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Published: Wednesday, 9/12/2007

Group raising funds for new community center

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If a grass-roots citizens' committee meets its ambitious fund-raising goals, construction on a new community center could begin next summer in Woodville.

The Woodville Community and Youth Center Board of Directors is trying to secure $450,000 in donated funds to construct a new building that would serve as a center for youth, senior citizens, and the community, said Louise Cowell, a Woodville resident and program director of the existing youth center.

"We're hoping to have everything in place and begin building the first part of the summer, but that's an ambitious goal," she said. "It may not happen, but that would be my goal. The community needs somewhere for our kids to go after school so they're not just walking around town. They can actually have somewhere fun that they can enjoy."

Board members recently presented Woodville Village Council with schematic drawings and information on their five-year projection of income and expenses for the proposed center because they want to build on a parcel of village-owned property at Trail Marker Park.

"We wanted a new building," Mrs. Cowell said. "There aren't any buildings in Woodville to do what we want to do. We want to be a fully functioning community center."

After discussing the long-term commitment of the people involved with the youth center so the expense and responsibility of running it would not fall back on the village, Solicitor Bob Kuhlman recommended that written commitments be secured for the money flowing into the building

project.

In a letter written to Councilman Monte Porter - the liaison between council and the youth center board - Mr. Kuhlman said board members should also provide proposed building plans, there should be a field study done at the proposed construction site to establish building conditions, and provisions should be established for providing oversight at the project.

"This is just a start," Mr. Kuhlman stated in the letter.

The existing youth center moved to the basement of the Woodville United Methodist Church on 1st Street this week because the old American Legion building they operated out of wasn't handicapped-accessible, and because organizers wanted to save money for a new building instead of spending it on utilities.

"We may be downsizing the program a little bit for a year to allow us to greatly expand the program next year," Mrs. Cowell said. "The facility we were at, although it was a great facility, it was not handicapped-accessible and it made doing community events very hard. The cost to renovate the building was not cost-effective."

So the community center is now just geared toward children. It's open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the church, and about 30 kids use the facility for free each day out of the 96 who were registered last year. Between 15 to 20 community members volunteer their time to supervise the children at the center.

Along with providing tutoring and supervision, there's a basketball court for youth to use at the center and a new physical activity nutrition program for children in grades K-6 that is being paid for through the next year with a grant from Ohio Action for Healthy Kids.

The new building is slated to include a computer room, a full kitchen, a large room for the senior citizens, small rooms for tutoring, and an indoor basketball court.

Other ideas were to offer exercise classes or a program for infant and toddlers, but nothing has been set in stone yet, Mrs. Cowell said.

Because it's a community facility, it would be available for renting at night and on weekends, said board member Dirk Rife of Woodville Township.

"It's just to offer a place for the community with room for events and meetings," he said.

A private donor has given a third of the building costs, and the rest of the funding is expected to be raised through more donations and grants, organizers said.

The next fund-raiser will be a Texas Hold 'em tournament at Hidden Hills Golf Club in Woodville at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20.

Anyone interested in volunteering their time at the youth center can call Louise Cowell at 419-849-3718.



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