One of the vital areas where nonprofits serve in our region is rural communities. People who live in more remote locations have fewer options for health care, grocery stores, banks and other facilities we find in abundance in urban and suburban areas. One small nonprofit in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge is making a big difference in the Oregon towns of Mount Hood and Parkdale, which combined represent about 3,000 citizens. The Mt. Hood Town Hall Association has breathed new life into an old school building that brings important community services to thousands of residents every year.
A historic four-classroom schoolhouse was built in 1914 and then decommissioned nearly half a century later. In 1973 group of local citizens set to work repurposing the craftsman-style, 12,000-square-foot building into a place that serves the community through activities like ceramics and yoga, afterschool programs, blood drives, senior meals programs and special event rentals for family milestones such as baptisms and quinceñeras. The repurposed historic schoolhouse even holds pre-K through fifth grade classes during the school year.
In 2015 the Town Hall approached the Trust with its Centennial Project campaign to restore the historic building, with the goal of making it more accessible and expanding its programs for the community. A Trust grant helped fund the remodel of the kitchen, which was previously out of compliance with most fire and health codes, preventing it from being used by citizens. After the kitchen remodel, the Town Hall said, “The project falls into the ‘wow’ category. Everyone is impressed!”
A safe and working kitchen now allows use by everyone in the community. The Senior Meals program doubled the number of meals it serves to 100-150 each week. The Town Hall now hosts evening community meals, and the kitchen is rented out by small businesses for catering prep, pie baking and even use of the commercial dishwasher. The improved kitchen has been a game-changer, both for the Town Hall and for the rural community.