her friends, neighbors, co-workers and church members. Iola was originally from the historic Birmingham, AL. The oldest of seven siblings, she was raised on the South Side of Chicago and established her life in Gary, IN. She wed her high school sweetheart, Elwin Emery Sr., and of their forty-one year union, two sons were born (Elwin Jr. and Rodney). For over fifty years, she was a member of First A.M.E. Church in Gary, IN. She received the Lord as her Savior several years ago. She was an active member of her church and a long time member of the Nora F. Taylor Missionary Rhoda Unit, and the Food Pantry.

Iola was a brilliant woman, gracious and kind to all who knew her. She was industrious and ambitious and a commanding leader in every position she held. Iola obtained her Bachelors of Science Degree from Indiana University Northwest. She worked several years at the Anderson Company, Gary Community School Corporation, and The Alternative House/ Crisis Center. A diligent woman with a servant's heart, Iola was one that reached out to help those around her, and always had an encouraging word. Life will be different without Iola, and she will be sorely missed. She was most famous for her delectable baked sweets, affectionately known as the "Cookie Lady." As no day in the future is promised to us, we are as thankful for our time with Iola as she lived her life. We will hold our memories of her life in our hearts.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Elwin Emery Sr.; her parents, Louise and Charles Golston; brother, Charles W. Golston; sister, Shirley Johnson. She leaves to cherish her memories: two sons, Elwin (Judy), Rodney (Burdette); two sisters, Maxine Adams, Hazel (Rainow) Baldwin; and two brothers, Alexander Golston, and Ronald Golston; niece, Rhonda Golston; aunt, Annette Conner (and family); one former daughter-in-law, Charlotte R. Emery; five grandchildren, Laman (Nicole) Emery, Annessa (Richard) Bradley, Collette C. Emery, Carlos (Mary) Adams, Eric C. Emery; three great grandchildren, Laman E. Emery Jr., Richard L. Bradley II, and Shaubrey Adams; additionally, she will be remembered by a host of very special friends and family who were by her side every step of the way on the final path of her journey in this life. Visitation Saturday, April 18, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., and family hour will be from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Funeral service immediately following at 11:00 a.m., all services at First A.M.E. Church, 2045 Massachusetts Street. Interment Fern Oaks Cemetery, Griffith, IN. Professional services rendered by Guy & Allen Funeral Directors, Inc.


Businesses, County Partners to Give Safe Places to Youths

by Joyce Russell


April 9, 2009

PORTAGE | When a child's in trouble, sometime he just needs a safe place to go.

Without that place, the youngster can turn to the street where more trouble lies ahead.

Thanks to a collaboration among the Porter County Youth Services Bureau and the Crisis Center and a number of local businesses and public and private organizations, youngsters here will now have that safe place to go.

The groups kicked off the expansion of the Safe Place program Wednesday during a gathering at the Portage Township YMCA. So far, 31 agencies have volunteered to be safe places and soon will have large yellow and black diamond-shaped signs on their premises to mark their designation.

The idea, program coordinator Nikki Wielgos said, is to provide a haven for children who may have run away from an abusive home, are facing decisions involving drugs or alcohol, or have encountered a situation in which they have no other place to turn.

If a child goes to a designated safe place, personnel there can call the Crisis Center where trained staff will arrive and assess the situation.

Each situation is different, Wielgos said. Some youth are transported to shelters, and some just need cooling-off time, Wielgos said. Parents or guardians are contacted and sometimes seek help as well.

The program has been in Lake County since 1987 where 190 agencies have volunteered to be safe places.

Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain, in response to a challenge from Lake County Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez, vowed to increase the number of safe places in Porter County.

"Kids are going to get in trouble. Kids are going to have problems. We have to show them there is a place to go, a place to take a breath," said Lain, adding if there isn't a safe place for youngsters to turn, they'll likely be taken in by predators.

"The bottom line is we are going to help kids who need help," Lain said.

Wielgos said the next step in the awareness program is to make youngsters aware of the Safe Place program by making presentations to middle and high schools within the county.


Safe Place Concept Making Bigger Gains

by Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune correspondent

April 9, 2009

PORTAGE -- An informal challenge from one sheriff to another at the Wednesday kickoff for Porter County Safe Place event has the new network of sites where children in crisis can go for help off to a running start.

Roy Dominguez from Lake County and David Lain from Porter County were two of the speakers at the Portage Township YMCA with 40 other civic and social service officials and businesspeople who have recruited 31 easy-to-find locations in Portage, Valparaiso and Chesterton.

Dominguez, who showed up as a sign of mutual support for the new partnership between the Crisis Center of Hammond and the Porter County Family Youth Services Bureau, challenged Lain to one of what he said were their "friendly competitions" in recruiting new sites to get the number of safe places here up to the 190 in Lake County.

"Kids have challenges too, and when they do, they're going to get depressed. Turning to the crisis center is a positive thing that they can do," Dominguez said.

Lain made a fervent appeal for support of Safe Place. "I challenge everyone in this room to answer, who is more important to nurture and protect than our youth?

Kids are gonna get in trouble, kids are gonna have problems, and we have to show them the path," he said.

Lain predicted that Porter County could have 100 civic buildings, businesses and other locations displaying the yellow-and-diamond signs of Safe Place within a year.

Sites at which staff and employees have been trained to deal with young persons who come seeking help because they are lost, runaway, abused or pushed out at home, or being chased include nine Centier Bank offices, the Portage and Duneland YMCAs, Portage and South Haven Boys & Girls Clubs, Portage City Hall, and the Portage 16/IMAX.

Porter County FYSB vice president Ann Baas said training will begin soon for staff at the Portage Police Department, Valparaiso and Duneland Boys & Girls Clubs, and Culver's restaurant in Portage.

A list of Safe Places in Porter and Lake counties and information on the national Safe Place program, based in Louisville, Ky., can be found at


Safe Place Kick-off Celebration

By Kristen

April 7, 2009

Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for all young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers and businesses. Safe Place is the first step to help for any youth in crisis or at risk.

This community collaboration program, operated by youth shelters or youth serving agencies make it possible for any youth to access help at locations including fast food restaurants, convenience stores, fire stations, libraries and city buses which display the Safe Place sign.  Youth can easily find help at Safe Place sites in Valparaiso whenever they need it.  Safe Place connects youth to immediate help and safety and offers supportive services to both youth and their families.

"Safe Place sites" in Valparaiso include:

  • Porter County United Way, 951 Eastport Centre
  • Family Youth Service Bureau, 253 W. Lincolnway
  • Centier Bank, 2707 Laporte Avenue
  • Centier Bank, 390 W U.S Highway 6 #1161 (South Haven)
  • Centier Bank, 150 W. Lincolnway
  • Centier Bank, 154 West Morthland
  • Centier Bank, 1802 Calumet Avenue

The Portage YMCA at 3100 Willowcreek Road hosted a kick-off celebration for their Safe Place program on Wednesday April 8. This free, public event featured a video presentation, giveaways, and guest speakers which included the Porter County Sheriff and the Porter county United Way President.


Teens Battling Poverty

By Jeff Burton


April 5, 2009

VALPARAISO | Sometimes the greatest insight into the future comes from those who stand to live it.

Teens from across Northwest Indiana gathered Saturday to offer glimpses into how images of poverty have shaped their outlooks on life during the first Teen Poverty Forum.

J. Allen Johnson, president of the Institute of Culture and Environmental Understanding, one of the groups that sponsored the forum, said that according to a recent report from the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council more than one in 10 residents in the region is living below the poverty level. What's more, he said is that the percentage of children living in poverty is far greater.

"Poverty is an issue for Northwest Indiana," Allen said. "Our purpose is really to hear the voices of those who have the greatest stake in this and whose voices are seldom heard."

One of those voices is from Neil Kondamuri, a junior at Munster High School. After floodwaters ravaged his community, Kondamuri volunteered his time to help. While assisting an elderly woman by carrying recovery supplies and temporary assistance to her car, Kondamuri said he saw firsthand what not being able to make ends meet can do to a person.

"She started crying on my shoulder," Kondamuri said. "She was so sad to lose her home and everything she had."

[More]  *Neil Kondamuri is represented the Crisis Center's Youth As Resources group at the event.


Safe Place for Youth Coming to Porter County

The Chesterton Tribune

March 30, 2009


The Safe Place program is being expanded into Porter County, offering safe locations for youth to turn to when in crisis.

The Family & Youth Services Bureau of Porter County has partnered with The Crisis Center in Lake County to expand the Safe Place program. The Crisis Center has operated Safe Place in Lake County since 1987, with about 200 locations.

The two agencies have so far recruited 30 businesses and public agencies throughout Porter County to display the Safe Place sign, a black and yellow sign designating the site as a safe place for youth. In the Duneland community, the Duneland Family YMCA and Centier Bank branches are among the Safe Place locations.

A kick-off event celebrating the Safe Place program’s expansion into Porter County will be held April 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portage YMCA, 3100 Willowcreek Road, Portage. The event is open to the public and will include as speakers Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain and Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez.

The Safe Place program is designed to give kids a place to turn to if they are afraid, lost, been forced out of their homes, are running away, or are fleeing from an unsafe situation. When a youth enters a Safe Place location, the employees of the business or agency contact the Crisis Center, whose staff can transport the child to an emergency shelter where counselors help work out a plan and reunite the child with the family when it is safe to do so.

“This has the opportunity to bring different parts of our community together in interesting and unique ways -- each playing his or her part in helping kids,” said Family and Youth Services Bureau President and CEO Dennis Morgan.

The Family & Youth Service Bureau and the Crisis Center are seeking additional locations willing to participate and to display the Safe Place sign.

So far, the Porter County sites are the Duneland Family YMCA, the Portage and South Haven Boys & Girls clubs, Portage City Hall, Portage Library, the Portage Parks and Recreation office at Woodland Park, Portage Township YMCA, the Portage 16/IMAX Theater, the Family & Youth Services Bureau offices in Portage and Valparaiso, all Centier Banks in Porter County, and all three Portage fire stations and the fire trucks.

For more information, see


Safe Place to Expand to Porter County


Staff Report

March 30, 2009

PORTAGE | The Crisis Center in Lake County and the Family & Youth Services Bureau of Porter County have partnered to expand the Safe Place Program into Porter County.

The program recruits businesses and other public locations to display Safe Place signs. The sign, black and yellow resembling a street sign, indicate children can enter and ask for a "safe place" if they are afraid, lost, have been pushed out, run away from home or are fleeing from an unsafe situation or drunken driver. Thirty businesses and public locations were recruited to provide a safe place.

The employees of the business contact the Crisis Center, whose staff can transport the youth to the emergency shelter where counselors help them process the issue and make a plan, reuniting them with their families when it is safe to do so.

Porter County Safe Place sites include: the Portage and South Haven Boys & Girls clubs, Portage City Hall, Portage Public Library, Portage Park Department office at Woodland Park, Portage Township YMCA, Portage 16/IMAX Theater, Duneland Family YMCA, Family and Youth Services Bureau offices in Valparaiso and Portage, all Centier Banks in Porter County and all three Portage fire stations as well as their eight trucks.

The Crisis Center has operated Safe Place in Lake County since 1987.

The expansion will be celebrated during a public kickoff celebration 5:30 p.m. April 8 at the Portage Township YMCA, 3100 Willowcreek Road. Featured speakers include Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez, Portage Assistant Police Chief Larry Jolley and Porter County Sheriff David Lain.


YMCA Latest Haven for Kids in Trouble

by Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune correspondent

March 28, 2009

PORTAGE -- The Portage Township YMCA will host a kickoff event to introduce Porter County to Porter County Safe Place, a network of safe havens open to youngsters in need of help and shelter.

