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GE gives $15m for Newtown, Conn., community center

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Education,Associated Press,Connecticut,Newtown Shooting

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — General Electric Co. has donated $15 million to build and operate a community center in the Connecticut town where 26 people were shot dead 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.

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.

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