People of ‘the region’

Northwest Indiana is nicknamed “The Region” after the Calumet Region, which comprises Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties in Indiana. The region neighbors Lake Michigan and is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. According to the 2010 Census, Northwest Indiana has a population of 819,537 and is the state’s second largest urban area after the Indianapolis Metropolitan area. It is also the home of the Indiana Dunes, parts of which have been preserved through conservation efforts. The town Ogden Dunes houses the Hour Glass, a museum showcasing the ecological and conservation efforts of O.D. Frank.

“The Region” is rich with diversity with many families settling here from earlier generations who came through Ellis Island in New York. Others came from the Chicagoland area and many came north from the south seeking rich steel mill jobs back in the height of the industrial industry boom.

With all of our photographers traveling throughout the area we wanted to capture and share the diversity of our great Region and post photos with a brief description of who some of our people are who live and work here. We’re calling it ‘The People of The Region’! We hope you enjoy learning about some of your neighbors. You just might even recognize some of the faces here!

Our first posted image of People of the Region is a two-for featuring outgoing Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas (left) with the now current Mayor Matt Murphy. Matt is shown here speaking at one of his fund raisers prior to winning his election bid to become Valparaiso’s Mayor. -photo by Rick Bella
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Retired Dr. Clarence Boone – In recognition of his support, dedication and commitment to Indiana University and Indiana University School of Medicine – Northwest Gary. -photo by Rick Bella for the IU School of Medicine at Dr. Boone’s dedication of the Dr. Clarence Boone Lecture Room at IU Northwest. 2019


Two popular region faces are Indiana State Senator Ed Charbonneau R District 5 (left) and Randy Palmateer, IBEW Local 697 & Business Manager of the Northwestern Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council. Just love the genuine smiles on their faces! -photo Rick Bella for Bella Photography


This fun group are the Chef volunteers who provide food and labor for the Meals on Wheels Dine with the Chef Galas. This group puts on a 7 course meal for 400 attendees who’s ticket purchase prices go toward the great work of this charity. You can find many of these chefs in ‘The Region’ area restaurants, banquet halls, and other establishments always giving of their skills and talent. Front and center is Jodi Mann-Bella, the event organizer and Business Manager of Meals on Wheels of NW Indiana.


Gary Mayor Jerome Prince gives a Key to the City to Sister Peg Spindler who is retiring after serving 25 years as the Executive Director of Sojourner Truth House in Gary, Indiana. Mayor Prince presented the key at the annual Sojourner Truth House Walk raising over $130,000 for the charity. Congrats Sister Peg – enjoy your retirement! -photo Rick Bella


Cornelius Henderson of Merrillville with daughter Malia at the 2019 ‘Color Walk’ fund raiser for the Soujouner Truth House in Gary, Indiana. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography


Erica Dombey celebrates winning a raffle at the Meals on Wheels of NW Indiana ‘Heel for Meal’ event. Erica is the President and Executive Director of the Regional Development Company based in Valparaiso. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography

Jared Riddle, Department Chair and Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College interviews Chef Tammy Pham, owner of Asparagus Restaurant in Merrillville at the annual Meals on Wheels Dine with the Chefs event in March of 2019. Chef Tammy was a featured chef for the event along with many others from the region. The event serves a 7 course meal to 400 attendees. Food and labor are donated for the charity raising over $100,000 to support their mission of feeding the region. – Rick Bella
This is Cameron Cobbins, otherwise known as ‘Cam the Barber’. He is the owner of the Experienced Barbershop located in Merrillville. It is the strip mall on US 30 directly EAST of Gordon Food Service. Cam is always doing good deeds for the community. -Rick Bella
Born and raised Regionite Robert (Bob) Forster dancing with daughter Kari at her wedding. Bob and wife Patty lived in Merrillville for decades and has moved to Kouts. Bob was a Gary Firefighter for years and was a local restaurant owner mostly remembered for Foddy's which started out on 73rd Ave, and moved to the Broadway location in the old El Mar's Restaurant. A true region resident . We just had to post this dramatic and emotional image. - Rick Bella
Eddie Melton, Member of the Indiana Senate, District 3, speaks during the 2019 Color Walk to support the Sojourner Truth House of Gary, Indiana. In the background is Sister Peg Spindler, the CEO of the charity who has since retired. - Rick Bella
Jon Hicks (left) and Michael Sakich are the leaders of In Good Company, based in Merrillville, Indiana. They manage, along with over 80 employees, multiple apartment home communities throughout the region! They are committed to the promise that no other property management company strives to deliver the exceptional customer service experience IGC provides, day after day. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
This is Craig Lamb, a life-long Merrillville resident. Craig does the video recording and of the Town Council and Redevelopment Commission meetings for the Town of Merrillville where he now operates a multi-camera studio equipment console. He's been providing that service to the town since around 1996. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
No names for this photo, however we are sure they are ALL People of the Region coming out in 2019 to celebrate and support the Sojourner Truth House in Gary, Indiana during the annual charity walk. We have been honored to provide our services for this event multiple years in a row and it is always so much fun. Pictured here is the color contest. Sojourner House is a ministry of hope and help for homeless and at-risk women and their children sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Through hospitality, advocacy, integrative services and collaboration, participants improve their quality of life and that of the community in a safe, trusting environment. - Rick Bella for Bella Photography
Many will recognize this smiling face! It's Pete Dragojevic, a Merrillville Police Commissioner and accredited national Police K9 instructor. Here is is at the Merrillville Fire Department open house commenting on "look how happy the dog is... he knows he gets to eat me when I put on this coat"! And the dog did! To the dog, it's just a game. But he had Pete down on the floor in no time! -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
Jeff Strack, President and CEO of Strack and Van Til Supermarkets (left) accepts an award from Jon Gold, CEO of TradeWinds at their 2019 annual gala. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
Longtime Regionite Brian Derring, offering his DJ services pro-bono at the Merrillville 50th Birthday Bash on August 14, 2021. Brian also serves on various boards and commissions in town. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
In 2019, then Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson speaks at the kickoff of the Walk for Sojourner Truth House in Gary, Indiana shown here with Sister Peg Spindler, now retired CEO of the organization. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
Meet Larry Galler, normally behind a microphone, not in front of a camera! Larry is the host of 'The President's Roundtable', a radio show on WVLP 103.1 FM Radio in Valparaiso. Larry has owned a chain of retail stores in regional malls, a business that designed, produced, and marketed products to major retailers, has been advising businesses for 20 years, and has written over 700 published newspaper columns and trade journals articles and speaks often to business groups and associations. He is on the Board of Governors of the Society of Innovators and the Citizens Advisory Board of Lakeshore Public Media. -Rick Bella for Bella Photography
Meet Rylee Jade - An impressive young lady of the Region who after joining a boutique gym while in high school set her path to becoming a personal trainer and business owner. "I felt empowered, encouraged, and balanced in that environment." Her goal is to create a wellness community to Focus, Inspire, and Transform... one life at a time. She is currently transforming Jodi and me as she is our personal trainer too! Find out more about Rylee at -Rick Bella for Bella Photography