Grant helps with SHCC wish list
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]
Schools are often the center of communities. And when rural towns lose their schoolhouses, often the connection of residents is lost.
That’s not the case in Elizabeth, where the one-story red brick schoolhouse took on a new life after its doors were closed many years ago as a public education facility.
Schoolchildren in that community, along with those in nearby Laconia, where its schoolhouse was also closed, attend South Central schools, which is located about midway between the two towns.
However, the residents of Elizabeth can often be found in the old school building for a variety of reasons. The structure is divided into a branch of the Harrison County Public Library and a community center, complete with a full kitchen, meeting room and the old gymnasium, which is overseen by the South Harrison Community Development Corp.
Sara Deatrick, who serves as assistant treasurer and facility coordinator on the board for the SHCDC, said income from rentals of the facility helps pay for some of the upkeep, but the majority of needed funds comes from donations.
“The community has always been good to us,” she said.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility couldn’t be rented, which hurt the budget of the board that oversees the facility, which was in need of some expensive maintenance. The board did receive $10,000 in COVID relief funds that helped with utility bills during the closure.
So, the board applied for a grant through the Harrison County Community Foundation.
A “wish list” was created, such as refinishing the gym floor, repairing the electrical system and replacing old curtains and other outdated or worn out items.
Tonya Brown, the board’s president, said an architect assessed the facility to make recommendations on what should be done, which led to additional items going on the list.
Members of the Foundation’s grants committee visited the community center to get a first-hand look at the facility.
Earlier this spring, the SHCDC board learned it would receive a $164,096 grant from the Foundation. It will help with things such as replacing a rooftop HVAC, adding new acoustical panels in the gym, replacing fans in the dining/kitchen area and purchasing a new ice maker.
Anna Tally, the board’s secretary, said she had heard they would receive a grant but initially didn’t know the amount.
“I thought it might be for $40,000,” she said.
Brown, Deatrick and Tally all said they were pleased with the amount awarded.
“It was so nice to see everybody be excited,” Brown said as word was shared on Facebook about the grant award.
“A lot of people utilize the community center,” said Doug Sellers, who serves on the HCCF board.
As a resident of the Elizabeth community, Sellers is familiar with the facility and how often it is utilized.
“I feel like the community center brings this part of the county together,” he said.
Julie Moorman, president/CEO of the Foundation, said, “What makes this grant even more special is the partnership with the dedicated volunteers who serve on the board for the South Harrison Communtiy Development Corp. We know that a sense of community is not just a place, but people.”
About the same time that the SHCDC board was notified of the grant from the Foundation, it learned its food bank was placed on the Hope Southern Indiana list and would receive meat and fresh produce to be distributed.
Besides the food bank, annual events take place at the center, including a Halloween party, the distribution of Christmas baskets and a “gingerbread tree,” where residents can select the name of someone in need to assist during the holidays. The gingerbread tree has served as many as 90 families in the past. The community center is also licensed to host bingo twice a month.
“We’re hoping to be able to do the Christmas parade this year, too,” Deatrick said.
Brown said the board is working with the YMCA of Harrison County to offer an after-school program at the Elizabeth facility.
“We also offer summer meals” for children 18 and younger, Talley added.
The board has one year to complete the work outlined in its grant.
Sellers said the Foundation can also work with the board to help establish an endowment that can assist with future projects and maintenance.
Other members of the South Harrison Community Development Corp. board are Kelly Bledsoe, Peggy Day, Maranda Drane, Sarah Eyssen, Kathy Hensley, Greg Lentz, Bill Miller, Tracy Mills, Charlea Price, Robin Rhodes, Samantha Sember, Jennifer Taylor and Holly Woods.
“Everyone has their own special talents they use for the center,” Brown said. “We all work good together.”