NORTHWEST INDIANA - Independent charitable organization the Big Shoulders Fund has received a $16 million gift from Bruce White, chairman of Merrillville-based White Lodging, and his wife Beth. The funding will enable the organization to extend its programming to northwest Indiana.

Big Shoulders offers support to elementary and high schools that primarily serve students from low-income backgrounds.

The organization says it will focus its efforts supporting students and families in Northwest Indiana on areas that have greatest need. This includes Gary, Hammond and East Chicago.  

The $16 million fund will be paid over a of 10 year period. The organization says 3,300 students in 10 elementary and high schools in the Catholic Diocese of Gary will receive operational support and academic programming as an immediate result and that an additional 10 schools with 2,600 students will benefit from professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators through this initiative. 

Employees of White Lodging have also committed to supporting the initiative through volunteerism and other involvement.

 Big Shoulders aims to improve the longevity of these schools by focusing on increasing student enrollment, providing financial aid opportunities and offering students access to STEM scholarships, enrichment, and summer programs. 

“Having grown up in the region, we are honored to be able to help Big Shoulders Fund expand its reach to Northwest Indiana and positively impact the lives of thousands of additional students and families and the communities in which they live,” said Bruce White.