Mid Valley gym home to home to new Odell Community center

October 5, 2011

When Mid Valley Elementary School began the process of building a new gym and cafeteria several years ago, Principal Dennis McCauley began to think about how to best use the "retiring" gym building.

McCauley's thinking was guided by community input collected at several key community gatherings held in 2006 and 2007 under the Ford Family Foundation LEAP study in which over 130 individuals came together to envision a more prosperous Odell.

Using the community-wide vision developed with the financial investment and guidance of the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families, McCauley and lead CCCF prevention coordinator, Maija Yasui began to look for partners and build alliances to achieve that dream.

The start of this school year brought confirmation that the community's quest to bring comprehensive resources to Odell families has paid off.

At the Sept. 28 Hood River County School District board meeting, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital was acknowledged for its donation of $50,000 toward the creation of the Mid Valley Community Center, sited in the retired gym building at the elementary school.

With renovations funded by the donation, new ADA-compliant bathrooms and access ramps were put into place along with interior remodeling - all with the goal of creating a multi-use resource center for families.

"The work is nearing completion," said McCauley. "We already have the bilingual preschool up and running in the former cafeteria area. We will have some sort of official opening ceremony in a few weeks."

Along with the toddlers' new space - moved from a temporary home at the Odell Baptist Church - the center also will house an after-school program for youth aged 8-18, operated by St. Francis House of Odell.

Adult classes in computer skills, parenting, language skills and health education now have classroom space as well. And teens will also receive support in school work and credit recovery programs in the newly created breakout rooms.

McCauley credits ongoing partnerships with HRCSD, PHRMH, the Hood River CCCF, the County Health Department, Community Education, Faith Connections, La Familia Sana, The Next Door, Inc. and the Mexican Consulate for successfully working together to benefit multiple agencies and the families who depend on them.

Mark Thomas, Providence's director of mission integration and spiritual care, noted that the funds donated toward the project support the hospital's "triple-aim" mission to improve healthcare affordability, patient experience and population health through actions based on preventative care and chronic disease management and support.

"Our ministry is not limited to the walls of the hospital. Our donations are being made increasingly more strategic - toward programs that address identified community needs and assets," said Thomas. "This center can serve as a catalyst for a healthier community."

HRCSD Supt. Charlie Beck noted that McCauley and the CCCF have been working on this project for more than five years, beginning prior to his arrival, and that partnerships have been critical to the project's success.

"Providence supports the school district at a high level in many other ways as well. They are really a positive partner," said Beck.

According to Yasui, CCCF has made investments of grant funds towards the project over the last five years as well, totaling nearly $60,000.

"This (center) is the result of a community coming together," said Yasui.

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