Library, Community Center Plan on Track in Center Point

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CENTER POINT, Iowa - A push to combine an expanded library with a brand new community center in Center Point has hit a milestone. The $2.8-million combined project is now, officially, halfway to the goal.

Library and community center supporters say fundraising for the project didn't start in earnest until August. And as of this week, the total pledged has hit almost $1.4-million.

Organizers admit the goal was ambitious for a community of fewer than 2,500 people. But they say surveys have shown members of the community support the library. One list of most important public facilities put the library second behind only the community's ambulance service in the rankings.

Janine Walters, Center Point Library Director, said the current library only has 4,300 feet of space for books, materials and services. That's only a bit larger than some residential homes. But no homeowner has an average of 350 people a day visiting. Walters said the reading programs for kids sometimes has participants sitting in hallways because there's not enough room.

"As soon as 3:30 hits, we've got a school a block away, a middle school 4-5 blocks away and a high school the same. So a lot of kids congregate here and parents come to pick them up...it's quite a flurry for 2-3 hours here and it keeps the staff hopping," Walters said.

The expansion plan would nearly triple the size of the library.

But the proposed, and attached, community center is drawing quite a bit of attention as well. That space could handle community events, like wedding receptions or reunions, for crowds of up to 250 people. And Walters said there is no comparable facility, public or private, in the area.

Sharon Hannen, a volunteer helping with fundraising, said the $1.4-million already in hand tells her community members are willing to pay for something they truly want.

"It's the biggest community centered thing and one of the biggest draws for a community if they're hoping to grow more," Hannen said.

Ralph Savoy, a professional fundraiser hired by library supporters, agreed the results so far should leave people feeling confident.

"It will be a challenge, it is a challenge to raise charitable dollars, but if you have a good project which we do here...charitable dollars are still there," Savoy said.

Organizers hope to wrap up the fundraising by the end of the year and break ground in early 2014. Construction should be completed in about a year. And with nearly half the money in hand now, they're confident they can meet that schedule.
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