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Berne honors its ancestry and highlights its heritage

Situated in the heart of Northeast Indiana's fertile farmland is the Swiss community of Berne, Ind. Known for its hospitality and strong sense of community, Berne is home to a rich Swiss heritage. The town was founded in 1852 by Mennonite immigrants, and many of its storefronts depict Old World Alpine designs, giving testimony to the ongoing pride its residents feel toward their ancestry and heritage. The Berne Community Development Corporation is convinced that the answer to the future of Berne lies in its Swiss past. An important historical element in the capital city of Bern, Switzerland, is a famous 500-year-old clock tower, a focal point of tourism for centuries.

The CDC is spearheading a project to build the Muensterberg Plaza and Clock Tower, which will further tie the city to its heritage and enhance the Swiss theme that already plays a huge part in Berne's identity.

The clock tower will underscore the timeless values passed on to Berne by the community's ancestors. Those values include faith, courage, hope, vision, hard work, commitment, integrity and heritage, and they accentuate all that Berne has stood for since the first settlers came to the area more than a-hundred-and-fifty years ago.

The clock tower will stand 160 feet high and will include a large clock face housed in a concrete structure that will memorialize the heritage of Berne. Features in the plaza will commemorate and emphasize the values that brought early settlers to Berne, creating an enduring legacy for generations to come and leaving a lasting impression with the thousands who drive past the plaza each day. Jim Beitler, steering committee co-chairman, says, "We're not just putting up a building; we're building on a philosophy that's part of who we are in Berne."

The project is in its final fundraising phase. With more than $2.1 million already pledged, the steering committee expects to secure the remaining $600,000 through additional donors and extended pledges from existing donors.

Groundbreaking for the clock tower is projected for the spring of 2010, and the CDC and clock tower steering committee members are urging area residents, businesses, and alumni to join in the effort to invest in Berne's heritage. The groundwork has been laid, and now-it's time to build.

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