Joneses Give Oh Wow $1M to Ensure Its Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Thursday was Tiffaney Trella’s first visit to Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Center for Science & Technology.

That wasn’t the case for Michael Ward, her 5-year-old nephew.

“This is his third time,” Trella said. “He begged to come today.”

As her young charge darted among the exhibits, Trella marveled at the center. “It’s amazing. This is a great resource in Youngstown for the kids o come down and learn and have fun at the same time,” she remarked.

A $1 million donation announced Thursday afternoon will help ensure that Oh Wow! will be around for her nephew’s children and grandchildren. Oh Wow! announced the seven-figure donation by the museum’s namesakes, Roger and Gloria Jones, the retired founders of Fireline Inc.

The Joneses had provided the initial $50,000 seed money in 2008 when the decision was made to repurpose the former Children’s Museum of the Valley with interactive exhibits that focus on the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields, said the executive director of Oh Wow, Suzanne Barbati. They provided $250,000 more the following year for the capital campaign to raise funds for the move and to renovate its space in the McCrory Building downtown.

Thursday was also Roger Jones’ 88th birthday, she noted.

The donation would go toward Oh Wow’s endowment fund to help guarantee its long-term growth and survival, Roger Jones said.

“We have such kind of weird economic situations now and depending on who’s coming in, it’ll be even weirder,” he remarked, an apparent reference to the campaigns political candidates are waging.

“Gloria and I are so pleased with the management of Oh Wow and the creativity and the dedication of the employees,” he added.

“We came to Youngstown because of its reputation in taking pride in manufacturing and making things. We wanted to perpetuate that any way we could,” Gloria Jones said. “We felt that starting with younger children and making things and new ideas for making things would be a turn-on that would last the rest of their lives.”

The endowment “will make sure that Oh Wow is here for our grandchildren’s children,” Barbati said.

Funds from the endowment will be reserved for capital and maintenance needs, specifically to add new exhibits and keep the existing ones in good repair, she said.

“We’ve all been to museums where things didn’t work and we are very aware of the need to not have that happen here, and to make sure that we have new experiences when our guests come,” she explained. “Those funds will be designated for that purpose.”

Last fall, the center added “Kids in the Kitchen,” which focuses on the “farm-to-table cycle” of growing food, its production and preparation. New exhibits in the “Drive to Excel” section, funded by “some additional major funding,” will be announced at the end of April, she added.

Michele Pachuk of Cincinnati, in town to visit her husband’s parents, was at the center Thursday with her five children, who range in age from 8 to 18.

“We’ve been here one other time and the kids just love it so much,” she said. “There’s something to keep everyone entertained.”

Pictured: Gloria and Roger Jones and two of their grandchildren, held by Suzanne Barbati, executive director of Oh Wow!

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.