City of Beaverton
Google Michigan schools for sale or demolition and what you find is a sad and all too common thread flowing throughout our great State.
In 2011, a group of Beaverton community members came together to ask themselves this question. Do we want to save a community jewel and create something amazing to serve this low to moderate income and surrounding community? The answer was an overwhelming yes and 5 years later, an all but vacated two story school building was transformed through imagination and collaboration into an inspirational story of success called the Beaverton Activity Center.
This story is about that transformation and the imagination of a community to create something excellent. A $1.3 million dollar transformation from potential destruction, to a vibrant community gathering place bringing with it new hope for one distressed small rural community with a rich heritage bringing hope for the future and all accomplished by volunteers. www.beavertonactivitycenter.com
Our community project can be replicated with the right mix of community courage, vision and can do attitude and cooperation. We have a new and unique model only now being discovered and touted as a success story by the likes of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The easy part may be finding the community space and hopefully a group of likeminded citizens. You will need true champions and grit, but the model created by the Beaverton Activity Center of having leasers that make sense to reside under one roof and pay rent is reproducible and can pay the bills.
Creativity and Originality:
OK; we understand that others can take a school building and transform it into a community center. And we understand that once in a while you can get a City Council or School Board or other public or nonprofit group on the same page and in full agreement. But can they or have they done so involving only volunteers and collaborations of over 10 public and private bodies as done to create this project? For us we also had to raise the most money ever raised in a very low income community. What we proved is that with hard work it is possible through true grass roots organization, that included collaboration by well over 150 people and organizations; from the City DDA, City Council, School Board, library board, hospital board, community action agency board, (4) foundation boards, and over 300 donors from individuals to small business to local companies, all who were convinced to buy in.
What’s original? We are self-sustaining. We lease the building from the school for $1 and we have lease holders paying us rent. This along with using existing resources so as not to replicate and bring in added expenses, like offering programming from elsewhere and then supplementing that programming with our own helps us to sustain.
We are an all-volunteer led organization that relies on volunteers to open/close and monitor the building and various entities such as the coffee shop and fitness center, web site, Facebook and marketing as well as handyman work. We are also proud that we use the Arnold Center, a nonprofit entity serving those with differing needs as our cleaning service.
In a City of 1,200 we had over 800 show for our grand opening and haven’t slowed since. We have literally hosted hundreds and hundreds of visitors including individuals from other communities investigating our success and our growth remains phenomenal, all while keeping a healthy savings account in this our first year of operation.
This project has breathed new life into an old building and created the HUB for activities in our community. It has also done much more. It has brought about new and first ever cultural events and sporting activities for youth and adults. It created meeting rooms that were nonexistent, a place to exercise, tease your brain and learn. It’s a library, fitness center, health center coffee shop, heritage center, pre-school, after school gathering place, summer recreation location, place for worship, kids programming, adult programming, historical society and more. It’s brought together a core group of community volunteers sporting their red vests and directing daily activities. It’s brought new opportunity to hundreds and hundreds served in our short time and has spawned new vibrancy and economic activity in the community such as the restoration of a community movie theatre and exciting new community wide strategic planning. In short, it’s been everything and more that took four solid years and thousands of volunteer hours to plan, fundraise and over another year to reconstruct.