CAMPBELL, Ohio – It didn’t take long for the community to start using the new Community Literacy, Workforce and Cultural Center in Campbell.
After months of construction and pandemic-induced delays, the community center opened to the public Aug. 10. Business manager Cheryl McArthur was the first employee in the building at 5 a.m. and 40 minutes later, the first new member of the day showed up, bought his membership and headed straight for the strength and cardio rooms just past the front entrance.
“It was exciting to finally have members come through and be able to say, ‘We’re open!’” she says. “I’m so happy that people are finally able to come in.”
The $14 million building has more to offer than just exercise equipment.
Southwoods Health is preparing to open a clinic in the center and the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board will be opening an office. The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County will open a branch in the building shortly. Meanwhile, the Red Devil Bistro offers breakfast and lunch. A large conference room can play host to community events such as award ceremonies or wedding receptions, or be divided for lectures, meetings or yoga classes, says Campbell City Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen.
“During the day, it could be for small lectures or for small businesses to meet their professional development needs. We’re looking at how this space isn’t just defined by how we operate, but by what customers need,” Bowen says. “We want people to own this building. It’s not ours, it’s yours. With our partners, it’s our building. It’s not Campbell City Schools’. We have a seat at the table like everyone else.”
Elsewhere in the Community Literacy, Workforce and Cultural Center are classrooms for students in the Campbell district’s Northeastern Ohio Impact Academy, which features a STEM-based curriculum for students in grades seven through 12.
The academy allows students the chance to graduate with industry credentials and potentially an associate’s degree.
“For that to exist, we needed partners and access to industry programs,” Bowen says. “Those preapprentice programs that are carved out for students give them a really authentic, meaningful experience so they can go into the workforce or continue their education at a four-year institution.”
Among the partners for that aspect are the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and the Youngstown Business Incubator. For other educational programs, the community center is working with Eastern Gateway Community College, Stark State College, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and the Mahoning Valley College Access Program.
“It offers another layer of support for students. But they can also interact with Eastern Gateway and Stark State so they can know what those places have to offer after high school,” McArthur says. “There’s also the college credit-plus classes students can take while they’re in high school.”
Once it opens, the library space will be “experimental” in its offerings because of its limited size and its position inside a school building, says Aimee Fifarek, executive director of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County.
“We are going to have staff there in the mornings while we’re closed to the public so we can provide services to the school and the building will open to the public at noon,” she says.
The branch will have a maker space, reading rooms and a laptop bar, she adds, as well as library vending machines, where patrons can borrow books, CDs and DVDs.
“[It’s] just like you would get a soda, only it’s not going to cost you,” Fifarek says. “We’ll also have hold pickup lockers so that if you place holds to pick up at the Campbell location, you’ll be able to pick them up anytime even if the building is closed.”
The importance of partnerships in developing the amenities at the Campbell community center is vital, Bowen and McArthur say, both for the members using the center and the organizations themselves. For the tenants of the building, like Southwoods or the library, they gain from the foot traffic the other operations will bring, he continues.
And for students or those seeking to learn new skills, the collaboration of organizations can open those doors.
“We need to be honest and let people know that we can’t do it all. We need to let people know that we can’t be as effective alone as we can when we work with partners,” the superintendent says. “As students’ needs change or as business changes, we’re not the experts in every area. But we know who the experts are. By reaching out to them, bringing them under one roof and adding them to this ecosystem, that’s how we best serve our students and adults.”
The community response has been overwhelming, Bowen and McArthur say. Twenty-five people bought memberships to the Community Literacy, Workforce and Cultural Center on Aug. 10 alone. Since the open houses, there’s been an uptick in phone calls and website hits.
“This is all about community. We put all those words in the title because that’s what we want to hit people in the face with,” Bowen says. “It’s about workforce development. It’s about recognizing people’s differences and strengths in their culture. It’s all in there. When people come through, we want them to appreciate what everyone has to offer.”
Pictured: The center’s chief administrator Kent Polen and Campbell Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen joined the athletics facility director Anthony Sferra and business manager Cheryl McArthur to celebrate its opening Aug. 10.