Since 2012, NIPSCO has been recognizing organizations and outstanding local figures who have made strides in improving our region and on Thursday night, a new batch of leaders were handed NIPSCO's Luminary Awards. Many of the area’s leaders gathered at NIPSCO’s Merrillville headquarters for the ceremony. With light chatter and delicious hors d'oeuvres to start the night, NIPSCO’s senior officials handed out awards and helped celebrate the company’s Charity of Choice program that raised $100,000 for local charities.
The event brought people from multiple counties to honor selected worthy people who have made a significant difference in their respective fields. Larry Graham, Managing Director of Public Affairs for NIPSCO, said that the awards have been a stronghold for the company because they are a way to acknowledge the people in our area who have worked tirelessly on improving our community, and the Luminary Awards are a tradition NIPSCO is proud to uphold.
“The Luminary Awards started back in 2012, in order to recognize our 100th anniversary. As a part of that, we wanted to showcase key community partners that really share our interest and let the community know that these are folks that are really committed being successful in making our communities better,” Graham explained. “There’s no shortage of people who are worthy for these awards, and with this only being our fourth time putting on these awards, we’re certain this will be a continuous ceremony we enjoy putting on each year.”
The Luminary Awards were given out to not only people from our region, but across Northern Indiana. The categories for the awards went out to companies and schools who have paved the way in things like public safety, economic development, and education. Jon Groth, Principal of the Porter County Career and Technical Center, was on hand (along with staff and former students) to accept the award for Environmental Stewardship for their use of renewable energy via the school’s roof. Groth stated that it’s flattering receive the award as the company and the school worked closely together on the project.
“It’s a neat recognition of the work that my faculty and students have done towards environmental stewardship and alternative energy,” Groth stated. “A lot of the work we did required the assistance of NIPSCO so it’s nice for them to turn around and recognize us - it’s come full circle. It’s great to have a company realize that renewable energy is valuable to them and to students who can learn from it.”
The penultimate award of the night was one that went to a leader that works tirelessly to help make her community strive more and more every day. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, whose leadership of Gary lead her to win the Community Leadership award, was the only recipient recognized as singular outstanding person in the Northern Indiana community. When asked about her reaction, Mayor Freeman-Wilson was quick to turn her award towards “Team Gary” - the group of people who help her in pushing Gary forward.
“It’s very humbling to win this award, but it’s not only an acknowledgement of my work because it’s what we do is a team effort,” Mayor Freeman-Wilson stated. “It’s really an award that goes towards a team that has rolled up their sleeves and have worked hard every day. It’s really a great honor.”
Not to be left out, a few local charities were also recognized as the recipients of the Charity of Choice program. Organizations like the St. Jude's House in Crown Point, Worthy Women Recovery Home in La Porte, and Sojourner Truth House in Gary all were a part of the group who received checks from NIPSCO’s employee fundraising campaign. It was no surprise that NIPSCO subsequently matched the $50,000 employee donation.
In the end, NIPSCO’s Luminary Awards displayed how lucky our region is to have incredible leaders and people that work hard to make Northern Indiana a great place to live. And NIPSCO had every intention to make it that way. Violet Sistovaris, Executive Director at NIPSCO, said that even though there are only a handful of the winners that took the stage Thursday night, the impact they - and others - leave are an example for everyone.
“Mayor Freeman-Wilson stated that a lot of hard work done by people in our communities go unsung, and this is our way to celebrate and award all of the incredible work that is being done in Northern Indiana.” Sistovaris explained. “We are part and parcel to many of the communities that we serve, and these awards let us put our best foot forward and really put them in the spotlight for the great work they do with NIPSCO and for our communities.”
Awards were given out to various organizations in the categories as follows: Community Leadership: Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Public Safety: Tri-Town Safety Village, Education: Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning, Environmental Stewardship: Porter County Career and Technical Center, Economic Development: Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.