PRINCETON — Seated in the gym at the former Lowell Elementary School, community members and officials were told they would have to wait to find out the significance of the location to Toyota’s announcement.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana President Leah Curry promised it wouldn’t disappoint.
There were multiple announcements Wednesday afternoon, with the celebration held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of groundbreaking for Toyota Indiana and unveil the all-new 2021 Sienna minivan.
The first announcement was the donation of one of the brand new Siennas to Gibson County Veterans Services, and the second helped explain the location, a $1 million donation to the capital campaign by YMCA of Southwestern Indiana for the new Toyota Indiana YMCA in Gibson County.
George Pickersgill, service officer for Gibson County Veterans Services, said it was an emotional day for him.
Gibson County Veterans Services helps veterans interface with the Veterans Administration; finding food or shelter when necessary; and as a part of the volunteer transportation network.
Pickersgill said the new Sienna is fabulous, and will serve a great purpose, as half of their transport equation. The other half being the volunteers who drive veterans to their appointments.
He recognized volunteer drivers, JoAnne Schuster and Steve Johnson for their work.
Pickersgill also took the opportunity to thank Curry and Toyota for the donation. “Thank you seems so inadequate,” he said. “There’s no words to help you understand how grateful I am to you and this terrific company for this very gracious gift. I’m just kind of speechless.”
Curry said the company is proud to be a part of the work Gibson County Veterans Services is doing. “We love our veterans,” she said, noting about 400 veterans work at the local plant. “We would do anything for them.”
She said partnering with organizations like Veterans Services allows Toyota to fulfill its mission of making the world around it a better place.
A new partnership with the YMCA aims to continue that, through its donation toward the facility at the site of the former Lowell Elementary School in Princeton.
“This is an amazing project for an amazing community,” Curry said.
Curry said the Toyota Indiana YMCA will offer access for everyone to a community center where they are able to learn and play.
Johnathon Pope, CEO of YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, thanked Toyota and everyone involved for the chance to partner in this way.
“It’s going to be a gathering place,” he said. “It’s not a fitness center. It’s not a gym and swim. It’s a gathering place.”
He said the YMCA facility in downtown Princeton will give the community a place to develop relationships and focus on health, wellness, social and spiritual needs. Plans include basketball, a STEM lab, fitness, a youth activity center and using the cafeteria as a teaching kitchen, among other activities.
Pope thanked North Gibson School Corporation for deeding the former school building and property for the development of a local YMCA.
“We want the entire county to feel like it’s their YMCA,” said Pope. “Without Toyota, we would not be able to cross the finish line.”
“I see how important a facility like this is, especially to youngsters,” Princeton Mayor Greg Wright said. “That’s what we’re after here. We’re trying to capture our youth and get them to do the right thing in life.”
The facility will be operated by a community board of volunteers, said Wright, thanking local members Jeff Clark and Jim McDonald, as well as Pope, Curry and Toyota Indiana team members for their support.
Wright said there is no better time than now to be optimistic and excited about the growth and possibilities for Princeton. He pledged the help of the city to do everything possible to see the YMCA project succeed.
“We’re going to make this crazy dream a reality,” he said.
The community gifts are among some $33 million Toyota Indiana has donated to local organizations in the Tri-State.
At Wednesday’s celebration, Curry detailed the innovations in the new Sienna model, which she said has “been the biggest update since the model launched.” The hybrid power train gets an estimated 36 miles per gallon.
“I could not be more proud to be a part of the team that brought this vehicle to life and gave her a Hoosier heart,” said Curry.