The Gary-based Crisis Center has operated A Safe Place in Lake County since 1987 as part of a nationwide initiative to provide locations where children ages 6 to 18 can go to seek help from bullying, abuse and other threats to their safety, both immediate and ongoing.

Gavin Mariano, Crisis Center assistant for Safe Place, said the program is a partnership among the Crisis Center, the Porter County Youth Services Bureau, and a growing number of businesses and public entities that have been recruited as Safe Places. Those locations are identified by a black and yellow sign on the front door.

"This has been two years in the making. The Portage YMCA is one of 30 locations, as of this week, in Chesterton, Portage and Valparaiso where kids who are lost, being chased or followed, want to get away or have been pushed out of an unsafe situation at home, or are fleeing a drunk or unsafe driver can go to get help," he said.

He said the Porter County Boys and Girls Clubs, Porter County United Way, and Culver's restaurant in Portage will soon join the list of program sites.

"A Safe Place is not designed to separate children from their families," he said.

Gavin said the agency has explained the program and its resources to teen groups, including one last week at the Portage YMCA.

"If the signs are up and the kids don't know what it it's about, it's kind of pointless," he said.

He said Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez, Assistant Police Chief Larry Jolley, and Sheriff David Lain will speak at the open-house type event, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, at the YMCA on Willowcreek Road. A five-minute video used to train staff at participating sites will be shown. 


Sites for Porter County Safe Place also include City Hall, the Porter County Library Branch, the Portage Parks office in the Woodland Park Community Center, all three city fire stations, the Portage 16/IMAX, and all Centier Bank locations. The Portage Township YMCA is at 3100 Willowcreek Road, adjacent to the Prairie-Duneland Trail. For information, call 938-2707. [More]


Below - (L-R): Judge Lorenzo Arredondo with Gavin Mariano, Shirley Caylor, and Barbara Wisdom

from the Crisis Center at the Business Hall of Fame Awards.

Photo by: The TIMES

The TIMES/Viva Los Tiempos

March 18, 2009


Teens To Tell of Poverty

by Brian Williams


March 21, 2009

VALPARAISO | Five area youths who live with the reality of poverty will tell their stories at the First Annual Teen Poverty Forum coming April 4.

The five teens, from different backgrounds, are members of the Youth As Resources program* at the Crisis Center in Gary.

During forum breakout sessions, the teens will talk about their situations, how they got there and their future goals.

The forum is presented by MereImage, a nonprofit helping women and children in shelters transition back to the community. Jacqueline Meredith, president of MereImage, said the event is designed to bring awareness of the number of teens living in poverty in Indiana.

Meredith said that Indiana Youth Institute data show that about 277,000 Hoosier children live in households below the federal poverty level for a family of four.

School administrators, municipality officials, community leaders, teens and parents would benefit from attending the teen poverty forum, Meredith said.

Sponsored by the Valparaiso University political science department, the Porter County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Steel and Citizens Bank, the event takes place at VU's Christopher Center. Free child care for ages 2 to 9 is provided. The forum is the first of four across Northwest Indiana this year. The next will be on June 13 in East Chicago. [more]  *=this change was made by webmaster.


Visclosky Tries To Get $2.9 Million in Grants

TIMES Staff Report

February 25, 2009

Six education and youth programs around Northwest Indiana could receive nearly $2.9 million in grants, according to a news release from Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind.

The grants are expected to be $750,000 for Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana, $250,000 for Valparaiso University, $850,000 for the YWCA of Northwest Indiana, $823,000 for Ivy Tech Community College Northwest, $119,000 for KIPP LEAD College Prep School, and $95,000 for Crisis Center.

The grant to the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana's center in Hammond will help expand its programming and upgrade technology. The grant to Valparaiso University is to upgrade meterological equipment. The grant to the YWCA of Northwest Indiana in Gary is for after-school and summer programs. The grant to Ivy Tech Community College Northwest Gary campus is to create a Center on Logistics, Distribution, and Transportation. The grant to KIPP LEAD College Prep School in Gary is for student programs, staff, training and curricula development. The grant to the Crisis Center in Gary will help improve its youth emergency shelter.

The funding is included in the 2009 fiscal year Omnibus Appropriations Act, which is scheduled for consideration and passage by the U.S. House of Representatives today.


Economy Prompts More Calls To Suicide Hotlines

by Marilyn Elias

USA Today

January 11, 2009

Many mental-health crisis and suicide hotlines are reporting a surge in calls from Americans feeling despair over financial losses.

It's unknown if the economic meltdown will lead to more suicides, says Lanny Berman, executive director of the Washington-based American Association of Suicidology. "Maybe the fact that so many are calling is a positive sign. They're seeking help."

Although suicides spiked during the Great Depression, they didn't increase in subsequent recessions, which lasted an average of 10 months, according to the suicidology group's website. The current recession is 13 months long and counting.

Concern centers on rising unemployment, Berman says, because the unemployed have two to four times the suicide rate of employed adults.

Also, there's a strong link between humiliating losses and committing suicide. "Losing your job, losing your home — these are such major losses," Berman says. Although the majority can cope, adults who already have mental health problems or lack supportive relationships are most vulnerable, he says.

Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline jumped 36% from 2007 to 2008, totaling 545,000 last year, says director John Draper. But callers were increasing before the economic collapse, and about half of the added calls in 2008 came from taking over a veterans' suicide line, Draper says.

He is worried because a lot of adults phoning a hotline with resources for those facing foreclosure (888-995-HOPE ) say they feel isolated, as if they're the only one facing this problem.

"This sense of aloneness is part of suicidal thinking," Draper says.

Among areas with suicide hotlines reporting increases in callers since the economy slid: Dallas; Pittsburgh; suburban San Francisco; Hyattsville, Md.; Georgia; Delaware; Detroit.

In Boston, more hotline callers with mental health problems mention job losses, evictions or fear that they'll lose their homes, says Roberta Hurtig, executive director at Samaritans Inc.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., and other locales, callers with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder say loss of insurance and cutbacks in public health programs are preventing them from getting medications.

At the Gary, Ind., Crisis Center, suicidal callers with economic worries are increasing, and their depression is more severe, says Willie Perry, program coordinator for the hotline.

"There's more hopelessness. They don't see a way out," she says. "We try to help pull them up by the bootstraps, but the bootstraps are a lot lower than they used to be."


Crisis Center Seeks Program Volunteers

Post-Tribune Staff Report

December 19, 2008

Gary -- The Crisis Center, located in the Miller Beach area of the city, is recruiting volunteers to begin immediately.

Programs and volunteer descriptions are as follows: Crisis Contact (adults ages 18 and over to answer the information and referral, depression and suicide hotline); Reassurance Contact (adults who make outbound wellness phone check calls to seniors, disabled and homebound citizens).

Bilingual volunteers are also needed.

For more information about each program and volunteer requirements, click on or call 938-7070.


Obituary: Lois R. Meyer

The Times

December 6, 2008

Lois R. (VanAtta) Meyer, age 93, a Crown Point resident for 73 years, passed away Saturday, December 6, 2008. She is survived by three children: David (Carol) Meyer of Canal Winchester, OH, Beverley Petrunich of Chicago, IL and Paul (Jane) Meyer of Loveland, CO; four grandchildren: Beth Moore and Eric (Tracy) Meyer of Canal Winchester, OH and Andrew (Becky) and Philip Meyer of Kansas City, MO; five great-grandchildren: Zachary Meyer and Lindsey Moore, Joshua, Caleb and Kylie Meyer all of Canal Winchester, OH; sisters-in- law: Mae Reeder and Lauretta Angerman of Crown Point, IN; and many dear nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by her husband, Harvey; parents: Russell and Elizabeth (Johnston) VanAtta; sisters: Ruth Dunker and Evelyn Spurr; and brother, Jean VanAtta. A celebration of Lois' life will be held at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 250 S. Indiana Ave., Crown Point, IN on Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 11:00 AM with Pastor David Kipp officiating. Friends may visit with Lois' family at the church on Saturday, December 20, 2008 from 10:30 to 11:00 AM and also following the service. Lois was born on January 13, 1915 in Oakland, CA; attended schools in Goshen, IN, Philadelphia, PA, Phillipsburg, NJ, and Gary, IN, and graduated from Merrillville High School in 1933. She was a graduate of Gary Business College and later completed an accounting course at Indiana University. In 1935 Lois married Harvey H. Meyer and moved to Crown Point. She worked as an Executive Secretary and Accountant in the area for 35 years. She was Office Manager for Lake County Farm Bureau Co-Op, Executive Secretary and U.S.Sales Coordinator at Anderson Co., Accountant at Hannah's Building Center, Accounting Manager for Holiday Inn, Merrillville and retired from Whiteco Industries, Inc. as Corporate Payroll Administrator in 1981. Lois was an active Den Mother for Cub Scouts sponsored by the Methodist Church for 8 years. She served as Secretary and Treasurer of Washington Community Club; did the preliminary research and established the school lunch program in both Washington and Riley community schools. She later pioneered and brought the book rental system into the township schools. Lois was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, in years past had been a member of the choir and served as Secretary of the Missionary League. She was past President, Secretary and Treasurer of Crown Point B.P.W., Riley Homemakers and Crown Point Garden Club. As a member of the Garden Club, Lois chaired the committee responsible for planting and maintaining the geranium beds at the Courthouse, coordinated and hosted the assembly of the annual fresh flow May Baskets and Christmas tray favors for Meals on Wheels clients. Lois worked on the County and State level with the Cultural Arts program, served as Historian and Treasurer of Northwest District Garden Clubs of Indiana, Secretary & Treasurer of Crown Point Chapter of A.A.R.P; President & Treasurer with Friends of Crown Point Library. She had volunteered as a literacy tutor. For 40 years she served as an active volunteer crisis line telephone worker with the Crisis Center. In 2001, Lois was awarded the Lake County Community Foundation Legacy Foundation Award for Volunteers. The following year she was chosen as Woman of the Year by the Crown Point Chamber of Commerce. [Read full obituary here]



Public Involvement is Key to Project

By Stephanie Vega

The Times - VIVA correspondent

December 3, 2008

It's a meeting unlike any other, and the goal is to have as many people as possible attend. The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is hosting a Regional Forum on the Future of Northwest Indiana at the Star Plaza at the Radisson Hotel on Sat. Dec. 6. "The forum is basically a kick off event to get the public involved for a long term effort to develop the region's first three-county, comprehensive, regional plan to address the changing face of the area by the year 2040," said Gabrielle Biciunas, Long-Range Planner for NIRPC. "And we really want people of ages and backgrounds to be there."

Those attending the event will be asked to weigh in on issues including transportation, environmental and economic growth, land use, and how to ensure social equity within the region. Already, more than 250 people have registered for the event, but the hope is to draw a crowd of 500 to 700. "It's important that the whole region is will represented so we can get their views," said Biciunas. "So we are really trying to outreach to the Latinos, the youth, and the disabled. This is their chance to voice their opinion."

And considering Lake County has such a large population of Latinos, many in the community find it's important for Latinos to be at the event and have their voice heard. Some are going above and beyond the call of duty to extend the invitation to those who may not know about the forum. "For me, sitting on the HOPE committee I realize how important this is," said Gavin Mariano of the Crisis Center. "So if there's any way I can increase the number of people going to the forum I'll do whatever it takes. I'll talk to friends, other members of the community, because even if I could get a few more Latinos to attend I think it would make a difference."

