Group Works To Renovate Community Center in Shenandoah

SHENANDOAH -- A group of volunteers from Shenandoah are working to restore the old J.W. Cooper High School.

The old school has called a corner of North White Street home for 101 years. It still has its pool, auditorium, and gym.

"We have everything right here," J.W. Cooper Community Center President Kent Steinmetz said. "So, we're going to ultimately get it back to it 1917 charm and open it up as a community center."

The J.W. Cooper school opened in the early 1900s. It closed in the 1990s. In 2009, Kent Steinmetz bought the building to preserve it. He wants to transform the building into a community center and business hub.

"The building is structurally sound, so all we're doing is replacing the lights, the plumbing, the flooring that's missing," Steinmetz said.

Volunteers really want to fix this building up so that it can be a place where young people in Shenandoah go.

"I think that if we had a community center or a rec center, somewhere for these young kids to hang out maybe they wouldn't be on the streets doing what they're doing and getting to the stuff they're getting into," community center volunteer Wendy Enlowe said.

Steinmetz estimates it will cost between five and six million dollars to bring the center back to life. He's invested a lot of his own money in the project over the last few years. Recently, he received a little help from the Allstate insurance agency in Pottsville. The agency donated $1,000.

"They literally just don't make them like they used to," Allstate Insurance Agent Anya Litwak said. "Its so important that even with the work that needs to be done, that the building is still standing, and that we just put a little bit of love into what we already have."

Now, he and his group of volunteers are hoping more people get involved so that more can be done to renovate the space.

"I think we could use a lot more volunteers," Enlowe said. "I think that a lot more people would step up and help out. It would get done a lot quicker."

To learn more about the community center, you can visit its website or its Facebook page or you can call Kent Steinmetz at (570) 617-8920.