NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — General Electric Co. has donated $15 million to build and operate a community center in the Connecticut town where 20 children and six women were killed at an elementary school last year.
Following the December rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it was clear that Newtown lacked a central meeting space, town officials said Monday. In the hours after the massacre, parents met at a firehouse near the school to wait for students, and that was where victims' relatives were told that their loved ones had been killed.
First Selectwoman Pat Llodra said Newtown has long wanted a community center that could house recreation, the arts, community-outreach services and other programs. Tight finances blocked the town from reaching that goal, the News-Times reported.
The town says it will use $10 million to build the center and $5 million for operating costs over five years. That will include hiring staff. The center will be owned and operated by the town.
The gift is intended to help the town establish space for activities such as seniors playing mahjong or children taking art lessons, Llodra said.
General Electric is the employer of Peter Lanza, the father of Newtown gunman Adam Lanza. Peter Lanza issued a statement the day after the massacre in which he expressed sympathy for the victims' families and said his own family was struggling to make sense of what happened, but he has not spoken publicly.
Peter Lanza was divorced from the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, who was fatally shot by her son before the school rampage, and he did not live with them.
More than 150 employees of GE, which is headquartered in nearby Fairfield, live in Newtown.
Jeff Immelt, chief executive of the industrial conglomerate, said that over the past year, GE employees who live in Newtown identified a community center as among the town's greatest needs.
"We are proud to help them achieve that goal," he said.
Four GE executives have been helping the town, working in the offices of the selectmen and school superintendent and doing other tasks. In addition, the company's finance arm cut ties with gun dealers, halting financing offers at about 75 gun shops across the U.S.