The all day event is free, and child care will be provided if needed. For more information or to register for the event you can go to or call (219) 762-2653. Registration is preferred, especially if child care will be needed. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.



Boys & Girls Club designated 'Safe Place'

By Jeff Burton

The Times

December 5, 2008

Dusty Rhode Boys & Girls Club members show off their “Safe Place” sign. The Club is the first location in Porter County to participate in this national program, which offers support to any child in crisis. Pictured clockwise from left are Alyssa Miller, R’Monee Holloway, Tyler Clark, Bryannah Brown, Meredith Lay-Smith and Angela Clouse

PORTAGE | Children experiencing personal problems now have another place to turn to in Portage.

The Forrest L. "Dusty" Rhode Boys and Girls Club is the county's first Safe Place. The national youth outreach program has long had a presence in Lake County, and now with assistance from The Crisis Center Inc. and the Family and Youth Services Bureau of Porter County, the program has expanded its reach, Beth Claxton, director of special events for the Porter County Boys and Girls Clubs said.

As part of the program, young people considering running away from home or experiencing other personal crises can come to the club, just north of Aylesworth Elementary School at 5895 Evergreen Ave. Staff members will assist them in making a call to the Crisis Center in Lake County. The responding counselor will then assess the situation and drive the young person to an emergency shelter, if necessary.

"Becoming a Safe Place site is an important pat of providing a safe, supportive community for our children," unit director Pam Edlund-Waters said.

Set up at schools, community organization hubs, restaurants and other child-friendly places, each Safe Place location displays a bright yellow and black sign near its entrance, letting young people between of 6 and 18 know there is someone to help at the location.

"Keeping our youth safe is everyone's responsibility, and we, as a team at the Dusty Rhode Boys and Girls Club, are proud to be able to play this key role in the community," Edlund-Waters said.


'One Region: One Vision' steering group created

Staff Report

The Times

October 15, 2008

A group of 19 Northwest Indiana leaders will meet this month to formally establish a program fostering the "One Region: One Vision" concept announced Sept. 11.

Bill Masterson Jr., publisher of The Times, announced creation of a steering committee to "move this effort forward."

At the Sept. 11 luncheon, Masterson, Gary Diocese Bishop Dale Melczek, Gov. Mitch Daniels and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky called for greater unity in Northwest Indiana to support worthwhile programs and projects of mutual benefit to those living in the region.

Those named to the steering committee include:

* U. S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.

* Bishop Dale Melczek of the Gary Diocese

* Lou Martinez, president, Lake Area United Way

* Dan Lowery, vice president for academic affairs, Calumet College of St. Joseph

* State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary

* State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso

* Vince Galbiati, president, The Northwest Indiana Forum

* Cal Bellamy, attorney, Kreig-Devault

* Mark Maassel, former president, NIPSCO

* Linda Woloshansky, president, The Center of Workforce Innovations

* Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.

* Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas

* John Swanson, executive director, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission

* Leigh Morris, executive director, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority

* Don Babcock, director of economic development, NIPSCO

* Shirley Caylor, executive director, The Crisis Center [read full story here]


Exemplary Leaders in NWI Recognized

By LuAnn Franklin

The Times

September 23 , 2008

(click each to enlarge, seperate window)

MERRILLVILLE | For Munster native Todd Rokita, one of his duties as Indiana secretary of state is acting as an ambassador for Northwest Indiana.

It's humbling honor to be recognized as a leader in the region, Rokita said during his keynote speech Monday at The Times InBusiness magazine's 20 Under 40 awards.

Hosted by Times Publisher Bill Masterson Jr., the gala event at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville spotlighted 20 people from business, government, social service and education who have helped improve Northwest Indiana and Chicago's south suburbs.

"It's very important that you do what you do," Rokita told fellow members of the 20 Under 40 class of 2008 and guests. "You show what kind of region this is."

Rokita also praised the efforts of those from Northwest Indiana who have responded to the recent flooding.

"I've never been prouder to be from Northwest Indiana as I have been these past two weeks," he said. "When it was all over, there was nothing left to do but to help each other. This lets us show the rest of the state, the rest of the country, the rest of the world what this region can be."

Others who were named young leaders this year include:

- Sam Barakat, 35, of Orland Park, owner of Gaucho's Brazilian Steakhouse, Valparaiso

- Susan K. Biggs, 36, of Portage, an eighth-grade English teacher at West Side Junior High School in East Chicago and head swim coach at East Chicago Central High School

- Michael Charbonneau, 28, of South Bend, manager of communications and public affairs for NIPSCO in Merrillville

- Nicola Goelzhauser, 36, of Lemont, Ill., vice president of film library and program sales for MPI Media Group in Orland Park

- Jeannine Hornback, 39, of Valparaiso, owner/executive director of Little U Academy in Valparaiso

- Thomas Kirsch II, 34, of Schererville, lawyer with Winston & Strawn LLP of Chicago

- Matthew Kis, 36, of Michigan City, owner, Great Lakes Catering & Special Events in Michigan City

- Karen Lauerman, 38, of Hammond, director of marketing for the Northwest Indiana Forum in Portage

- Jon Leetz, 35, of Valparaiso, executive vice president of North Coast Distributing Co. in Valparaiso

- Gavin Mariano, 34, of Merrillville, coordinator for Youth as Resources, Crisis Center Inc. of Northwest Indiana in Gary [read full article here]  [additional article here]


ISP Receives High Marks

Staff Report

Michigan City News-Dispatch

September 9, 2008

MICHIGAN CITY - The Indiana State Prison achieved a near perfect score in its accreditation review by the American Correctional Association.

At a public exit interview, ACA audit chairman Jim Allen spoke to 200 staff and local dignitaries. Allen said the prison received a score of 100 percent on the applicable mandatory standards and 98.8 percent on non-mandatory standards.

He said it is "extremely difficult for a facility as old as the prison" to achieve accreditation, but due to "the professionalism of the staff and the manner in which they perform as a team," it was possible.

"It was very obvious your employees know they have a stake in the operation of this facility and work hand and hand with management and are very proud of their facility," Allen said, adding that he will recommend to the ACA at its January 2009 meeting that the Indiana State Prison receive another three years of accreditation.

Also speaking to the staff were Commissioner Ed Buss, auditors Reginald Hines and Sandy May and acting Superintendent Mark Levenhagen.

Others attending were La Porte County Community Advisory Board members Kellie Bittorf of Lake County Community Corrections; Gavin Mariano, director Lake County Youth Resources; Mike Mollenhauer, La Porte County sheriff; Capt. Scott Bell, La Porte County Police Department; Gene Rice, former International Director; Paula Siminski, Portage Adult Education Center; and Joan Wiseman, academic director Purdue University-North Central.

Also attending were Rondle Anderson, DOC Northern Regional Director, Ron Allen and Lori Burkhart, field auditors.


Community Leaders Should Take Active Role

By Stephanie Vega

The Times

August 20, 2008

It was the first of many more discussions to come, as Hispanic leaders from Lake and Marion County participated in a statewide conference call to talk about the variety of services available for children of Latino and African American descent, and whether or not it's enough. In 2007, the state formed a Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services, and their job was to put together research on the issue, and define what disproportionality really means. "When we talk about disproportionality, our working definition is that there are too many kids from one particular racial ethnic group who are receiving a service disproportionate to their numbers and the general population," said Bill Glick, Member of the Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services. "But, what we are also talking about is disparity which means they are either not receiving services and the outcomes are poor, or they are receiving services and the services are not tailored to those young people and their

families and the outcomes are not as good."

According to research done by the Commission, students of color in this state are treated differently and are afforded much less access to needed services and programs than what white children experience. For example, African American students are 3.6 times and Latino students are 1.5 times more likely than White students to be referred to alternative education programs.

When it comes to the juvenile justice system, the Commission found that African American youth are 3 times as likely as their Caucasian counterparts to get arrested, and they represent approximately 39 percent of the youth population incarcerated. "I'm working with the Hispanic Latino Commission and about a year and a half ago, we went to the Plainfield Correctional Center and what we saw in there were a lot of young people," said Adolfo Solis, Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services Member. "It's a shame."

But what's really a shame is the fact that it's been documented that even a small period of time out of school for detention or in a secure correctional facility could be the start of a rocky road ahead, and that's why the Commission wants to know what local agencies are doing. "We need input from the social service agencies," said Solis. "I think we as community leaders should take a more active role."

There is some good news for those youth being affected in Lake County because there are agencies playing an active role, and making a difference. The Crisis Center in Gary offers seven different types of services including a 24-hour emergency shelter. "We are always available, and we try to have a staff that's bilingual and looks like the kids," said Gavin Mariano with the Crisis Center. "We are always trying to adjust because we are in the business of helping kids and we can't help them if we can't identify with them," he added.

Other agencies doing their part for the advancement of Latino youth is the Hispanic Organization Promoting Excellence (HOPE). In less than a year, the organization put together a Youth Leadership Academy, in hopes of giving students the tools they'd need to succeed in the future. "The HOPE program is a good example of doing so much in a small amount of time and I think that there's so much more to come," said Mariano. "It sounds to me like the tools are out there; we just have to put them to work," he added.

The Commission has until October to put together a report for the Governor and the Legislative Council to let them know what's currently being done, and what still needs to be done to combat the issue of disproportionality in the state. The Commission will also make recommendations about funding. "We anticipate moving beyond the report," said Jennifer Darby, Commission Member. "We don't want it to sit someplace and collect dust." "It sounds to me like the tools are out there; we just have to put them to work." -Gavin Mariano [linked]


Travelling Artist From Rwanda Inspires Crisis Center Youths

By Lisa DeNeal

Post Tribune

July 31, 2008

(click to enlarge)

GARY -- A lesson in living and perseverance was given to young adolescents at the Crisis Center's Alternative House on Wednesday by an artist whose own story demonstrates those lessons


 Growing up in Kigali, Rwanda, Gabriel Dusabe said he first showed his artistic talents using nature as his tools.

"I would mix water and bits of the earth for texture and use sticks and wood to draw," he said.

Stretching out his right arm, the 32-year-old married father said that he'd also draw on his arms.

"If I used a notebook, my parents and teacher told me I was wasting my time drawing," he said.

Surrounded by his artwork of his home and inspirational themes, Dusabe told the audience of pre-teens and teenagers to never give up and always be open to opportunities.

Gabriel is the co-founder of Cards from Africa, which employs and trains orphans to create custom greeting cards that sell nationwide.

"We have many orphans who lost their parents and families to genocide and disease and famine. This gives them a second chance," he said.

Dusabe, along with his wife, Margaret, and 1-year-old son, Hero, visited the Crisis Center to deliver inspiration and hope. The young family is ending a two-week visit to Gary, leaving early today on a continuing Christian-based mission. [read full story here]


Slice Of Life: Gavin Mariano

By Stephanie Vega

Viva Los Tiempos (from The Times)

July 18, 2008

For more than 30 years, the Crisis Center in Gary has been providing help for kids of all ages, with issues varying from problems at home to drug and alcohol abuse. The Center offers 7 different programs, each with counselors available to offer support and guidance. One of those counselors is Gavin Mariano. "I’m very lucky because the Crisis Center does extraordinary work, and they’ve been around since 1971," Mariano said. "I almost feel like what better agency to work for than someone who’s been doing so well and producing such positive outcomes and outlets."

For the past 7 years, Mariano has worked at the Crisis Center, and he’s one of the few counselors on hand who is bilingual. He’s known by many in the community because he is the Public Relations Specialist for the Center, but that’s not the only job he has. "I’m also the webmaster for the Crisis Center," he explained. "I was the one who did our entire website in Spanish."

