Members of the 2017 Van Wert County Leadership Class stand with representatives of businesses and organizations that have given to the building of a shelter house at the former Washington Elementary location. (DHI Media/Erin Cox)
Members of the 2017 Van Wert County Leadership Class stand with representatives of businesses and organizations that have given to the building of a shelter house at the former Washington Elementary location. (DHI Media/Erin Cox)
VAN WERT — The 2017 Van Wert County Leadership Class is nearing its completion, but the product of the class is just getting started.

The class chose to build a shelter house at the location of the former Washington Elementary building at 839 Prospect Ave. The location which is a bus stop for Van Wert City Schools is currently an open grassy area. The shelter house will provide a safe place for students as they wait at the location for buses and it will also offer storage for Van Wert Youth Football which has been using the open space for practices.

“We want to make [this open space] be utilized even more,” Kendra Goodlin, a member of the Leadership Class, said.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Wednesday morning to thank sponsors who stepped up to fund the $15,000 project, but the actual building process will not begin until after school ends for the year. The plan is to begin in June and have the building completed by mid-July before football practices and tryouts begin.

“It’s a pretty straight forward project, it’s a pretty simple building,” Blaine Dennis, a member of the 2017 Leadership Class, said.

The class members sold personalized 4-inch-by-8-inch bricks and 8-inch-by-8-inch pavers to members and businesses in the community to raise funds for the shelter house.

“We’re really excited for this,” Goodlin said. “We have, to date, just over $14,000 raised which we think is pretty great.”

Any shortfall on costs will be helped by Van Wert City Schools and Van Wert Youth Football.

Eaton gave $3,500, Van Wert Service Club contributed $2,000 and Avangrid Renewables added $1,000 to the donations. The rest of the $14,000 that has been raised came from selling the bricks and pavers.

“The community came in and put a lot of money into it,” Dennis said. “The response was great.”

The Van Wert Service Club’s donation is also going to help purchase a recycled plastic bench that will be all weather-proof for students to use as well.

“This year’s class has set the bar for fund raising,” Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Susan Munroe said.

“I just can’t express how proud I am of this year’s class, for your dedication and your work,” she said to the class.

“They figure out through a process what kind of project they’re going to do and why they’re going to do it and they just all came together and exceeded their goal.”

“I believe in this program so much,” Munroe said. “These are the leaders of our community tomorrow and beyond that. They seem to have this great desire to see our community grow, prosper and thrive and I think that’s evident in the work that they’ve done in this project.”