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Construction started on LeBrun Gateway Park in South Whitley

May 28th, 2019

Times-Union

The South Whitley Parks Department and the Whitley County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) recently announced the Don and Vi LeBrun Gateway Park is underway in downtown South Whitley!

The Parks Department and Whitley County EDC partnered to launch a crowdfunding campaign in late February to raise dollars for the new park. The crowdfunding campaign was launched as part of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s (IHCDA) CreatINg Places Campaign. The CreatINg Places Campaign is a place-based crowdfunding program that was created between IHCDA and Patronicity.com, to encourage citizens to actively support community development projects and activities in their local communities.

Through an application process, the project was one that was selected by the IHCDA to receive a matching grant of $30,000. The matching grant from IHCDA was contingent upon the community raising the first $30,000 toward the project. The community exceeded that goal before the deadline in late April.

The Whitley County EDC and South Whitley Parks Department extended a special thank you to the Leadership Sponsor for the park, Crossroads Bank, for donating $10,000 gift toward the park. Supporting Lead Sponsors included Whitley Manufacturing ($5,000) and United Oil Corp. ($2,000). Gold Sponsors ($1,000) for the project included Amelia Cook Family, Jeri Hippensteel, John Phillips, Peter W. Paseka Jr., Ronald Hawkins Sr., Sherri Ayers and South Whitley American Veterans Post 2919.

“We were excited and encouraged to have so much community support behind this project,” said Whitley County EDC Workforce and Community Development Director Riley Hollenbaugh. “We met our $30,000 fundraising goal early, which showed us that people are invested and enthusiastic about this project.”

The park site is where the former Kent Theater once stood. The original theater known as “Star Theater” then, was built back in 1907. Thirty years later, local residents Don and Vi LeBrun purchased the theater, and it became a treasured place for residents and visitors to spend time together in South Whitley. The LeBruns owned and operated the theater for nearly 60 years, until Don died in 1993, and Vi passed away the following year in 1994. The theater was then passed down to family members respectively.

"The Parks and Recreation Department is excited about potential upcoming events in the new park. We envision events such as concerts, outdoor movies, farmers markets, food truck events and more. We believe this park will bring people together for community engagement and will bring some much-needed energy to downtown South Whitley," said South Whitley Parks Department Director Jeff Beers.

The park will have an entryway, outdoor seating, new landscaping and flower boxes, a portable stage and a large theater screen. To enhance the park setting, a mural is planned for front of the building next to the park.

"The park will be a great new public space that will pay tribute to Don and Vi Lebrun for running a successful movie theater for over 50 years in the South Whitley community,” said Hollenbaugh. “We are excited to continue moving forward with the park after getting so much positive feedback and support from the local community." 

Construction for the park has begun. The anticipated finish date for the park is this fall.