Mariano enjoys keeping busy and work and outside of the office. He’s the National President for the Indiana University Latino Alumni Association, and he’s a member of the Hispanic Organization Promoting Excellence (H.O.P.E). "When I’m involved with organizations like H.O.P.E, which I’ve been a member for over 2 years, it means a great deal to me," Mariano said. "There’s just something special about being in H.O.P.E and working with the Latino community in Northwest Indiana."

And when Mariano isn’t working or volunteering, he enjoys listening to music. A self proclaimed music junkie, Mariano says he loves downloading music. "I have maybe 3,000 songs in my I-tunes library," he said giggling. "My whole life I’ve been listening to music, it’s my second life."

He has a fun side for sure, but when it comes to work, Mariano is all business. When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, he said still working at the Crisis Center. "The idea of knowing that you are a resource and an asset to the community and you’re a part of that good endeavor, it makes you feel really good."


Programs Solid As A R.O.C.K

By Stephanie Vega

Viva Los Tiempos (from The Times)

July 11, 2008

When we talk about living a healthy lifestyle, usually that means eating better and working out, but what about our inner self, our mind, and our soul? Maintaining a positive mental health plays a large role in living a healthy lifestyle, and affects people of all ages. "There was a study done by Indiana University that determined the time between 3 and 6pm were critical hours for children aged 10-14," said Albert Gay, Program Director for Afternoon’s R.O.C.K. "The study found that those hours were when youngsters could make the wrong decisions about alcohol, drugs, gangs, and sexual activity."

So to deter kids from making the wrong decisions, a statewide program was started called Afternoon’s R.O.C.K., a program offering activities filled with "ROCK" - Recreation, Object Lessons, Culture & Values, and Knowledge. "We’ve been doing this program for 11 years," Gay said, "And every year we are reaching out to more and more of our youth."

In the Latino community, the Afternoon’s ROCK program has been enacted at the Boys & Girls Club of Hammond, East Chicago and Lake Station, and this year alone has served 157 young Latinos. And while this program is helping to change the lives of our youth, so is another program in Lake County, aimed at teaching teenagers responsibility. "Youth as Resources is an advisory board made up of other kids, teenagers," said Gavin Mariano, Public Relations Specialist at the Crisis Center. "What they do is raise money, and then they turn around and give the money away to other teen groups in need of assistance," he added.

Typically the kids involved with this program are aged 12 and up, and it’s just one way they learn how to better themselves. The Crisis Center offers several different programs aimed at helping children, and the goal is to help each one live a safe and happy life. "We help kids deal with serious problems like drug and alcohol abuse, but we also have programs that are prevention programs," said Mariano. "We’ve got a lot of tools and resources that we give to the kids to keep them informed but at a level that they are comfortable with," he added.

And while keeping the community informed on health issues should start at an early age, it’s important to continue the work as they get older. That’s something the North Shore Health Center does, especially for young women who are pregnant. "We have a great pre-natal program," said Norma Cruz, Community Outreach with North Shore Health Center in Portage. "We go over issues like nutrition, the importance of preventive health care, coping with a pregnancy and postpartum."

The program also offers help for those Latina pregnant women who are having trouble breaking through the communication barrier. A lot of the pregnancy material is being made in Spanish, and the Health Center has a bilingual staff, something Cruz is very happy about. "I want them to have the opportunity to be able to have that access because they don’t always know about it," she said. "Our goal is to let them know the options they have for delivering a healthy baby."


INSIGHT: Crisis Center has record year for wine tasting fundraiser

By Adele Mackinow

The Times

July 6, 2008

It was lucky 13 for the Crisis Center's 13th annual Wine Tasting and Auction fundraiser at the elegant Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton as hundreds came out for the event and the total amount raised registered a record-breaking $268,600.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for at-risk youths and their families throughout Northwest Indiana. The Crisis Center began in 1971 to help prevent teenage suicide. Last year it helped 10,714 people.

A wine tasting and auction are without a doubt the premier event in the region for a nonprofit organization, with hundreds of businesses and people donating items for silent and live auctions [read full story here]


Crisis Contact Program Coordinator, Willie Perry


Goods Works (column)


May 10, 2008

(click image to enlarge in PDF view)


Celebrating keeping youths safe

The Times

March 20, 2008

Lake County will join more than 1,100 communities nationwide as the Crisis Center, in Gary's Miller neighborhood, celebrates its commitment to keeping youth safe during National Safe Place Week, which continues through Saturday.

Safe Place
provides access to immediate help and safety for all young people in crisis. More than 105,000 youths nationally have received help through a business or community location displaying the yellow and black Safe Place sign since the program's inception 25 years ago in Louisville, Ky. Now, 144 youth-serving agencies in 41 states manage Safe Place programs in their local communities.

The Crisis Center has operated the Safe Place program in the Lake County since 1987 and has an office at 101 N. Montgomery St.

Currently, 190 businesses and community locations in the region - including all city buses of Gary, all fire stations in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond, and most libraries in Lake County - serve as Safe Place sites where a young person can be connected to Youth in Need's services. Locally, nearly 2,000 youths have walked into a Safe Place to receive support since 1987.

"All of our partners in Lake County make this program possible by caring enough to open their doors to youth in trouble and getting them connected with our services." Nikki Wielgos, Safe Place program coordinator, said in a written release. "Each Safe Place sign depicts another gateway to help for our kids in trouble."

As part of National Safe Place Week, the Crisis Center is offering free presentations for any interested Lake County business or organization wanting to learn more and/or wanting to become an official, designated Safe Place site. Presentations can be customized and offer an interactive view on how the program works and how it benefits communities.

For more information, visit or the Lake County Safe Place site, or call (219) 938-7070.

As part of National Safe Place's Building A Safety Net For Youth awareness campaign, new youth-friendly Web sites, where they can learn more about the program, have been established such as and

"Safe Place empowers kids to seek help themselves," Sandy Bowen, executive director of National Safe Place, said in the release. "These young people, many of whom would have nowhere else to turn, are tremendously brave and we honor their courage. We also honor the caring adults nationwide who have worked tirelessly for a quarter century to make their communities safer."

The U.S. Senate has designated the third week of March as National Safe Place Week each year since 2001.


Launching A 'Safe Place' into Porter County

Editorial by John Davies

The Times

March 9, 2008

Thirty-one years ago this month, the Crisis Center launched a great idea called "Safe Place" to help children at risk.

It's a program in which a youngster can walk into a business and ask for help.  The Crisis Center dispatches a driver to pick up the youngster, and then the staff works fast to return the younster home or provide other assistance. [read full editorial here] PDF file


Crisis Center Seeks Adult and Youth Volunteers

Post-Tribune Staff Report

March 1, 2008

GARY -- The Crisis Center Inc., located in the Miller area of the city, is actively recruiting youth and adult volunteers for five of its seven programs.

The programs and volunteer descriptions are:

Crisis Contact -- adults to answer the information and referral, depression and suicide hotline

Reassurance Contact -- adults who make outbound wellness phone-check calls to seniors, disabled and homebound citizens

Teen Court -- youth ages 10 to 17 to serve as officers on the Lake County youth court

Youth as Resources -- youth ages 13 and up to serve on a fun advisory board which awards mini-grants to other youth groups

Alternative House -- adult volunteer arts and crafts teacher for youth at our emergency shelter

More information about each program and volunteer requirements can be found on the Crisis Center's Web site, or by calling 938-7070.


Mark Masssel


Sunday, February 17, 2008

When Mark Maassel came to the region three decades ago for a job with the Northern Indiana Public Service Co., he expected to make the move, stay for a while, and then return to Minnesota.

Happily, he remained.

In December, Maassel, whose humanity put a compassionate face at the helm of NIPSCO, relinquished his position as president there. He had served in that leadership post since the beginning of 2004.

Now, Maassel, 53, the youngest to be inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame, is hitting his stride, some say, and they hope that the region will be  the happy beneficiary.

Maassel, who was a recent University of Minnesota graduate armed with a civil engineering degree when he and his wife Christine first came to Indiana, said he found the work at NIPSCO, as well as the region itself, compelling.

"It's hard not to develop an affinity for this community," Maassel said, relaxing in the lakeside home in Valparaiso that the couple has called home for 10 years. "There are wonderful folks in this area."


It is his intent, Maassel said, to continue his associations with a number of civic groups including the Crisis Center, Inc., Gary, where he is vice-president of the board of directors.

Maassel said he feels honored to be named to the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.

Mulling the notion of success, he said he finds the monetary definition to be fleeting. "The more lasting definition of success is people-oriented," Maassel, a strong family man,  said, pointing to his father-in-law who raised seven children. "He was the far richer. It's something to aspire to," he said.

What of the future? "I'm spending time now to see what I want to be when I grow up," Maassel said with a grin.


Schools Should Seek Suspension Options

Post-Tribune Editorial Board

February 14, 2008

Recent data released by the Indiana Department of Education attest that schools have serious problems with discipline.

No school is immune from problems. School suspension rates in Northwest Indiana are up 9 percent from 2005-06.

Schools must report the number of suspensions and expulsions during the school year as part of the data collection required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools also must report the infractions that include drugs, alcohol or weapons.

Merrillville High School suspended 691 students last year compared to 461 the previous year. School officials blamed the large number on students who decided to skip Friday night detention. Merrillville Superintendent Anthony Lux said students were being taught to accept responsibility.

That's a good thing, but it's also a shame that those students who are suspended must miss school, because they're the very ones who need to be there. Their misbehavior also ruins the academic experience for children who want to learn.

Gary school officials had promised to come up with a plan for in-school suspensions and community service, but so far nothing has materialized.

Many schools in Lake and Porter counties participate in Teen Court operated by the Crisis Center in Gary. Instead of facing out-of-school suspensions, teens face a jury of their peers who determine their punishment. Gary schools, however, don't participate.

The Duneland schools in Chesterton offer a Positive Life program for students with drug and alcohol problems. Students are given classes in overcoming peer influences and the dangers of chemical dependency.

These are fine programs, but more alternatives are needed to help students benefit by staying in school.


Student Suspensions Spike

By Sharlonda Waterhouse, Post-Tribune

February 11, 2008

Newly released Indiana Department of Education data show school suspensions in 2007 rose 9 percent locally from the 2006 school year, while expulsions, particularly for drugs, alcohol or weapons, fell 27 percent.

Last year in the region's schools, more than 14,200 students were suspended and 852 were expelled.

Most of the disciplinary actions were in urban schools. East Chicago Central alone suspended 700 students last year.

But suburban areas like Merrillville also had their share. At Merrillville High School, 691 students were suspended. That's up 50 percent from 461 the previous year.

Superintendent Tony Lux said 300 of those suspensions were due to students who skipped Friday night detention.

Lux said day-to-day behavioral problems were down, but the data spiked because students are still being taught to accept responsibility.

He said students often refuse the lighter assignment of Friday night punishment. Administrators add more detention, but eventually they have to suspend students.

In Portage Township, 437 students were suspended at the high school. That's down from 559 the prior year.


Lake Ridge Schools in Calumet Township, like many other area schools, recently began participating in teen court, which allows students to remain in school instead being suspended out-of-school.

Sandra Porter-Phillips, coordinator of the Teen Court run by the Crisis Center in Gary, works with students from both Lake and Porter counties. Peers listen to student offenses and decide punishment.

Court convenes monthly, dealing with offenses ranging from thefts to fighting, chief bailiff Nick Samardzija said.

While students from all over Northwest Indiana serve as jurors, so far only Lake Ridge and Griffith have formally agreed to refer school incidents there. Porter-Phillips would like to see participation increase.

