By DANAE KING
The people of Leipsic have only dreamed about the $6 million community center that will soon become a reality in the Putnam County village.
The concept of a community center in the village of 2,000 started with Leipsic United Methodist Church members, and in late 2014, it began to become a tangible idea, said Steve Weatherly, lead pastor at the church.
“One day it was just like God turned my head and said, ‘Look right here,’ there was a large vacant lot,” Weatherly said. He thought, “We need to do something right here.”
Then the congregation began thinking and dreaming, he said.
Ground will be broken for the center, to be located on that vacant lot at 102 E. Main St., at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The two-story, 34,000-square-foot building will offer residents a cafe; a free clinic for uninsured and underinsured individuals, with an associated pharmacy; a full kitchen; a community youth area; a gymnasium with stage; a suspended walking track over the gym; a Resource and Opportunity Center; classrooms/meeting rooms; and a village museum.
Construction is estimated to be done in April or May 2017, Weatherly said.
The Leipsic Community Center will be a nonprofit with its own board of directors, though the church is funding the approximately $6 million project.
“The church is gifting this,” Weatherly said, though he wouldn’t go into the details of where the church got the funding. “The church has the funds to do this.”
Though each of the churches in the village offers different services to area residents, the center will bring those services together in one facility, Weatherly said. The hope is that the center can partner with different Putnam County organizations to provide services from the facility.
The offerings in the center were determined through a visioning or dreaming process, and also during meetings with community members to get their input, he said.
“It’s something that meets the needs of people today,” Weatherly said. “We hope it’ll be a springboard to revitalize and re-energize the village.”
Though the Leipsic area is home to a POET ethanol plant, an Iams factory, Pro-Tec Coating and more manufacturing companies, there hasn’t been a lot of new construction downtown, said Brent Gibson, director of the Community Center board.
“We’re hoping this will spark some enthusiasm and excitement in the village,” Weatherly said. “It will hopefully bring some new businesses into the community.”
The center will have a lot of possibilities, Weatherly said.
“It’s going to serve multiple purposes,” Gibson said.
There can be events hosted on the stage in the gym, life skills classes in the classrooms, basketball in the gymnasium and more.
In the past, residents would have to go to Ottawa or other area towns to participate in similar activities, Gibson said.
When deciding where to place the center, village residents first considered land outside of town, but settled on the Main Street property so it would “be much easier for the community and kids in the community to get to,” Gibson said.
The cafe will offer food and Wi-Fi, so parents can hang out and wait for their children to finish activities, or professionals can gather for lunch, Gibson said.
“We want it to be something where it helps bring the community together,” he said. “It’s finally coming together.”