Providing a new home for the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County may have been the impetus for the creation of the Harmar Community Center, but the facility is meant to be a resource to people of all ages.
"I just want everybody that passes up these steps and through these doors to feel at home," said Gary Murphy, president of the center's board, during a grand opening celebration Friday.
Murphy and his family donated the 307 Lancaster St. building that once housed Magnetic Specialty Inc., a business he started with his father, the late Ralph Murphy, to the community center board. An extensive renovation project that began last year has converted space at the former industrial site into rooms for Boys & Girls Club activities, community room and an adult learning center to provide help with GED studies, resume-building and more.
Barry Taylor, building chairman for the board, apologized to the crowd of more than 100 people Friday because the first phase wasn't totally finished, with some facade work and other odds and ends still to be completed. Nobody seemed to mind, with many of those in attendance marveling at the building's transformation from a year ago.
"It's nice to see we're bringing one back," said Marietta City Council President Walt Brothers. "I just love to see these old places recycled and turned into something people can use again."
On the eve of the annual River Rats Browns Backers golf tournament, Taylor, a member of the group, brought several former NFL players, most of them ex-Cleveland Browns, to the event. Anthony Griggs, a Browns linebacker in the 1980s, had looked at the facility before work began and was impressed with what he saw Friday.
To contribute: Marietta Community Foundation, P.O. Box 77, Marietta 45750, earmarked Harmar Community Center.
For more information: 373-3020, www.harmarcommunitycenter.shutterfly.com
"Phenomenal, just the transformation," he said.
Taylor said the change was made possible by volunteers and local businesses who contributed materials, labor and discounted services. Level Contracting of Marietta served as general contractor for the project and gave the board a break on their prices, said owner Steve McBride.
"They all worked for sometimes peanut wages," Taylor said.
McBride said the work was beneficial to them as well, since he's trying to get his company's name out in the community. He also praised the efforts of volunteers, including the Gospel Mission, the building's first tenants, in getting the work done.
"They really helped us out when things were kind of tough," McBride said.
The shrubbery that once stood in front of the building is gone and a new front porch has been installed with eight rocking chairs on it, each bearing a memorial nameplate. Center executive director Mary Ann VonVille noted they still have other memorial rocking chairs available for $1,000 donations. The naming rights to several rooms in the center are also available, to help support the center.
The Boys & Girls Club, which had been operating its after-school program in a rented building at 123 Greene St. will kick off its summer activities Monday. Executive director Sam Anderson said children will participate in indoor and outdoor activities, take a field trip once a week and welcome guest speakers.
"There's a big smorgasbord of things," she said.
VonVille noted there is a computer room off the main Boys & Girls Club area for students to work on homework when school starts up again.
"There's a great connection between the Boys & Girls Club and the classroom," she said.