"Instead of throwing students out, give them a second chance," Porter-Phillips said. "They need their education and we can change them if they are in school."

During a recent court session, Porter-Phillips allowed teens to talk about their experiences but required that last names be kept confidential.

Teens like court

Kaitlyn S., 16, of Lake Central High School, endorsed the teen court concept.

"We know what it's like to be their age. We feel what they are going through," Kaitlyn said.

Brian C., 16, of Chesterton High School, said the court is somewhat lenient. Students are often given punishment like writing 100-word essays, writing letters of apology, and serving future jury duty time.

Munster High sophomore Jelena G., 15, a juror with a desire to go into politics, said the focus isn't on an easy out.

"No one deserves an absolutely lenient environment, but they do deserve to have peers who understand them," Jelena said.

It doesn't always stop the behavior.

Jamie, 17, of Highland High, is facing his second teen court incident. Four months ago he and friends were caught with marijuana.

Rather than send him through the Lake County Juvenile Court system, police diverted him to teen court. He missed no school and was ordered to complete 12 hours of community service, make two apologies, and serve on the jury.

"That's what I don't want to happen. I don't want to miss school. I have 24 credits and want to graduate," the teen said.

But just last month, he was caught drinking.

"They've been so generous with me. I know it looks like I'm a bad kid, but I'm just making bad decisions," the teen said.

Understanding consequences

Teen Court Judge Scott Yahne said the court "is designed to alert students to the fact that there are consequences to making mistakes." [read full story here]


Be thankful for the basic; even life itself

Editorial by Shirley Caylor, Executive Director - Crisis Center, Inc.

Sunday December 16, 2007

At the holiday season, we are reminded to be thankful and to count our blessings. The children and youths who are temporarily living at our Crisis Center's Alternative House were invited to list for what they were thankful.

These are kids, as young as 6 up to age 17, who are out of their home for their safety and protection and because of hurtful things in their young lives. These are their words:

I am thankful for ...

God, that he is always there whenever I need him.

My friends that have always been there for me.

The food I get to eat. [read more here].


Well-known Attorney Dies

By Bill Dolan, The Times

Thursday, November 22, 2007 2:18 AM CST

CROWN POINT | James J. Krajewski, a former Lake Superior Court judge, died Tuesday night after a brief illness.

"He was a gentleman judge, and when he undeservedly left the bench, he remained a gentleman lawyer," Highland attorney J. Michael Katz said.

Others praised Krajewski's intelligence upon learning of his death Wednesday.

"He was the smartest lawyer I knew," Munster attorney Jim Padula said, adding Krajewski, who suffered from cancer, "accepted it courageously. There was no self pity."

Visitation for Krajewski is scheduled to take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Burns Funeral Home, 8415 Calumet Ave., Munster. His funeral will be at a time yet to be determined Saturday at St. Thomas More Church, 8501 Calumet Ave., Munster.

Krajewski, 50, had practiced law since 1983. He came to public prominence when Gov. Robert Orr named him to the Superior Court County Division seat left vacant by the federal conviction of former Judge Orval Anderson on obstruction of justice charges.

Critics said Krajewski owed his appointment to his relationship to former Lake County GOP Chairman Joseph Kotso.

Krajewski won praise for operating the court at a savings to taxpayers. "He always treated litigants with respect, particularly those without lawyers," Katz said. Krajewski stood for election in 1990 and was defeated by Gary attorney Bernard Carter, who is now county prosecutor.

Shirley Caylor, executive director of Crisis Center, a Gary-based counseling center, said Krajewski had served as president of the center's board of directors for three years and had served as a teen court judge for many years.

Read full obituary here.


Find safe alternatives for vulnerable 'throwaways'

Editorial by Cheryl Hall-Russell, The Indianapolis Star

Sunday November 4, 2007

We see them, but we don't really see them. Hanging out under a bridge in Broad Ripple, sleeping in parks, or "couch surfing" somewhere different every night, homeless youth are kids who can't quite seem to get it together. They have fallen out with their parents one too many times or have fled abusive situations.

Often, we don't see them, but clearly we need to. For the past several months, state Rep. Dennis Avery, D-Evansville, has chaired an interim study committee on missing and homeless youth in Indiana. Committee members are bringing focus to the problems faced by homeless and unattached youth in the state. They are considering legislation to get these youth moving in the right direction. The National Runaway Switchboard reports that, nationally, there are 1.7 million runaway youth on the streets every day.

Gavin Mariano, who testified for the study committee, knows their plight well. By the time he was 17 he had run away almost a dozen times. Affected by the trauma of living in a violent household, he finally ran to a public library that had a bright yellow Safe Place sign. Staff members referred him to the Crisis Center Alternative House in Gary. Mariano is one of the lucky ones. Now a graduate of Indiana University, he works at the Crisis Center as a counselor. The kids he helps are called unaccompanied youth, homeless or even throwaways. Most don't have access to services; some fear returning or cannot return home. Too many become victims of sexual abuse or use "survival sex" to help them meet basic needs. Drugs use is common, as is poor physical health. [read full story here


Readers can pat themselves on the back

By Jerry Davich, Post Tribune

Tuesday October 23, 2007

Arlene Lyons paid a visit to Pat Johnson last week at the South Shore Health & Rehabilitation Center in Gary.

Lyons, who works for Reassurance Contact, a social work program of the Crisis Center in Gary's Miller neighborhood, told Johnson about the generosity of P-T readers.

Johnson, if you recall, is the 58-year-old Gary woman who struggles with several medical conditions, including elephantiasis, and who is unable to move back into her home until her utility bills are paid.

I wrote about her plight last week, and many of you acted on it, Lyons told Johnson.

Readers of this column reached deep into their hearts and wallets, donating more than $1,100 so far to Johnson's cause.

Also, a few churches have stepped up to help with the plumbing in Johnson's home, and to help pay for the reconnect fee for her utilities.

That's not all. A local agency has donated services to clean her chimney, and her high school graduating class will host a fund-raiser.  Plus, two employees from local social service agencies who could not help Johnson through their workplace have volunteered to help personally.  I personally heard from a man from Wheatfield, a nursing home resident from East Chicago, and a woman from Portage, who's waiting on her next Social Security check to donate.

"Every caller is so enthusiastic, I am overwhelmed," Lyons told Johnson at the center.

Do you know how Johnson responded that day? She broke down and cried. Because of you.

Not only will you restore her home's utilities, you also have restored her faith in human nature. And you really can't put a price tag on that, can you?


Northwest Indiana's Society of Innovators

October 2007

The Society of Innovators for Northwest Indiana was founded by Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana Northwest and our community partners of ArcelorMittal, The Times of Northwest Indiana, Krieg-De-Vault Law Firm, and Horseshoe Casino. [view winners]


Innovators Earn Honors

by Carrie Napoleon, Post-Tribune Correspondent

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The co-founder of a crisis center, a researcher who discovered three new genes in the human genome and the creator of one of the world's most popular Web sites are among six local innovators who will be feted Thursday.

The Society of Innovators will induct six new fellows and the first two co-recipients of the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Horseshoe Casino Hammond.

In addition to 23 other individuals called members, the new inductees are among 54 nominees this year to the Society established by Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana Northwest and its community partners.

[read full story here]


Undying Passion Leads to Innovation

by Susan Erler

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:57 AM CDT - The Times

Climbing into a cramped attic to wire an electric fan led Bill Keith to one conclusion: There's got to be a better way.
Finding it landed Keith on a list of new inductees into the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana.

Keith was named one of six fellows and 23 new members of the society founded three years ago, managing director John Davies said Tuesday. They will be inducted Thursday, along with two co-recipients of the society's newest honor, the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation.

"We are identifying a network of innovators," from throughout Northwest Indiana, Davies said. "As entrepreneurs, they are an asset to the region."


Other Society of Innovators fellows include:

Shirley Caylor, who co-founded the Crisis Center, Alternative House, Teen Court, Safe Place and other programs for helping youth in the Miller section of Gary. [read full story here]



Woman's return home unsafe but social worker determined to

by Jerry Davich

Saturday October 13, 2007 - Post Tribune

Pat Johnson has been a giver all her life. When a stranger reached for a handout, her heart reached out to them. When a neighbor starved for a meal, she went into her kitchen. When the needy needed her, she knew what she needed to do.

She didn't think twice. It's simply how she's wired.

But now the 58-year-old woman is hurting for help.

She struggles with serious medical conditions, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, and lymphatic filariasis, more commonly known as elephantiasis. The disease makes her legs balloon with fluid and caused her weight to swell to 450 pounds last month before she was admitted to a hospital. She has since lost 70 pounds


In mid-August, Arlene Lyons, a local social worker, paid Johnson a visit and wondered why she couldn't turn on a light in her home. Johnson explained why.  

"Oh, we can't have this," Lyons told Johnson.

Lyons works for Reassurance Contact, a program of the Crisis Center in Miller, which offers free phone calls and home visits for seniors and homebound or disabled residents.

Since that day, she's been hustling to help Johnson [read full story here]


Senator Bayh Acts on Gang Violence

by Stephanie Vega

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 12:03 PM CDT  - The Times

The start of another school year means playing sports, joining new clubs, and getting involved with a number of other after-school activities, but one concern for some law enforcement agencies is that students will get involved with the wrong crowds. “Everyday the gang threat is there,” said Mark Becker, head of the FBI’s anti-gang taskforce in Northwest Indiana.

One of those places that could help make Becker’s job easier is the Crisis Center. Even though they don’t have a formal gang prevention program, they do see a lot of teens who have had gang related problems. Many of them are part of Teen Court, a prevention, early intervention and youth development program. “We would be a perfect candidate for what the Senator is talking about,” said Gavin Mariano with the Crisis Center. “These are the programs we need to support our teens, these initiatives are great.” [read full story here]


Crisis Center Offers Second Chance To Bid

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 12:52 AM CDT  - The Times

Organizers of the 12th annual Crisis Center Wine Tasting and Auction hope e-mail bids will boost the benefit's bottom line.

An e-mail silent auction is available through noon Friday for items that didn't receive minimum bids during the fundraiser at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for youths at risk and for their families throughout Northwest Indiana.

One of the items still up for bids is a Greek dinner for 12 in your home cooked by Lake County Convention and visitor's Bureau CEO Speros Batistatos. The minimum bid is $500. [read full story here]


Program Keeps In Touch With Elderly and Disabled

August 17, 2007

BY SUE ELLEN ROSS Post-Tribune correspondent

GARY -- Everyone needs a helping hand once in a while. And there's a program called Reassurance Contact that does just that for elderly, disabled and homebound residents.

The program, operated through Crisis Center Inc., is a free telephone safety check for those living alone who meet the criteria

Home visits also are available, according to Arlene Lyons, who serves as Reassurance Contact program specialist.

"I (as well as volunteers) make the friendly phone calls, home visits and handle any inquiries that they may have," she said. "During the visits we talk, I may read to them, play games, etc. These home visits usually last one hour."

The current roster lists dozens of recipients with addresses  from Lake and Porter counties as well as from portions of Jasper and LaPorte counties.

Each recipient is evaluated on an individual basis regarding days and times of phone calls or visits, according to Willie Perry, coordinator of the Reassurance Contact program.[read full story here]



Parents, Students, And Coaches Must Be Vigilant Against Sexual Misconduct

by Steve Hanlon.  The Times,

August 5, 2007 SUNDAY SPECIAL

Jim Miller has seen his share of teenagers, broken and hollow because of sexual abuse perpetrated on them from an athletic coach in Northwest Indiana schools. A counselor at Gary's Crisis Center, Miller has seen young lives destroyed by a person with a whistle around their neck.

