When Whatsoever Community Center Executive Director Charlie Gascich pulled into their parking lot on Monday morning, November 6th, he wasn’t prepared for what greeted him across the street. Where the Fred Havens Center once stood at 12th and Ewing, a proposed annex for the Whatsoever Center, was now a huge pile of smoldering rubble.
“I didn’t know about it until I saw it from the parking lot that morning,” Gasich said. “It was just devastating.”
Shortly thereafter, the center launched a crowdfunding campaign hoping to raise enough funds to knock the remainder of the structure down and make the site safe for the community.
“We want to make the space more beneficial for the community,” Gascich said. “We want to put up a little pavilion so people can meet and such like that. So that’s where the GoFundMe comes in and tries to help cover the cost of the cleanup and getting the area more user-friendly for the community.”
Business owners in the Blue River Valley stepped up almost immediately, offering to assist in the demolition and removal of the charred building remains but City inspectors put a stop to any charitable demolition work, leaving Gascich and the over 100 year old center with a continued search for funding.
Enter Essig Management Associates, operator of the McDonald’s franchise at Independence Avenue and Hardesty, which hosted an all-day fundraiser on Wednesday, December 13 to assist Whatsoever with demolition costs. “What more can you say,” said Gascich. “It’s just awesome for them to do that. They have such a strong sense of community.”
Lisa Essig of Essig and Associates, the McDonald’s owner and operator, was quick to step up given the work Whatsoever does in the Historic Northeast community. “We were devastated to hear of the fire that impacted Whatsoever Community Center,” Essig said. “They give so much to our community and we wanted to give back to them. This fundraiser was a way for us to provide support with the help of our customers.”
This isn’t the first time Essig has assisted Whatsoever. In December, 2020, the center was broken into and over $15,000 worth of boxing equipment was stolen, leaving the almost 70 year old boxing program floundering. Essig stepped in with a $5,000 donation to help lessen the blow of the theft.
Wednesday’s fund raiser donated 20% of all digital orders placed at the Avenue McDonalds to the cause. That number includes orders taken from the McDonald’s App, orders from the indoor kiosks, and all delivery orders.
A check presentation ceremony with a reveal of the amount raised will be presented on Thursday, December 21, at the community center.