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Cedars on 4th already hopping

Activities are already happening at Jacksonville’s new community center, Cedars on 4th, even though it isn’t finished.

The facility’s Great Room will host its first event when the 25th anniversary of the Jackson Woodlands Association Hike-a-Thon is centered there Saturday, April 21.

Classes are already underway in the Sampson Cottage portion of the 2,900-square-foot facility. The cottage was incorporated into the center and had served as the previous community center.

“It has been an amazing process. We all just had to envision the space and what it might look like. Now it is there, and we can actually walk in the space,” said Jacksonville Community Center board member Lori Grable, program committee chair. “I’ve been really enjoying meeting people and walking them through.”

A larger community center is the culmination of 20 years of efforts by the Jacksonville Seniors and the center group. The city, which owns the site at Fourth and Main streets, which includes the Sampson Cottage, has given the organization a 50-year lease.

A grand opening won’t be held until all work is complete and all furnishings are in place, said David Doi, board secretary. Contractor Ausland Group has completed 95 percent of its work, said Doi. Fundraising continues to put the last elements in place. Those include a folding partition that will allow division of the Great Room for separate activities, equipment for the commercial kitchen, chairs, tables and landscaping.

The center had an extra expense of $88,000 beyond the original budget for additional foundation work to preserve the cedar trees. The center needs to raise $55,000 to finish projects. When completed, the fund drive will total $715,000.

A $40,000 grant was received in December from the Ben B. Cheney Foundation of Tacoma, Washington, to help with capital construction. Nine foundations have given support for the project, said board member Sue Miller, who secured the Cheney grant.

Volunteers have played a critical role in center completion, said Miller.

“There’s been hundreds of volunteer hours in renovation of the cottage and a team doing exterior landscaping and securing donations of materials,” said Miller.

With the building nearly complete, the center is moving toward its next phase — regular operations. That will include establishing programs and hiring staff.

“We are particularly interested in getting grants to support programs for kids,” said Miller. A survey of Jacksonville Elementary parents showed that many take their children out of town for after-school activities. Outdoor programs and the arts emerged as top choices for offerings.

In early May the center expects to advertise for a director who would serve about 25 hours per week. A part-time administrative position will also be created.

“We see the director out there in the community, promoting the center and forming partnerships with other groups that would like to do programs,” said Doi.

A friends group to support ongoing operations is also envisioned, said Doi. It would build relationships with donors, partners and foundations.

The cottage space can accommodate 28 people, Grable said. Classes started there in March, including Zumba and plant identification. The Great Room can accommodate up to 100 people. The entire facility, including grounds with a garden patio, will be for rent.

“There’s been a couple of calls about weddings, but we haven’t booked any yet,” said Grable. A birthday party has been booked for the Great Room.

Activities for seniors and small children can be held in the mornings, said Grable. Afternoons may include after-school programs, while adult activities can take place three or four evenings per week. A lot of one-time weekend events are anticipated.

More information can be found at cedarson4th.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Jacksonville Community Center member Rick Patsche looks inside the new addition at the Jacksonville Community Center Friday morning.