As the number of high school students becoming involved sexually with a member of a school's staff grows nationally, Miller believes it is accurate to call this troubling phenomenon an epidemic.

"A teenager who has been abused by a coach has a tendency to become depressed, emotionally distressed, feeling a sense of loss," Miller said. "They feel like they're no longer a part of the team. People leave their school, leave town, trying to avoid what's happened. ... Maybe it was them being aggressive, maybe they wanted to make friends or get somewhere. Maybe the result is something you thought you wanted... [read full story here]


INSIGHT: More than 700 come to Sand Creek to support Crisis Center

Thursday, August 2, 2007 12:45 AM CDT


The weather was perfect for the 12th annual Crisis Center's Wine Tasting and Auction fundraiser at the magnificent Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton as hundreds came out for the event.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for youths at risk and for their families throughout Northwest Indiana.

The wine fest and auction has become the premier event in the region for a nonprofit organization, with hundreds of businesses and individuals donating items for the silent and live auction. The 2007 fundraising total is an estimated $262,544.

Where else could a person bid on a David Hugg Landscape painting - donated by the artist - or a yellow and white diamond ring donated by Fred and Josh Halpern of Alberts' Jewelers, an original 1956 movie poster of "D.Day" donated by Bill and Rita Nangle, or a Greek dinner for 12 in your home cooked by the Lake County Convention and visitor's Bureau CEO Speros Batistatos? And where else could you bid on a dinner for four with Bishop Dale Melczek at Miller Bakery Cafe, donated by Tom and Sylvia Collins?

Congrats go out to Dr. Stephen Gandfield, the high bidder for that fun evening.

Crisis Center Director Shirley Caylor thanks all underwriters, sponsors, committee members, auction item contributors, ticket-buyers, attendees, staff and volunteers.

Kudos to the 2006 Crisis Center Wine Fest and Auction Committee, which did an outstanding job.

Co-chairmen were John Diederich, Janet Schulte and E. Thomas Collins Jr. Committee members were Andy and Sue Arnold, Speros Batistatos, Indiana University Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland, Leon and Vanessa Bland, David Bochnowski, Charlie Blum, Jeff Brant, Keith Bruxvoort, Rusty Bucko, Hobart Mayor Linda Buzinec, Bonnie Coleman, Shelby Curry, Joyce Davis, Vic DeMeyer, Peter Doherty, Timothy Fesko, Karen Fulkerson, Bunny Furlin, Pat Giannini, Yvonne Hoff, John Kerr, Janine Kurpiel, Patrick Lee, Marc Leuthart, Mark Maaassel, Mary Mack, Rick Mazer, Bart McCartin III, Tom McDermott Sr., Bishop Dale Melczek, Suzanne Mulshine, Don Nagdeman, Rita Nangle, Carmen Neighbors, Tom Ploski, Craig Pratt, Pat Puffer, Joe Quinn, Cindi Rucinski, Tom Sourlis, Scott Steinwart, Milt Triana, Lisa Tatina, Dave VanDyke, Glenn Vician, Carey Yukich, Donald J. Weiss, Robert Welsh, Bruce White, Marty Wielgos, Ed Williams, McKenly Wright, Tamera Young-King and Debbie Zych.

We also must give major kudos to the extremely hard-working committee members from the Crisis Center: Shirley Caylor, Barbara Wisdom and Nikki Wielgos.

Consider giving a gift that will perpetually assist the Crisis Center. There are many ways to donate, including gift annuities, bequests and cash gifts. For more information, call or em-ail Shirley Caylor at (219) 938-7070, ext. 2727, or Barbara Wisdom at (219) 938-7070, ext. 2710.


Leadership Academy Draws Youth

July 20, 2007

Story ran in website

Hispanic youth throughout Northwest Indiana will prepare for roles in a new generation of community leaders when Valparaiso University hosts its first Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy next week.

Nearly 50 students from 23 schools in Lake and Porter counties will attend the Academy July 24 to 26 and learn from prominent state and national Hispanic leaders how to take on and succeed in positions of responsibility within their schools, churches and community.

Dr. Jose Arredondo, adjunct assistant professor of education and coordinator of multicultural programs for Valpo’s Department of Education, said students have prepared for the Academy by reading Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The book is serving as a foundation for the workshop, with speakers addressing each of the habits to the high school seniors-to-be.

“The transition from secondary school to the roles and responsibilities in adult life is a critical stage in life,” Dr. Arredondo said. “We want to help students develop the critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills that are necessary to meet the challenges of being an effective leader in a diverse world.”

Among the featured speakers at the Academy are Dr. Juan Andrade, head of the Chicago-based United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; Judge Jesse Villapando of the Superior Court of Lake County; Amy Mendoza, executive director of the Indiana Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs; Gavin Mariano, program coordinator of the Crisis Center in Gary; Dr. Juan Anaya, superintendent of East Chicago schools; and Frances Vega, director of Hispanic/Latino outreach for Ivy Tech State College...[read full story here].


When We Help Ourselves, We Help Others

Editorial by Shirley Caylor

Sunday, July 1, 2007 12:12 AM CDT - The Times

Beginnings and endings are linked. School ends. Summer begins. We are raised in the rhythm of the seasons. The longer days and warmer weather beckon us to enjoy. When the school year ended, many kids celebrated graduation, ended their years of childhood and began a period of new expectations. Endings and beginnings.

Joseph Campbell, an American writer who influenced George Lucas' Star Wars movies, said, "The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure" -- "to the life that is waiting."

The trick is to see the opportunities waiting, to accept the challenges and bring meaning to life. As young people venture out, they are confronted with the "real world" forces, both known and unknown, influencing their decisions while dealing with their own limitations. It can be tough in the best of times.  That tough time can be compounded by the circumstances in which young people find themselves. It is a lot harder to prepare yourself for a productive life when raised in an environment where you fear for your personal safety, where models of personal responsibility, hard work and educational attainment are lacking.

We see kids in these circumstances at the Crisis Center's Alternative House.

Half of all births in Lake County occur outside of marriage. Stable and viable family structures are just more difficult for single parents who are stressed by multiple demands.

In East Chicago at 50.5 percent and in Gary at 55.5 percent, single parents exceed the state average by 24.3 percent.  In Gary, 54 percent of related children under age 18 were below the poverty level in 2005 compared to a state level of 13.7 percent. And 45 percent of families with a female householder and no husband present had incomes below the poverty level.

Indiana has the worst teen dropout rate in the United States and ranks last among teenagers completing school.

A critical measure of competence is a mastery of basic math and English. The major Lake County school systems of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago scored well below the state average. Gary schools have a 29 percent passing rate in language arts and a 19 percent passing rate for mathematics as compared to a 68 percent Indiana ISTEP passing rate. Compounding the situation, five Lake County school districts are listed as having the highest suspension or expulsion rates in Indiana.

Why is this important? At the Crisis Center, we say, "you never get to be a child ... twice." The future of our region and our country is connected to the welfare and health of each child, each citizen. Individual responsibility is important, but so is mutual responsibility. We are all tied together.

Opportunities await. When we help others, we help ourselves.


In Between A Wall And A Hard Place

Editorial Column by Gavin Mariano

This story ran in the June 18-21, 2007 edition of Viva Los Tiempos Magazine

How often do we hear the phrase, “Don’t get the kids into this?”  It’s usually in the trenches of a domestic dispute or a custody fight.  Yet, this same phrase can be applied to the immigration war that recently played out in Washington.  On one hand are the proponents of deportation, and on the other hand are the proponents of comprehensive laws allowing a phased avenue to citizenship.  It’s at this crossroad that we should remind ourselves about the kids.  Children of undocumented immigrants, whether birthright or not, are part of this battle; thrusted perhaps, at times with abandon into this uncertainty.  The consequences of separating a family are something that should not be forgotten.  Let’s not forget seven year-old, Saul Arellano seeking sanctuary for eleven months in a Chicago Church; is this where he is destined to grow up, live, and be child?  In sanctuary?  In the United States of America?  Or should he and his mother be separated by a border?  Thinking of this notion reminds me of the organization motto from my employer, the Crisis Center in Gary, “You never get to be child twice.”  This is Saul’s only chance.  

The immigration battle comes at a time when children and youth are facing many other tough hurdles such as bullying, cyber-harassment, evolving drug use, and more.  One can only imagine the whirlwind an undocumented child must face.  Should they watch their back for that bully, or for the INS?  Furthermore, with many undocumented workers paying taxes yet not having their children eligible for government services, what resources are there for these youngsters while their parents live in fear?  Can we expect these children to be barred from school in the future?  Luckily, a March 2006 NPR poll indicated that 71% of Americans favor undocumented children attending school.  The consequences of effectively ignoring immigration reform for so many years means it has arrived with not with expedition but rather with commanding speed, yet it seems to have faded as quickly as it awoke.  One thing might be certain-that deporting the estimated 11.5 – 12 million people is highly improbable. Undocumented children are here, living, and growing—their well-being and future will have a firm influence on this country’s future, so when the immigration war awakens again, don’t get the kids into this. 


Chicago native driving force in Miller arts scene

Saturday, June 30, 2007 12:19 AM CDT
Times Correspondent

Joyce Davis, owner of Lake Street Gallery in Miller, moved to the area 27 years ago and since then has totally immersed herself in the community. Fourteen years ago she opened the gallery, was one of the organizers of the Gallery Gallop, a beach run that also takes participants through historic neighborhoods, The Crisis Center Arts & Wine Auction and started the Annual Gallery Christmas Sing Along.

"Next year will be the 15th anniversary of all these," says Davis who grew up in Chicago and attended Lutheran North High School in the city.

A graduate of Roosevelt University with a degree in art education, Davis never taught after she finished her student teaching. Instead she started doing art fairs in 1972 and from there segued into owning a gallery. She moved to Miller after marrying.

"I love Miller," says Davis whose gallery carries the work of regional and local artists particularly those focusing on the Dunes...[read full story here]


Getting to Know....The Crisis Center

Thursday June 28, 2007

The Times

Established in 1971. Serves Northwest Indiana. Helps any person, of any age, in personal crisis through 24-hour services. Web site: Nonprofit organization.

Mission: "We believe people are important," says the organization's Web site. "We believe that people can change. We believe in each life there are crisis events that are opportunities for change. We believe relationships between people are the vital link that holds society together. We believe in each life there are moments when the individual or the family must reach beyond themselves for support, help and understanding. We believe it is in such moments that the Crisis Center serves as agents to respond, to aid, to support and to enrich the people we serve."

[read full story here]


Churches have different approaches to dealing with gangs

Sunday, June 24, 2007 12:16 AM CDT

Times Correspondent

Like the Good Shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep, Willie Perry rejoices when a sinner is rescued, comes home and delights the heart of heaven.

But her experience at the Crisis Center in Gary tells her not all preachers see troubled youths with compassionate eyes that look for ways to embrace them in their parishes.

"I heard from a former gang member, and he said he always felt like he wasn't good enough to go to church," said Perry, who has devoted more than 20 years to helping youths in crisis....[read full story here]


Stay in school campaign starts

Saturday, June 23, 2007 2:21 AM CDT

CROWN POINT | Community leaders want to encourage area youth to stay in school and away from drugs with a "Stop the Drop" campaign sponsored by the Lake County Drug Free Alliance.

The first order of business is planning three Empowerment Seminars in Gary, Hammond and Merrillville on Aug. 28, 29 and 30, said John Key, director of the alliance.

