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East Liverpool Area Community & Learning Center back in business

Several items to be offered at an Art Auction to be held for the benefit of the center. (Submitted photo)

EAST LIVERPOOL — After having been closed for two and a half months, the East Liverpool Area Community & Learning Center has opened its doors again to the community. It is not business as usual however. The coronavirus has taken a toll on everybody and virtually every place.

Opening the center was not easy, but closing the facility had a drastic impact on revenues needed to support operations according to Operations Manager Jim Lewis. The virus also took a toll on the volunteer staff, programs and the public all suddenly forced to put on the brakes in their daily routines. However even during the closure of the center bills continued to arrive and clubs and organizations that make the center their home have struggled to find ways to keep in contact with one another.

Thanks to the large open air parking lot at the center, some activities had continued to take place. The Annual Prayer Breakfast was held with participants remaining in their cars throughout. Food distributions were held in the lot. The center moved up its schedule and had the main entrance ramp and stairs replaced for handicapped access and as a delivery ramp. The parking lot continued to be used by families to take walks, ride bikes, exercise pets and even fly their drones.

The easiest part of reopening was making the decision to do so, but preparations proved challenging. The ever conflicting and changing information and guidelines on proper safety procedures has been difficult and confusing. The center now is operating within all government mandated rules including wearing face masks, social distancing, regular disinfecting all areas where events are to be, are being or have been held. Spare face masks along with hand wipes are provided at the center.

Life has not returned to normal yet, but all volunteers are now in place and are kept busy taking reservations for events and overseeing activities in the parking lot. The AAA and others still use the lot to practice for student driving tests, commercial vehicles have been parked in the lot for overnight and on weekends. Baseball games have been held at the neighboring high school baseball field and they park in the center lot. The time has been used well to clean-up many years of clutter on center property beside the ball field.

Gradually after opening the center, tenants are returning and are getting active again. The East Liverpool Lions Club this past week held its annual regional meeting with District officials and has held its monthly meetings now for about one month. The East Liverpool Rotary Club has been meeting by Zoom. Rotary has had to cancel its annual June golf event, its Career day for High School sophomores and the fate of the October Fest remains yet to be decided.

It has been hard on the tenants to generate enthusiasm with many of the normal services to the community needing to be canceled. The Guardians of the Children were not able to hold its annual Easter Egg Hunt and party. The girl scouts and the Campfire Girls have been unable to meet yet. Art Classes for children under Resident Art Director Margaret Myers will get underway again this fall. The Bridge Club cannot meet the social distancing rules.

The good news is that most activities are slowly starting to open up again. Guardians of the Children held its first meeting in months last week. It is making plans to hold a back-to-school distribution event in the parking lot in August. The three alcohol and drug recovery programs have resumed meeting at the Center with increased attendance.

The Classic Thursday Nite Movies have resumed under the direction of Moderator Scott Kidd. Most of the regular movie goers have returned. Fresh popcorn is always provided to all guests and this event is open to the public.

Invitations are being sent inviting Community Center supporters to join the Legacy & Legends Lecture Series for 2020-21. Six lectures that deal with subjects of local interest are delivered by well informed speakers on the subjects. Probably the normal Social Reception that precedes each event will not be possible. Over the past four years 21 Legacy & Legends lectures have entertained hundreds of history buffs and have supplemented center revenues.

The East Liverpool Health Department has asked that the center be used as a cooling station for area residents when weather temperatures reach dangerous levels. The center will enforce all its virus safety procedures for all those while on the premises. That means masks, distancing, disinfecting areas used and temperature checks. Cold water will be provided by the center. News channels in Youngstown reported that this is the only cooling station in the greater three County area. Hours will be noon to 5 p.m. but may be extended to as late as 9 p.m. as necessary during extremely hot days.

The charitable nonprofit HHH Foundation, parent company of the Community Center, recently received a collection of fine art items from the Estate of Mary Sue Lang who passed away last year. Also received was a gift from another person of formal serving pieces. The center is planning a formal auction for September and all proceeds go to the center. The items for sale may be viewed on the Center Facebook Page and are on display in the former Pastor Study room at the Center. More details will be available later.

The quarterly Board Meeting of the HHH Foundation was held at the center recently in the center boardroom for its 11 Directors. The board supervises the non-profit corporation as well as the Community Center. In spite of reduced operations for much of the year, but aided by several substantial donations in 2020, the Center had its best year ended June 30 in terms of net worth, revenues and activity. New center directional signs will be placed at the intersection of McKinnon Ave & St. Clair and at the West entrance to the Center. All officers and Directors were voted to return to their offices and positions for a new term.

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