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Hawthorne Community Center

Executive Director
This is just the beginning

By Hawthorne Community Center Executive Director Diane Arnold

This week, our preschoolers marched down the gym floor for graduation.  The ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year because it’s the cutest thing you can imagine to see these adorable little boys and girls in their caps and gowns.  This annual event also brings tears to many an eye as these beautiful youngsters complete their preschool experience and prepare for the next step of their academic journey. 

I’m a big believer that quality preschool programs like Hawthorne’s help level the playing field for all children and give them a solid foundation for the future.  If children receive early education, they begin kindergarten ahead of their peers who didn’t attend preschool.  They often have more knowledge and increased social skills.

I’m so proud that Hawthorne offers preschool that is affordable. Education should be available to every child, not just the ones with the parents who make the most money or those that happen to live in the “best” zip code. (I happen to think that would be our neighborhood!)

Preschool should be a safe space where children get nutritious meals, receive guidance in how to behave and get along with others, learn the basics of education, and have fun with their friends.  But most importantly, preschool should excite children and spark a lifelong joy for learning.  I was so moved to see that excitement on the faces of the Hawthorne Class of 2017 and I wish them a bright, successful future! 


By Hawthorne Community Center Executive Director Diane Arnold

I have some exciting news that I just couldn’t wait to share…our annual Day at the Track set for this Wednesday, May 17, is SOLD OUT for the first time ever!  We even increased the number of tickets we had to sell from 150 to 200 this year and each and every one of them is gone.  

What does it mean?  Each ticket sold means we are raising more money for our programs for children, older adults and working families.   It means we have THE BEST supporters around, and it means we are attracting new people to our mission and center. 

We are so grateful to everyone who is joining us at the track and to our supporters.   Sponsors include Indianapolis Motor Speedway, PNC Bank, Asset Recycling, Core Planning Strategies, Holladay Properties and Old Town Design Group.  We couldn’t do it without them. 

For those lucky enough to get a ticket to the day, here is the schedule:

10 a.m.  - Indianapolis Motor Speedway Gates Open

11 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Hawthorne Program in Pagoda Suite 6 & 7, including Silent Auction!

11:30 a.m. - Lunch Served

12-6 pm.  - Verizon INDYCAR Series Practice

6 p.m. – Gates Close

I hope to see you there! 

More Money for Our Community

By: Hawthorne Community Center Executive Director Diane Arnold

In just a few weeks, there will be a story published in the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) telling readers about a fantastic event that left me shocked and incredibly grateful.  If you follow Hawthorne on social media, you may have seen a photo of me accepting a donation from the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) at Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery. 

Hawthorne Community Center was one of five nonprofits asked to give a presentation earlier this spring to the IBJ Forty Under 40 class outlining what we would do with a donation from CICF on behalf of the class.  I had five minutes to request a share of the $40,000 available and explain how Hawthorne would use it, and then another five minutes to answer questions.  Not wanting to be greedy, I asked for $20,000 to pay for our Family Nights, updates to the Hawthorne Early Childhood outdoor play space and our two-block mural project.  All of these projects play a huge part in our Natural Guardians program, which promotes a pathway for ex-offenders to return to their families and communities.

I left the presentation not knowing what would happen.  Then, I received word that we were chosen one of the recipients.  Little did I know the surprise in store! 

I went to Hotel Tango and looked around for the other nonprofits and didn’t see any.  But it was crowded and I didn’t think much of it.  Then, CICF’s President and CEO Brian Payne came up to me and asked if I knew why I was there.  “I think so,” I said. 

He smiled and asked if I saw any other nonprofits there?   When I said no, he let me in on the secret that we’d been selected to receive the whole $40,000! 

I was incredibly humbled to accept the donation on behalf of the families we support and look forward to using it to strengthen and beautify our community.  Our working families and Natural Guardians participants are the real winners of this grant.