"We want to encourage students to set a goal early on of achieving excellence," Key said. "The message is: Obtaining an education isn't done for anyone else. You do it for yourself."

Key reached out to schools, churches, businesses, law enforcement and other community leaders to be involved in the campaign. About 20 organizations are involved, including Sandra Porter-Phillips, of The Crisis Center in Gary; John Kiernan, of Calumet Breweries; Bill Hill, of the Salvation Army; and Dena Holland-Neal, representing Trinity United Church of Christ and the Interfaith Clergy Council.

National statistics show that 82 percent of those in American prisons are high school dropouts, Key said.

Key invites those interested in joining the campaign to attend the next meeting at noon Monday at the Drug Free Alliance Office, 2900 W. 93rd Ave., Crown Point. For more information, call (219) 648-6121.


Crisis Center improves Web site

Wednesday April 4, 2007

GARY | Those who want to learn more about Crisis Center online will find a more user-friendly Web site.

Its Web site,, has been updated to improve user friendiness and increase awareness about vital social service programs, according to a written release.

Crisis Center, at 101 N. Montgomery St. in the city's Miller section, serves primarily Lake County but all of Northwest Indiana.

The new site has been streamlined to allow users to access descriptions of programs and services, as well as having faster-loading images. Other features include a search tool, Spanish section, site map, quick home link and helpline number on each page for easy access, according to the release.

The site now is interactive, allowing visitors to request free counseling assessments, join mailing lists, download Youth As Resources grant applications, submit resumes for employment and other functions. A new, secure employee-only section also is available for center staff.

The Crisis Center has had a Web site since 2003. The new design received nearly 2,000 page hits in its first week, according to the release.  For more information, visit the Web site or call (219) 938-7070.




City's Crisis Center Responds to Weather

Story in Post-Tribune Briefly in the Region section - February 2007

The Crisis Center in Gary has increased the number of telephone specialists.  The center's Crisis Contact help line provides real-time information, referrals and depression and suicide prevention.  Also, the Reassurance Contact program staff make free daily or weekly wellness-check calls to elderly, homebound and senior citizens.

The telephone line is available to anyone seeking information, referrals, depression or suicide prevention.  Call 938-0900 for information.   The 24-hour suicide hotline is (800) 273-8255.


Teen Court Offers Students a Chance

February 10, 2007 BY SHARLONDA L. WATERHOUSE Post- Tribune

Would-be misdemeanants on the verge of being kicked out of the Lake Ridge School system can now plead their cases in a Teen Court, avoiding jail time and expulsion.

Peers on a jury will hear their cases and assign punishments ranging from community service to apologies to restitution for offenses such as smoking, fighting, graffiti, truancy, etc.

"It's a lot better than going to LCJC," said Gavin Zapata, public relations director for the Crisis Center Inc. in Gary.

That center recently agreed to oversee the court for Lake Ridge Schools, handling the cases of children ages 10 to 18.

"We're really excited about it," said Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley.

"We're trying to keep children in school. Lots of times they come from circumstances that influence their behavior. We believe in second chances."

Last school year, 421 Lake Ridge students were suspended and 37 of them were permanently kicked out, according to Indiana Department of Education records. But now through Teen Court they can be punished and remain in school.  "When dealing with children, it's important to allow them to correct their lives early," Johnson-Shirley said. 

Zapata said the Crisis Center has an 88 percent success rate with its Teen

Court, run since 1989 under coordinator Sandra Porter-Phillips.

Part of the reason is that defendants later must work in the program, as teen lawyers or jury members for future trials.

"They go from being defendants to being defenders of justice," Zapata said.

Lake Ridge students interested in criminal justice as a career will be able to volunteer for Teen Court.

Students argue the cases with no help from adults.  The only adult is the judge. Cases are tried in Crown Point in an actual Lake County Juvenile Center courtroom.  Zapata said Teen Court students take their responsibility seriously and don't offer lenient punishments.  Johnson-Shirley said students with serious violent offenses will not be able to seek refuge in the program.

She said Teen Court emphasizes the district's commitment to alternative discipline.

Zapata hopes other local school districts follow suit and is negotiating with East Chicago.

Although Teen Court is a national program, he lamented that only schools in LaPorte and Lake Ridge are involved.

Several local police departments refer students from throughout the region to Teen Courts, but Zapata said he'd like to see more schools get involved before matters go to the law.

Contact Sharlonda L.

Waterhouse at 648-3085 or


National Safe Place Newsletter

January 2007.  Photo by: Gavin Mariano



Wine Fest great success for Crisis Center

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The elegant Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton was filled to the max for the 11th annual wine tasting and silent and live auction for the benefit of Crisis Center Inc.

The Crisis Center serves as an outreach center for youths at risk and for their families throughout Northwest Indiana.

The Crisis Center's Wine Fest and Auction has become the premier event in the region for a nonprofit organization, with hundreds of businesses and individuals donating items for the silent and live auction.

Where else could a person bid on a David Hugg Landscape painting - donated by the artist and Lake Street Gallery - or a handmade miniature Serbian music box and a book on Serbian music culture - donated by the author and instrument maker himself, Milan Opacich? And where else could you bid on a dinner for eight with Bishop Dale Melczek at Miller Bakery Cafe, donated by Tom and Sylvia Collins?

Returning for the second year on the outdoor patio were the apple martini bar and hand-rolled cigars by Chris Kelley from Strictly Men Shop in Calumet City.

Crisis Center Director Shirley Caylor thanks all underwriters, sponsors, committee members, auction item contributors, ticket-buyers, attendees, staff and volunteers.

Kudos to the 2006 Crisis Center Wine Fest and Auction Committee, which did an outstanding job of putting together a great event.

Co-chairmen were Vic DeMeyer and Mark Maassel. Committee members were David Allen, Andy and Sue Arnold, Indiana University Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland, Leon and Vanessa Bland, David Bochnowski, Jeff Brant, Carmen Kent Bruner, Keith Bruxvoort, Hobart Mayor Linda Buzinec, Purdue Calumet Chancellor Howard Cohen, E. Thomas Collins Jr., Ken Cuvala, Joyce Davis, John Diederich, Peter Doherty, Timothy Fesko, Bunny Furlin, Arnie Gough, Mike Heinhold, John Kerr, Janine Kurpiel, Patrick Lee, Marc Leuthart, Rick Mazer, Bart McCartin III, Bishop Dale Melczek, Suzanne Mulshine, Rita Nangle, Carmen Neighbors, Paul Orner, Micki Pavnica, Jo Pojeta, Melinda Pollak, Tom Ploski, Therrin Protze, Pat Puffer, Keith Rogers, Cindi Rucinski, Janet Schulte, Tom Sourlis, Lisa Tatina, Dave VanDyke, Glenn Vician, Carey Yukich, Donald J. Weiss, Robert Welsh, Bruce White, Marty Wielgos, Ed Williams and McKenly Wright. And we can't forget the Crisis Center committee members: Shirley Caylor, Barbara Wisdom, and Nikki Wielgos


Rev. Donald Capp helped establish community Crisis Center

By Adele L. Mackanos

The Times
November 3, 2006

Among his many roles and qualities, the Rev. Donald Capp was a devout Christian minister and a visionary who saw a need help emotionally troubled teens and adults.

Capp, 80, a longtime region resident and community activist, died Saturday in Florida.

"Don was a visionary, and it was through that innovative vision the Crisis Center was launched here in Lake County," said Thomas McDermott, a former Hammond mayor who still serves on the board of the not-for-profit social service agency.

McDermott said Capp had a genuine desire to help others and was the driving force that made the Crisis Center a reality.

Attorney and former Lake County judge James Krajewski, who also serves on the Crisis Center board, described Capp as "the heart and soul of the center."

Krajewski said the agency that was established in the 1970's, still provides intervention for those in emotional crisis.

John Diederich, president of the Northwest Indiana Region of the Chase financial institution also praised Capp's efforts.

"Don was not afraid to complete his mission," Diederich said, noting that Capp never lost interest in the center and was still keeping a close eye on its future.

"His recent strategic planning session gave us direction and a plan for the future of our agency," Diederich said. "You might say this was Don's legacy to the community he cared so much about."

William Nangle, executive editor of The Times, considered Capp a personal friend and said the minister made a positive difference for many.

"I have lost a very special friend. Don and I forged a bond based on a mutual concern for the people of our community," Nangle said.

Jim Killen, executive director of the Indiana Youth Services Association also praised Capp's invaluable contributions.

"Those of us in the field of youth work lost one of our most remarkable leaders over the weekend. Don Capp, husband of Shirley Caylor, died last Saturday. Were it not for Shirley and Don we might not have an IYSA," Killen said.

David Capp, First Assistant U.S. Attorney, admired his father's devotion to his faith, his skills as a preacher and also credits him with being a perfect family role model.

"Integrity and a strong work ethic are just some of the important values he instilled in all of us," Capp said, noting his father also stressed the importance of pursuing education.



Longtime minister, activist Capp dead

By Carmen McCollum, The Times
October 31, 2006

The Rev. Donald G. Capp, a longtime minister, community activist and co-founder of the Crisis Center in Gary, died Saturday in Florida. He was 80.

A memorial service is set for Saturday at Faith United Church of Christ in Hammond, where Capp was pastor for 10 years.

Gavin Zapata, coordinator of Youth as Resources, a division of the Crisis Center, remembers when he first met Capp in 1991 when he was 17.

Zapata said he grew up in East Chicago, where he was surrounded by gangs and drugs and was abused at home. Looking for a safe haven, he ran away and eventually was placed in the Crisis Center where Capp served as executive director.

Barbara Wisdom, associate director of the Crisis Center, said Capp was responsible for a number of endeavors and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Indiana Youth Services Association, which brought youth service bureaus across the state under one umbrella.

Capp was honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash award for his work with the association. It is the state's highest civilian honor.

Capp is survived by his wife, Shirley Caylor, who called him more than just a husband. She said he was her best friend and a very special person.

"He was the best preacher I have ever heard," Caylor said. "He had a way of saying something or presenting an idea so that you saw a truth or an idea you had never realized before."

She said he read extensively and loved history and mysteries, and was "as interesting as he was interested."

After he retired, Caylor said her husband took up gourmet cooking and loved to treat his family with his latest creation.

Capp's daughter Diane Corona, of Chesterton, said her father touched a lot of people through the churches where he ministered and through the Crisis Center.

Born on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1926, Capp served in the U.S. Navy during World War II on the battleship carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his discharge, he returned and graduated from East Orange High School. He attended Rutgers University and graduated from Bloomfield College and Seminary, Bloomfield, N.J. Capp received bachelor of arts and bachelor of divinity degrees and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the Presbytery of Newark in June 1955.

He was a graduate student in speech at Wayne State University. He received his doctoral degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago. He also received an honorary doctorate from Geneva Theological School. Capp served churches in Wharton, Newark and West Caldwell, N.J, and Detroit. He also served at the 43rd Avenue Presbyterian Church, Gary, and Faith United Church of Christ, Hammond.

Other survivors include children David (Ruth Hennage) Capp, Donna (Bill) Bryan, Doug (Lori) Capp, Debbie Lelek, Donald (Angela) Capp and Dawn (Dennis) Campbell, stepchildren Candy (Jerry Vartan) Barnes, Cherie (Mark) Lazar and Jill (Ruben) Rocha, along with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



Responding To A Crisis

BY Melanie Sepiga, The Times
March 8, 2005

Shirley Caylor lives in a world of possibilities.

"I believe that what you can do, you must do, and that each step leads to the next," says Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center Inc., in Gary's Miller section.

