Girls Club of Marion County was formed in 1975 with the merging of two Indianapolis area girls clubs as its branches, the Southside Girls Clubs and the Model Cities Girls Club.

The Girls Club of America National Resource Center, now known as Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis, ca. 1981
Credit: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society

The Southside Girls Clubs was formed in 1969 when several mothers came together to provide alternative after-school activities for girls. They converted the empty School No. 20 in the Fountain Square neighborhood into a clubhouse. In 1971, the Model Cities Girls Club opened in the Mapleton-Fall Creek area in a rented house. Both clubs, which were each part of the Girls Clubs of America, were independently funded through matching grants from Lilly Endowment, Inc. and the Indianapolis Foundation.

The Girls Club of Marion County changed its name in 1978 to Girls Clubs of Greater Indianapolis(GCGI). The two branches provided Indianapolis area girls, aged 6 to 14, supervised recreational activities as well as programs to expand career opportunities and create self-esteem. 

In June 1981, the Girls Clubs of America National Resource Center opened along the Central Canal near downtown Indianapolis at 441 W. Michigan Street. The Resource Center, initially funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, studied the problems of young women in current society and provided a coordinated effort to develop programs based on the needs of girls.

In 1987, GCGI initiated the Campus Cruisers program to encourage 5th– and 6th-grade girls to stay in school and plan for college. This program received one of eight Outstanding Program Awards from the Girls Clubs of America. Other programs included the “Kid Ability!” program (1989) aimed at preventing child abuse and “Operation SMART” (1989) to foster interest in science among girls.

The organization’s name was changed to Girls Incorporated in 1990, which led GCGI to change its name to Girls Incorporated of Greater Indianapolis. In 2001, the center was expanded, again through a grant from Lilly.

Girls Incorporated of Greater Indianapolis made a shift in its operations in 2008. Previously, the organization ran a club-based model but switched to an outreach model where programs were presented at partner schools during school hours. This allowed for more girls to be reached while keeping costs down.

In 2016, the organization expanded its programs on bullying and body image as well as its reach to schools in other counties. Over the next few years, even more programs were added or expanded to serve girls from 6 to 18 years old, including the Eureka! Program (introduced in 2019), the Young Women in Leadership program, and a Summer Camp.

By 2018, Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis served 3,984 girls from primarily underprivileged backgrounds through 425 programs.

Revised March 2021

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