2016 Remarkable Year

2016 was a remarkable year for Hawthorne Community Center. The capital project was completed during the summer and we moved out of the old Carnegie (Center for Working Families) building back into the main building. The $3.7 million renovation and expansion has allowed us to separate our programs into different areas. Our senior citizens now enjoy the space at the Senior Retreat located on the old Central State Hospital grounds. They have dedicated space that includes exercise, dining and activity space. The Carnegie building is now the Hawthorne Center for Working Families space. All adult programs are housed here and programs/services help individuals and families to become financially stable. The old Hawthorne is now the Hawthorne Youth Center. The space includes two early childhood classrooms, a computer lab, a Pacer game room, craft room, activity room and reading room. The youth center also includes a regulation sized gymnasium with a wood floor and a stage area with new curtains and lighting. The final piece of the project was the addition of almost 10,000 sq. ft. of community space. A large community room, well equipped kitchen and office complex provide opportunities for new and enhanced programming.

Hawthorne is blessed with a plethora of friends that include funders, former participants, local businesses, churches, volunteers, individual and corporate donors. Having served the community for more than 90 years demonstrates the need and value of our work. Serving third and fourth generations of families indicates we have a great reputation for caring and providing high quality programs.


2016 New Year
My 2016 New Year Resolution is to be more dedicated to sharing information via our website blog.  I have been remiss in utilizing this venue to share positive information and critical challenges during the past year.  We have a great deal to celebrate and I promise to be more diligent in sharing news through my blog.

Our most exciting news is the progress on our capital project.  We have worked for many years to put a plan together to raise funds, assess our needs and create a viable plan to improve our current facility and add much needed space as part of the project.  The fact that Hawthorne raised $3.5 million to accomplish this renovation/addition is remarkable.  We are a very small and humble organization and it is difficult for us to "compete" with larger organizations for funding.  We have gained some wonderful friends during our journey and I will attempt to honor their generosity in upcoming posts.

For now, the project is looking wonderful.  I walk through the building every day to see what has been done.  I am so excited to see this project move forward.  Replacement of all the systems, cosmetic improvements and redevelopment of space to better accommodate participants and programs is sorely needed.

We are currently waiting to hear if we will be funded for a new gymnasium floor, stage floor and stage lighting.  These items were removed from the initial budget based on out limited resources and other priorities.  They would truly be frosting on the cupcake of our project.

For all of you who have loved and supported Hawthorne over the past 90+ years, we appreciate your love of our agency.  It is our goal to create a great facility to continue to meet the needs of our community for many years to come.

Beginning of Summer
In my 45 years at Hawthorne, I have certainly had my share of ups and downs, celebration and mourning, births and deaths, acceptance and rejection.  last week, I had some of both.  Friday, we had a visit from Debbie Waltz and Billy McAllister.  Both grew up in the neighborhood and spent lots of time at Hawthorne many years ago.  They are now retired and live in Jacksonville Florida.  They came to visit the elderly aunt of Debbie and took time to come and visit Hawthorne.  It was the kickoff of the Hawthorne World Cup soccer celebration.  Children were adorned with hats, beads and noisemakers from different countries.  I was very proud as I showed our visitors around the center and shared our plans for renovation and added space.  They were impressed with what they saw and said that it was clear the Hawthorne was still a safe haven in this changing community.

Also on Friday, the remains of a young man were discovered not far from Hawthorne.  This young man had attended Hawthorne not too many years ago.  He was a sweet young man who was respectful and kind to others.  His path after leaving Hawthorne had not been a good one.  He had become involved in activities that were both dangerous and illegal.  His death reminds me that although we try to work with and save every child, that will never happen.  We have lost "Hawthorne kids" to accidents, illness, incarceration and murder.

I would like to think that every child will leave us and go on to become successful  adults like Debbie and Billy but that is not reality.  Even if they are retirement age, they will always be "Hawthorne kids" once they have come through our doors.  We take the mischievous ones, the good ones, the creative ones, the ones who come from homes fraught with domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse, the over and under achievers and those who forever leave their footprints on our hearts.

We are hear and we will continue to serve the first, second, third and fourth generations of families in our community.  Hawthorne will remain a beacon in this ever changing community and we will never give up on our children!