"Although we may not be able to see the future, there are all kinds of possibilities."

It was this belief that led Caylor to become a founding member and leader of a Gary-based crisis/suicide line in 1971, and it was that volunteer spirit that has held her in good stead as the line expanded, eventually leading to the formation of the Crisis Center Inc., an agency under which Crisis Contact Hopeline, Alternative House, Safe Place, Teen Court, and Youth as Resources operate.

Caylor says it all began in 1970 with a 17-year-old girl who attended a party, then returned home to enter the family car, turn on the engine, and wait to die. Her death and her cousin's belief that it could have been avoided, had the victim talked with someone, led to the crisis line and Caylor's 35 years of helping families and children, without expectation of recognition.

Today, more than 50,000 young people, aged 6 to 18, have gone through the doors of the Alternative House alone, since its inception in 1976.

Caylor credits the "terrific staff, wonderful board, and generous volunteers" at the Crisis Center Inc. for its success stories.

"I'm sure lives have been changed, lives have been saved," she says.

The Alternative House grew from a seed planted after a crisis line volunteer picked up two teen girls walking along the highway on a frigid, winter night.

The former May Home for Boys in Gary was sold to the center for $1 and became the first Alternative House. "My office was in the basement of Marquette Methodist Church. We had a raffle to pay for utilities," Caylor says, recalling the difficulties and excitement of the center's early days.

Eventually, one grant was received, then another. Her husband, Donald Capp, a pastor, found a former church building at the corner of Ash and Montgomery streets in Miller, and in 1988, it became the center's home, through grant money, donations and a mortgage.

That decision was wise, Caylor says, as the center has served up to 300 young people annually in the Alternative House.

Caylor and her husband, who was the center director for many years, live in Chesterton.

Looking back on the years and the ways in which the center grew as new needs were presented, Caylor says, "Life is like that. If you're willing to open the doors, the possibilities are endless."



Directory Honored at Women of Merit Awards

Women of Merit

The Crisis Center's very own Executive Director, Shirley Caylor, was honored at the 2005 Women of Merit awards for her dedication in making the Crisis Center a reality. The banquet was held May 14th at the Avalon Manor.

Another homeland security: Caring for kids
Editorial Advisory Board column by Shirley Caylor

2003 Editorial in The Times
This story ran on on Saturday, April 5, 2003

When our young men and women are in countries far away, fighting a war at the direction of our nation's leaders, many people experience mixed feelings.

We worry about what might happen next. We worry about our soldiers and others in the line of fire. We worry about ourselves and whether the hatred some profess for America will filter down to individuals like us as we hear warnings that terror strikes are certain.
As we travel our roads, drink our water, turn on our electricity, work in our businesses, we wonder what could happen here. Alerts and warnings add to our anxieties about the war and its aftermath.


Meanwhile, there is another kind of homeland security that is not given enough attention. That is how we respond to the needs in our own country. Among those needs are protecting our resources. Our nation's young people are a vital resource upon which our future hinges. They will take our place and we will depend on them to ensure our country, our democracy and our economy. But when we set priorities, youths often are not among them. Kids don't vote.
We need educated, well-prepared young people to take our place. Alan Greenspan recently said there are "daunting challenges" from the population changes coming. Over the next 20 years, America's working age population will shift so there are fewer workers supporting more people on Social Security.

Besides the war with Iraq, besides the economic problems and job cutbacks we are experiencing, besides the Social Security crisis that is looming, there is a lack of attention to the concerns and needs of our young people as they traverse the often difficult road to adulthood.

That difficult road is made harder when their caregiver doesn't give care. In Indiana in 2001, 23,170 kids suffered substantiated abuse or neglect. More than 17,000 abuse or neglect reports were filed in Lake County over the past four years. Only a few children make newspaper headlines, and usually after they are dead or missing, but all of these children have been hurt.

Should we care? Faith beliefs say yes, and our common interest agrees.
We need these young people to be healthy, educated and skilled so they can be ready to accept the challenges coming as today's adults retire. It's evident that poverty is a powerful indicator of problems: 18.1 percent of Lake County's children live below the poverty level of $17,650 for a family of four.

Children growing up in poverty tend to have lower school achievement, impaired health and development, a lowered chance of graduating from high school, an increased likelihood of behavioral and emotional problems, and eventually a lower job status and lower wage rate as an adult.

It's tough being a kid today. Poor or rich, every kid needs love and support to grow up successfully. Business leaders know that in a competitive world, to have enough skilled workers tomorrow, we need to invest in young people now. Investing requires resources.

The Crisis Center's emergency shelter, Alternative House, is investing in kids' futures by driving them to and from their home school each day. We believe education is crucial. Well over 10,000 miles a month takes kids from as close as Gary to as far away as Whiting or Hanover school systems. It has made a difference. In our year-long follow-up after kids leave, last year 94 percent were successful in school and 97 percent of parents or caregivers reported they were doing well.

We are grateful for the support given to us to make our investment in these children and youth possible.

Thanks to the Dean and Barbara White Foundation for the initial contribution that bought two vans to get kids to school, for recreation or other appointments.
Contributions are making both a current and long-term investments to the future of these kids, but also the future of our country and, ultimately, ourselves.

When you read of cuts in services, when our local, state or national governments say we cannot afford to help our kids, remember these cuts bleed possibilities from people's lives.

Homeland security is certainly defense. Homeland security is also taking care that the next generation to defend our freedoms is prepared. Think about it.

Shirley Caylor is executive director of Crisis Center Inc., Gary



Invest in our future—Hoosier children
Editorial Advisory Board column by Shirley Caylor

2002 Editorial in The Times
This story ran on on Sunday, August 18, 2002

A recent summer movie, “Minority Report,” is an exciting detective mystery that deals with a philosophical and moral issue—choice. Each day of our lives, we make choices. Some are minor, like what's for dinner, but many are the kinds of choices on which lives are changed. We all want to make good choices, but sometimes we fail to consider the consequences of the choices we make. Choices can be difficult when they seem to be too many or too few. It would be a lot easier to make decisions if we could see the effects of our decisions.

In Steven Spielberg's film, "precogs" see the future. The events they predict deal with physical harm to another person and the ability to stop the injury before it happens.
We cannot see the future, but there are some things we can know. Today's children might be 25 percent of the present population, but they will be 100 percent of the future.
Today's children will grow up to become tomorrow's citizens. Protecting a community, city, town, state or the country's smallest, youngest citizens is in our self-interest. It is our responsibility to see that they learn right from wrong, are protected from those who would hurt them, grow up healthy and become responsible adults. Some day, they will walk in our shoes.

It doesn't take a precog to know that preventing harm to children can have a lasting effect on the individual, family and community. Headline news recalls the latest assault, kidnapping or murder. Recent statistics indicate that youths are twice as likely as any other person to be shot, stabbed, sexually assaulted, beaten or otherwise attacked. An astounding one in five teens has been the victim of a violent crime. Among the major causes of childhood deaths, only homicide has increased over the past three decades. Child abuse and neglect caused 45 Indiana children to die last year, and the number of neglect cases has increased 54 percent since 1998.

We can't be precogs, stopping an injury, harm or death before it happens. But there are things we can do. We can make sure the services are there for those who need them. The Crisis Center's services stared in 1971 to provide quick, easy and no-cost help. Volunteers responded to start the 24 hour Rap Line to provide listening and referrals. And Safe Place, with 190 business sites that display Safe Place signs, indicate to kids that they can get immediate help. The Alternative House emergency shelter for children and youths is always open. In yearlong follow-ups, 98 percent of children were reported by parents or caregivers as now doing well. The Teen Court program successfully intervenes early when a kid gets in trouble. And Youth as Resources connects young people to the community through the good works the kids do.

The Crisis Center, partially funded by the Lake Area United Way, is a youth service bureau. Recently, Gov. Frank O'Bannon restored youth service bureau and Safe Place funds that have helped at least 75,000 children served by the 35 bureaus throughout the state. We applaud the governor for restoring these funds. Saving lives and reducing harm to children and youths is a good choice.

Our freshly energized patriotism as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks has reminded us that we are all in this together and that we have obligations to each other. We have obligations to the children and youths who will follow us so that they grow up protected. How could we explain to boys and girls who survive abuse or neglect that we could have helped them, but we didn't?

Serious budget reductions continue to be made to balance the state budget. Making choices, when people will be hurt, is difficult. Indiana's welfare reform resulted in a 50 percent caseload drop between 1994 and 2000. Now those numbers are rising again as the economy has weakened. Meanwhile, the amount of federal temporary assistance to needy families money has remained the same since 1995. The state has proposed to cut administration and contracts first, but cuts in child care, domestic violence, crisis nurseries, healthy families, caseworker training, adoption assistance and foster parent training will cause pain.

Harm done to children and youths can be avoided by good choices. Cycles of juvenile crime, alcohol or drug abuse, school failures and other youth problems can be prevented. Recent corporate scandals remind us that preventative action should take place before problems appear. Cutting budgets that help kids is not in our self-interest. As our legislators struggle with budgets, let us encourage them to make choices that affect the long-term health of children and youth.

Bobby Kennedy said, "Each time a (man) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million centers of energy and caring, those ripples build a current."
We have choices. The good of society asks us to invest in the future. The future is in the eyes of a child, and you never get to be a child twice.
Shirley Caylor is executive director of the Crisis Center in Gary.



Give real meaning to ‘Happy holidays’
By Shirley Caylor

2001 Editorial in The Times
This story ran on on Sunday, December 2, 2001

As I was driving through a toll road booth, the attendant said with a smile, “How was your holiday?” I don't know this person, but her friendly question reminded me how important a smile or warm words are every day, not just this time of year. Listening to the radio as I drove on, I heard a person respond to the question, “To what do you want to give your life?”

The recent events on Sept. 11 reminded us of what is important. Family and friends moved up in priority. The holiday season resounds with cheerful music, invitations to buy gifts for loved ones, sparkling lights and hopefulness.

Yet, for some, this time of year is filled with sadness.

The Crisis Center's 24-hour Rap Line (938-0900) hears from callers who might not have talked to anyone in days -- for whom the sound of another voice addressing them is better than any Christmas song. Every corner of the world has its clouds, gripes, complaints, but for some, winter's "clouds" are more than just a dismal sky.

America is a country that idealizes and encourages giving and caring about others. All the great religions state that caring for others is a duty. But sometimes, we react to the sheer volume of needs by doing nothing or we turn off and they barely register on our consciousness.

One of the unintended results of our country's Sept. 11 trauma was a surge in giving.
The horror watching the towers crumble, carrying the victims with it, touched us all with the recognition that it could have been us or someone we knew or loved. Money given for the victims of this terrible event poured in.

Wouldn't our community benefit if we kept our recognition of need, our sense of immediacy and our intention to make a difference here?
Time passes quickly and the holiday season jams us with too much to do and too little time.

Yet all of us can do something. We can respond to newspapers' offerings to help others. At Christmas, there are always children at our emergency shelter, Alternative House, who had no Santa Claus, who weren't spoiled, who wonder why they weren't loved or protected, whose sadness has hardened and whose future has been dimmed by their past.
Children are the heart of the future, but are often forgotten in the rush to deal with today's terrorism and war. Local programs struggle to provide services while the dollars to operate them are down.

To the question, “To what do you want to give your life?” we each answer individually. One thing we all want: We want the future to be better. Yesterday is gone. Today is disappearing. Tomorrow awaits.

Do what you can, not what you can't, to make our future better. Give the words, “Happy Holidays” real meaning.

Shirley Caylor is executive director of the Crisis Center in Gary.

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