SOUTH WHITLEY – The South Whitley Parks Department and the Whitley County Economic Development Corp. kicked off a crowdfunding campaign today to bring the new Don and Vi LeBrun Gateway Park to downtown South Whitley.

The project was launched as a “CreatINg Places Campaign," a program of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. CreatINg Places is a place-based crowdfunding grant program created between and IHCDA. The purpose is to encourage citizens to actively support community development projects and activities. IHCDA’s partnership with Patronicity allows donors to access information about the project online via, and serves as a platform for online giving, according to a news release from Whitley County EDC.

The project proposal and grant application were submitted to IHCDA by the EDC and South Whitley Parks Department. Since the project was selected to be funded, IHCDA will award a matching grant of $30,000 for the project, but only if the initial $30,000 is raised by the community.

“We’re grateful to partner with IHCDA on this project because the dollars we raise will go even further with the matching grant opportunity they will provide if we meet our goal of raising $30,000. When local residents and businesses give to a project like this it really shows a sense of pride and ownership people have for their own community,” said Whitley County EDC Workforce and Community Development Director Riley Hollenbaugh.

The planned site for the Don and Vi LeBrun Gateway Park 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 release states. 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.

Then on Feb. 19, 2012, the Kent Theater was destroyed by a fire.

“The LeBruns were highly respected in the community, and this park is a great way to remember the theater, and honor Don and Vi,” said South Whitley Parks Department Director Jeff Beers.

Not only will the park serve as an symbol for the LeBruns and Kent Theater, it will beautify downtown, and serve as a gathering space for residents and visitors, according to the release. It will serve as a place for gathering, community concerts, educational programs, outdoor concerts, a future farmers market and more.

“The park will serve many purposes, and will really enhance the landscape downtown,” said 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.

“Another exciting piece of this project is that with a new walkable trail, the new park will help connect downtown South Whitley to the South Whitley Town Park,” said Hollenbaugh. “South Whitley will become a more ‘walkable’ community for visitors and residents.”

Local donors can have their own presence in the park by sponsoring bricks, pavers, outdoor seating and flower boxes.

“Even though we have sponsorship levels for this project, we don’t want to discourage someone from giving, so gifts of any amount are appreciated,” said Hollenbaugh.

To give toward the project, visit Check donations will also be accepted for the project. Make checks to The Community Foundation of Whitley County. Checks may be dropped off or mailed to the Whitley County Economic Development Corp., 220 W. Van Buren St., Suite 102, Columbia City, IN 46725. Checks may also be dropped off at the South Whitley Town Clerk’s Office, 118 E. Front St., South Whitley.

For more information about the project, contact Riley Hollenbaugh at 260-244-5506 or [email protected]. Follow project updates on Facebook by checking out the Don and Vi LeBrun Gateway Park Crowdfunding Campaign event page, and by visiting