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$2 Million Grant Moves New Tolson Center Closer To Reality

Barbara Anguiano

After the Elkhart City Council voted to close the Tolson Community Center two years ago, a public-private partnership formed to renovate and redesign the building. On Monday, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County received $2 million to do just that.

Currently, the Tolson Center isn’t much more than a gymnasium and a park. But, City of Elkhart spokesperson Corinne Straight-Reed said the “grand vision” is to turn it into a “one-stop shop” for community involvement.

That means everything from sports and arts programming, to GED classes, to seminars on parenting and healthcare – and a grant from the Lilly Endowment makes all of that closer to becoming a reality.

“We are thrilled," Reed said. "We know how important the Tolson Center is to Elkhart, and a redesigned and reimagined Tolson will just be that much more meaningful.”

Community Foundation President Pete McCown says the redesign will cost about $11.5 million. The Lilly grant puts the foundation just $800,000 shy of that goal, a margin that McCown hopes will boost community confidence in the project.

“You know that, 'Okay, we’ve got 90 percent of the necessary resources to achieve this set of goals,'" McCown said. "I think it gives the community confidence that this is actually going to happen.”

McCown said the foundation hopes to break ground on the new Tolson Center by the middle of 2021.

A previous version of this story misstated the name of the foundation; it is the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, not the Elkhart County Community Foundation. Pete McCown's position with the foundation was also misstated; he is the president, not the executive director.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo

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