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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heartland gift to enhance parks, City Council decides

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

While Heartland Automotive's silver anniversary gift to the City of Greencastle didn't come brightly wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with a red or green bow, it nonetheless is a welcome present for the city's future.

Since learning of the six-figure check Heartland planned to donate to the city in celebration of its 25 years as a Greencastle industrial resident, the City Council has been pondering how best to use the $100,000 for the betterment and enjoyment of its citizens.

When the check was officially presented to the Council at its Nov. 13 meeting, Council members Phyllis Rokicki and T.J. Smith were entrusted with weighing the options and determining how best that money could be used by the city.

And at the Council's December meeting, Rokicki and Smith unveiled the determination on use of the generous Heartland donation.

"We've had several requests and ideas come to us," Smith noted.

But it is the Park Department that finds the Heartland gift under its Christmas tree.

The Council members' recommendation is that the $100,000 be placed in a fund to enhance city parks so that everyone in the community might enjoy the benefits derived from the monetary gift.

Councilman Mark Hammer, the longest-serving member of the group, called it "a very good use of the money," adding that targeting the city parks seems "very appropriate."

Smith made the motion to dedicate the funds to the enhancement of city parks, which was seconded by Rokicki, who serves as City Council liaison to the Park Board. Yes votes from Hammer, Adam Cohen and Jinsie Bingham made it unanimous.

"Will some of that (funding) go to the splash park?" the ever-inquisitive Bingham asked in reference to the splash pad project the Greencastle Civic League is spearheading toward development at Robe-Ann Park.

"Not at this time," Smith responded.

"Right now," Rokicki interjected, "it is wait-and-see. Wonderful things are happening with the splash park project."

Celebrating 25 years in Greencastle this year, Heartland had previously pledged the gift during a meeting between its president, Toshio Kawashima, and Mayor Sue Murray midway through 2012.

On Nov. 13, Heartland President Kawashima joined Vice President of Operations Ronan Miot and Business Project Manager Ritsuko Abrams in formally presenting the six-figure check to the Council in a ceremony at City Hall.

Thanking Heartland for its "generosity as a corporate citizen of Greencastle for 25 years," Mayor Murray added that she hopes for "25 more, maybe 125 more."

And she agreed she won't soon forget Kawashima coming to visit her at City Hall.

"Usually people come to complain or ask us for something," the mayor noted. "People don't usually come to my office and say, 'We'd like to give you a gift.'"

Likewise, seldom do they ever come armed with a pledge for $100,000 in unrestricted funds, in this case, a gift initiated at the top of the corporate ladder.

"As time went by (over the 25 years)," noted Atsuo Shoda, president of Heartland's parent company, Shigeru Industries, during an August visit, "there has not been much time to celebrate with the people of Greencastle and the community." Thus, his parent company thought the donation "was a very good idea."

Twenty-five years ago, when Heartland bought the old Ryan Building at 300 S. Warren Drive, it promised 100 new jobs to a community that had just lost 985 positions with the IBM plant closure. The 107,000-square-foot facility Heartland took over had been used mostly for storage by IBM after being built as Angwell Curtain Factory's new home in the 1970s.

After multiple expansions, Heartland today employs 450 people in a 300,000-square-foot facility bearing little resemblance to the old Ryan Building. Over a quarter-century in Greencastle, Heartland's investment in equipment alone has well exceeded $50 million.



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