The East Liverpool Community & Learning Center has many rooms available for all types of activities. Recently, two birthdays, both for individuals celebrating 75 years, were held. Fees support ongoing operations of the facility. (Submitted photos)

A popular TV series back in the 1980s was called “The A-Team,” comprised of four former green berets of the 5th US Special Forces Group during the Vietnam War. B.A. (“Bad Attitude”) Baracus (Mr. T.) provided the comic relief Team leader Colonel Hannibal Smith (George Peppard) at the end of each high action episode would remark, “I love it when a good plan comes together.”

The Center Board and the Trinity Church congregation know that feeling.

The HHH Foundation took ownership of an eight-acre property including two highly functional buildings from the Trinity Presbyterian Church located adjacent to East Liverpool High School. The congregation was not able to meet its expenses and faced the reality of a declining membership. Utility bills were very high and church members were not able to utilize much of the space in such a large facility originally intended for a congregation of a thousand. The few members were exhausting themselves combined with a declining participation in fewer functions. This seemed to be yet another church closing with its property falling into disrepair.

The plan was for the new owners to increase the usage of the property with the church picking up a portion of the cost of operations. The church has two years to find a smaller, more suitably sized facility; dissolve and join with another congregation; or enter into a long term arrangement to continue on at the Center. Time is now running out for the church to make its decision.

Eighteen months later, the church has been able to bring in additional revenues. In the meantime, the church has experienced a significant reduction in operating expenses. There has been a growth in membership, attendance and participation by its members. Their gain in revenues from reduced expenses through sharing maintenance costs is paying off.

From the Community & Learning Center’s standpoint, many improvements have been made to the property which reduced costly occupancy expenses. Installing more efficient HVAC and LED lighting, making needed repairs to the buildings and the parking lot, stopping roof leaks, covering unsightly beam ends and adding insulation were all accomplished. New activities have generated new revenue sources and greater utilization of the facilities. One day there were four separate functions in progress at the Center all at one time. Installation of air conditioning in the auditorium (church sanctuary) and the banquet hall (church dining room) has increased usage of these key venues while attracting activities that added rental income for the Center. This was truly “a good plan coming together.”

A room in the ground floor that was used for storage of folding chairs has been converted into “The Bistro” — a room has been the site for birthday celebrations, club meetings, a coffee shop for visitors, a reception area for the banquet hall and even a stage for a saxophone quartet of the Lincoln Park School for Performing Arts during the Community Prayer Breakfast. On adjoining outdoor patios there are benches and tables for outdoor functions. The Bistro has been a source of income. Just like some other rooms, it is made available at no charge to the 250-plus members of the Center for small parties based upon its availability.

A church storage and youth game room with a old pool table was converted by the East Liverpool High School career classes into the Teen Zone. Four walls were painted in school colors of the four area school systems of the area served by the Center. There is a Foosball game, corn hole toss, air hockey, piano, ping pong, pool, and a table with chairs for relaxing and visiting with friends. The Teen Zone was used by the First Step After School program of LaCroft this summer for serving meals to its students.

The air-conditioned banquet hall has been the greatest source of rent revenues for the Center. Some past events in the hall include vendor shows, wedding receptions, graduation parties, dinners, dance club meetings, boy scout functions, after school student programs, scrapbook crop sessions, and dance and gymnastic classes. The church had been unable to use this venue for many years because it required navigating 24 steps to access the room. To avoid climbing steps, the Center added a concrete walkway extending from the first floor to the back entry on the ground level. Added also is an handicapped parking area and a new loading apron at the back door. The hall has served as many as 240 diners with a meal. There is a large kitchen for caterers to prep for serving meals and a counter for self-service of food during vendor shows.

A choir robe room was converted into the Fletcher/Fawcett Foundation Board Room plus an adult game room equipped with a player piano, board games and TVs for viewing DVDs from the Center’s large movie library. The room is used by the East Liverpool Lions Club for committee and board meetings, birthday parties, and table games for guests.

The chapel area next door was used by the church at times when the sanctuary was either too hot or too cold. It is one of the busiest venues now. Good revenue are generated from dinners, parties, classes, movies, piano lessons, senior exercise classes, meditation meetings, gardening classes and more. The former church prayer room is now Exhibit Hall B featuring Hans Hacker’s artistry and a few pieces of a Homer Laughlin collection. The magnificent Harker Pottery collection is housed in Boyce Exhibit Hall A.

On the main floor is a large room that many years earlier was used as a kindergarten by the church when its membership was 1,000-plus. That room makes a wonderful art studio for resident artist Lora Russell. In addition to teaching individual adult classes and group art lessons, Lora gives free art lessons to children on Wednesday afternoons. The walls of the room are covered with the creations of her youthful students painted over the past few months. Next door is the Jay Room that had been a church board room. It now is devoted to preschool and elementary students. It offers areas for crafts, a library full of children’s books, video viewing, games for children and a PlayStation along with other video games. Two other doors lead to the Mentoring Room used to tutor students. The other room is used for an adult group program that meets on Saturday mornings.

The Blair Auditorium hosts the Legacy & Legends Lecture Series honoring people and events that offer social and educational events six times each year. This has also been a good revenue producer for the Center. A graduation ceremony of the Ohio Valley College of Technology will be held on Friday, July 21. Music performances, piano concerts, community meetings, music recitals as well as weddings have been held in the auditorium during the past year.

Rents from venues at the Center is an important source of income for the Center that supports ongoing operations, but some non-profit sponsored activities are forgiven from paying rent. This happens when proceeds are intended to be used for the benefit of local charitable causes and/or when there is no charge to participants. The Center has experienced a significant increase in rental activities and revenues in the last few months even though most sponsors are granted free or reduced rental rates.