June 1, 2005
The Mt. Hood Towne Hall has seen a lot of changes through the years, from its beginnings in 1915 as a two-room school, through its expansion, its years as a church, and to its present form: a vital meeting place for the community of Mt. Hood. Now the Hall is poised to receive its biggest boost yet, if some very promising grants come through — a major renovation of the basement and plumbing and heating systems.
Since its purchase by Hood River County in 1973, a changing guard of volunteers has maintained the building, not only because of the community's property management agreement with the county, but out of sheer love for the building. Each volunteer board has worked to make restorations and upgrades, and amazing things have been accomplished with very meager funds thanks to volunteer labor, donated materials and a supportive community.
The support of that community, and the extended community, is needed now more than ever. Grants totalling more than $300,000 have been submitted by the Mt. Hood Towne Hall committee and have passed the first three levels of grantor approval, but at least one grantor is requiring a show of local support in the form of $90,000. The committee has between now and September to raise the funds.
The Mt. Hood Towne Hall is important not only as a historical building - it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 - it is a necessary part of Upper Valley life. Since the Parkdale Community Center is occupied with the Migrant Head Start program and is in use most of the time, the Towne Hall is the only building available to Mt. Hood townspeople that has facilities large enough to accommodate classes (including Community Ed), celebrations, club and public meetings, workshops, and dances. With renovations it will qualify as a Red Cross Mass Care Shelter and/or Service Center for the area in the event of natural or man-made disasters. But because of its current limitations - not fully meeting ADA requirements, lacking central heating and having inadequate plumbing - it can't fulfill its potential as a community center.
The renovation and restoration program now underway began in earnest in 1998. Since that time, about $109,000 has been raised through grants, fund-raisers and community support, allowing substantial progress to be made including renovation of the gym, which added insulation, updated electrical, fire exits and new paneling; repairs, including the old transom, porch replacement, and re-glazing of windows; major kitchen overhaul, creating a commercially licensed kitchen; interior and exterior painting, creation of an ADA compliant bathroom upstairs; and the installation of a new exterior septic line and an additional septic tank.
The changes have already made a big difference in the hall’s usability.
The next phase of the restoration project — the renovation of the basement — is a huge and expensive set of projects that need to be done concurrently, since it requires gutting much of the basement and replacing deteriorating and defunct systems. It is also necessary to make the building more financially self-sustaining: With upgrades of the heating and plumbing systems it will be easier to rent the building out during the colder months, giving it more income year-round.
Fund-raisers over the past few years have included the Haunted Swamp at the Hood River Pool; the Blossom Fest Quilt Show, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary; the Spin-In, dedicated to promoting the fiber arts; and the Enchanted Evening event — an evening of gastronomical delights, music and friends. Profits from these fund-raisers go toward covering operating costs, maintenance and assorted renovation projects.
The new fund-raising campaign kicks off with an open house June 12, where renovation plans will be on display and people can tour the building, see recent work, give their input, and make donations.
The committee is also looking for community members to host a fund-raising party in their home or at the Towne Hall. On Aug. 20 and 21 "Share Your Skills - Nurture Community - Support the Building" will be held to promote individuals, businesses and clubs in the community that would like to share their skills, talents, ideas or efforts with others. It is designed as an opportunity for meeting new people, learning new skills, finding out what goods and services are available or networking with others.
People are asked to donate one hour of their time to showcase their talents and participants will pay an entrance fee to stay all day, or they can sign up for one session and pay individually. There will be activities for all ages, representing the broad spectrum of diversity in our community.
Do the math: $90,000 can be raised if 9,000 people donate $10 each, or if 900 people donate $100, or if 90 very generous people each donate $1,000. Or some combination of the three.