community center noun: a building or group of buildings where there are classes and activities for the people who live in a community. The community of O’Hara Township, where AOG headquarters are located, was sorely in need of a new community center.
Built in the 1950s as an elementary school, the Boyd Community Center housed the Lauri Ann West Memorial Library, classrooms and a non-regulation size gymnasium where a local community theater performed, basketball was played and yoga classes took place. A catering company continues to work out of the original elementary school cafeteria kitchen, and groups rent classrooms and the gymnasium for private events. But to say that the building has outgrown its useful life is a gross understatement. Simply replacing windows and floors wouldn’t work. The building was seriously out of date.
Long before the library moved to a newly-constructed building to become the Cooper Siegel Community Library, local residents anticipated the need and began working to raise funds to build a new community center to serve six local municipalities and beyond. $7 million had already been raised when Jim Taylor, President and CEO of ABARTA Energy, was tasked with raising the remaining $1 million needed to construct the new Lauri Ann West Community Center. Unfortunately, by the time the $8.1 million goal was met, the bids for construction came in at $9.4 million. Thankfully O’Hara Township came to the rescue with a $1.5 million five-year loan so work could begin in the summer of 2014.
Above you’ll see Jim Taylor (third from the right), Shelley Bitzer (fifth from the right) and Lauri Ann West’s mother clapping in the foreground on that memorable day when the ground was finally broken. The front portion of the existing building that housed the library has been torn down, but the gymnasium and classrooms remain so that operations can continue during construction. The new 28,000 square foot facility will house a regulation-size gym, an elevated indoor walking track, drop-off child-care room, art and dance studios, a fitness center, a café, an outdoor patio, a large community room and after-school arts and enrichment room for kids.
Jim reports that long ago before the elementary school was built the land was used for agricultural purposes, so the new center has been designed to remind one of a barn.
Imagine being able to say you played a major role in making it possible for this incredible facility to be built. Jim is working with the Board of Directors and the Capital Campaign Leadership Team to make this dream become a reality. According to Jim, “The Lauri Ann West Community Center, The Cooper-Siegel Community Library (http://www.coopersiegelcommunitylibrary.org/) and the Aspinwall Riverfront Park (http://www.aspinwallriverfrontpark.org/) are the three most important community assets that will be built during our lifetime.”
To date, 700 donors have offered their support, but fundraising efforts continue. To see plans for the new center and make a donation, please visit http://lauriannwestcommunitycenter.org/.