EAST SPRINGFIELD - Generosity keeps the wheels of improvements turning at the East Springfield Community Recreation & Service Center.
And that generosity comes in the form of volunteer time given by individuals who have had a hand in the building's renovations since the grassroots effort took shape in 2009, according to center officials, but it's also in combination with ongoing fundraisers and outright donations.
One of the latter came recently when Chesapeake Energy presented a check for $2,000 to the center located on county Road 39 next to the East Springfield Volunteer Fire Department. Officials are earmarking the money to upgrade the building's cramped kitchen - an especially busy place for producing monthly fundraiser dinners held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
Donations and fundraisers combine to keep the improvements coming at the East Springfield Community Recreation and Service Center, a grassroots community initiative launched in 2009. A recent donation included the presentation of a $2,000 check from Chesapeake Energy. On hand for that were, top photo, from left, Sue Call, treasurer; Deborah Martin, secretary; Aimee Belden, community relations coordinator for Chesapeake Energy; and Dale Holcomb, president.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
Major improvements in the building have included painting, a new floor and the installation of air conditioning, an area in which center officers, from left, Sue Call, Dale Holcomb and Deborah Martin talk about what’s ahead.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
Some of volunteers who have been a part of the ongoing improvement process gather around the outdoor center sign.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
The official check presentation was occasion for a status report on the project and an opportunity for center officials to express appreciation for the donation from Chesapeake Energy.
"In areas where we operate, we look to invest in both the community and the people who live there," said Aimee Belden, community relations coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.
"The East Springfield Community Recreation & Service Center fits both criteria. By providing a safe and affordable center for local events, it cultivates community development. As the center moves forward with renovation plans, we are proud to be able to help with the process," Belden said.
The center today sports many improvements, from new hardwood floors and ceiling lights to air conditioning, and has behind it a 38-by-38-foot adjoining building with handicapped-accessible restrooms, a kitchenette area and a space suited for gatherings such as showers and small parties. Early this summer, the newly constructed building became available for use.
Things have come a long way in the past four years.
"Four years ago we really started, and the last two years we've probably come eight or 10 times where we were two years ago," said Dale Holcomb, president. "It's come a long ways. It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of hours, but it's been well worth it. We've had some good volunteers, some good help. That's what it takes," said the center officer who serves along with Brad Wine, vice president; Deborah Martin, secretary; and Sue Call, treasurer and the center's scheduler who can be reached at (740) 543-3066.
Trustees are Greg Call, Ron Martin, Mark Mullins, Bob Serdar, Gary Tennant and Diane Salsberry.
With the improvements come increasing use and increasing interest.
"It has grown probably 80 percent in the last year. We are booked just about every week right now with receptions, weddings, a revival coming in October and other events," Holcomb said.
Rental costs for the facilities vary but are affordable, according to Holcomb.
"We want to make it feasible for everybody and any organizations like 4-H, for all those groups it's free. There's no charge for any group, senior citizens, that's all free," Holcomb said. "If they want to give us a donation, we accept that, but there's not a fee."
The new addition is in use, too.
"It's being rented out same as this building here, and our senior citizens have moved their weekly meetings and things over here to this building," said Call of the new building where additional tables, chairs and kitchen equipment were purchased at a recent auction.
Volunteers, meanwhile, stay busy with fundraisers, including the center's monthly dinner held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the first Thursday. Improvements to the kitchen in the main building will make that an easier process, according to officials.
"The kitchen is the main deal that we're going to address next, and this money (from Chesapeake) is going to go basically toward that. That is our prime concern," Holcomb said.
While attention will be given to insulation in the building, kitchen improvements are a priority, including a new sink and new cabinets for starters.
"Every time we get some funding we decide as a committee what we're going to do next for the building, and we vote on it and go through with it," Holcomb said.
Center representatives say they appreciate all the support they have received.
"We have had strong community support," remarked Deborah Martin. "It's not only East Springfield, but it's coming from other communities - Unionport, Amsterdam and Bergholz. Even our county officials and other county people are really supporting this area. They are overwhelmed with how a group of people got together and just pulled their talents and resources and let a project go forth, and it's not stopping," Martin said.
"We're continuing to receive contributions from outside the area, including from people who grew up in this area for bringing a piece of history back," Martin added.
The facilities hold possibilities for varied uses with activities on the center calendar to meet a variety of interests.
Activities coming up, for example, include line dancing lessons from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday, starting Oct. 11. Lessons are $4.
A popular country-western band, Sands of Time, will be performing there Oct. 20 and Nov. 3, both days from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A revival also is on the calendar for Oct. 14-16.
It was in 2009, a grassroots effort took place to restore the community center that originally was constructed in the 1870s and served as the Presbyterian Church of East Springfield until the late 1920s. Around 1930, the church ceased to exist, according to the center website, and the congregation allowed the building to be used as a community meeting place.
And used it was.
Box socials, plays, celebrations and recreation activities were all held there, according to the website. In 1956, a group of citizens approached the Presbyterians to pursue buying the building. The green light for that led to renovations that included hardwood floors and the addition of a small kitchen in 1963.
What followed was high use by the community for everything from roller skating and dances to dinners and parties.
Over time, however, the building began to show its age and get less use and eventually closed. In 2007, the roof started to leak, causing damage to the ceiling and floor.
Two years later, local citizens united to save the center, and the effort continues to make improvements and bring to fruition visions for its use.
Holcomb said he can't thank everyone enough for how far the center has come.
"It boils down to it's a community project - the main thing we were after," Holcomb said.
"The seniors and the kids, that's where it's at. Anything we can do to make their life enjoyable and easier. We want to start having coffee and doughnuts or something on Saturdays so that's in the making and coming here. There's a new grill going in out back to do barbecue chicken and ribs, and that's going to be the next addition going outside. From there, it's just kind of touch-and-go as to what the community wants and what the need is," Holcomb said.
"The playground is in the future for back in the back for next year. The next summer project will be the playground back there," Holcomb said.
Donations continue to be welcomed with checks made payable to the East Springfield Community Center and mailed to Call at 8995 county road 39, Bloomingdale, OH 43910.
The website is www.escommunitycenter.com.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)