Big News
Hawthorne has finally announced its public capital campaign to raise 3.5 million to totally renovate and add space to our facility.  This plan has been in the works for several years but we are so pleased that it is finally going to happen.  Paul George, of the Indiana Pacers, is our honorary chairperson.  He has graciously created a video we can use to promote the public phase of the campaign.  We are more than halfway there with 2.6 million already raised or pledged.  Of that amount, $500,000 is a matching gift from the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Fund that will help us meet this goal.  We need every person that has ever been involved with Hawthorne to help us meet this goal.  Hawthorne has served thousands of individuals and families over the past 91 years.  We need everyone to help us improve our facilities so we can continue to serve the next generations of children, adults and senior citizens.  Keep watching our website to see the plans and progress we are making.  It is an exciting time for us and the Hawthorne community.

With the snow and very cold weather on everyone's mind, I have decided to pen a blog about Hawthorne and our plans to renovate and add much needed space to our facility.  We met with our new architects today (Axis) and my head is swarming with new ideas and plans.  This project will be very important to our community and is much needed.  The project will include total renovation of the current facility and addition of valuable space.  Today we discussed tearing down the front of the building and adding on behind the gym.  We are also undergoing some some major renovations right now to enable Hawthorne to become a licensed child care facility.  We anticipate that we can raise about 3.5 million for the project and have a commitment of about 2.2 million thus far.  It is scary to think about raising the amount needed but I am convinced that our community deserves a nice facility that meets the needs of all of our participants.  As we move forward in the planning process, we will put pictures on our website and Facebook page to keep everyone informed.  We will also host some neighborhood meetings to make sure that our neighbors know what we are doing.  Stay tuned for more exciting news and stay warm.  Spring is right around the corner.

Exciting Times
Things are really jumping at Hawthorne.  In the past few weeks we have received a sizeable gift for our capital campaign, had a room renovated by the Indiana Pacer organization and hosted an open house to unveil that room with Paul George as our special guest.  I am always amazed at the spirit and commitment of people in out community who rally to support our work.  The staff, neighbors and families of those we serve all attended the unveiling of the Pacer Learn and Play Center last Friday.  Paul George was extremely patient holding babies on his lap, signing tee shirts and basketballs, coloring with the children and being photographed by dozens of people.  He is a very humble person and we hope that he will continue to be connected to Hawthorne as he leads his Pacers to great accomplishments.  He is a positive role model for our children and an asset to our city.

Our capital campaign is picking up steam and we hope to have some exciting news in the next few weeks to move the effort forward.  The renovation of our building and addition of much needed space is a big project but one that is much needed.  We are in the process of renovating two rooms into licensed child care space.  Having licensed child care had been a dream of Hawthorne for many years.  It will happen by next year as part of our total renovation of the Hawthorne facility.

As the holidays approach, we are very thankful for a strong hard working staff, dedicated board of directors, hard working families and wonderful children to serve.  We will have much to be grateful for as we move into 2014 and will keep you informed and engaged in the process.

Mother's Day
With Mother's Day behind us, I have reflected on my time at Hawthorne and the influence of my mother, Marie Kenley.  My mother worked at Hawthorne for 25 years and served as its leader for 13 of those years.  I learned a lot from her leadership style and her compassion for other people. I can remember getting ready to go somewhere and asking if she had seen a certain pair of my shoes.  Her response was generally, "yes, I gave those shoes to another child at Hawthorne who needed some shoes.  You have plenty more to choose from."  While I wasn't always happy with that response, I learned to live with that answer and years later, I could be found giving my son's Air Jordan's to other kids at Hawthorne.

My mother also taught me that good leaders are not afraid to try new things and never too good to do any task.  I still ascribe to that idea today and whether I have to drive the senior citizens somewhere, unload trucks or cook breakfast for 200 people, it is all part of the work that needs to be done.

Hawthorne has thrived for 90 years, because of strong women who have lead and worked there.  Alma Lemen, Marie Kenley, Betty Harris, Peggy Moore, Dawn Caffrey, Laura Harris, and Judy Thomas are just a few of the wonderful women that have given their time and talent to make our agency and our community a better place to live.  I salute them for their service.

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