1251 Bryden Road was built as a family home in 1891 in Olde Towne East, then a new popular street car neighborhood for Columbus’ growing well-to-do population. As time went on, the freeway system cut through the downtown neighborhoods and the wealthy left for suburbs sending the area into a long era of disinvestment and decline. Organizations such as Central Community House stepped in to aid the struggling families left behind. The house at 1251 Bryden Road was donated to the community center after a few earlier sites fell to Urban Renewal. From 1965 to 2005, this property was as safe haven for youth in afterschool programs, a source of support for families facing household struggles, and an advocate for social justice and neighborhood improvement initiatives.

In 2005, Central Community House moved to a new facility at 1150 E. Main Street to accommodate growth, and the agency continued to thrive and grow even more. Soon it became apparent that instead of selling the old property, it should be renovated. Transit Arts, a popular program providing free art workshops and mentorship for teens needed studio space. More space was needed as well for community initiatives and public meetings. Also, the not-for-profit organization was interested in operating a business including office and event space rental that could make profits to re-invest in its work. As such, the idea for a Center for Art & Community was born.

The Walter and Marian English Family Foundation agreed to donate a naming gift to start the campaign to raise funds needed for renovation. Walter English started his wholesale food distribution business from his parents’ Bryden Road home a few houses away from the old community center. Mr. English was the first President of COSI and active in many educational and youth-serving organizations. The project fit well with the family’s interest in empowering youth and improving Columbus.

Central Community House has always been a grassroots, neighborhood-driven organization and sought ways to utilize the gifts and talents of near east side residents as well. In addition to paying local crews to renovate the building, Volunteer Work Days have been planned so generous neighbors and friends from throughout Columbus could provide labor to bring this facility back to life.

“We knew that there are a lot of home renovators and talented craftspeople in our area working to preserve their own Olde Towne East homes. At the same time, young people and others want to learn these skills. Together they are able to provide great volunteer labor and help us make this dream a reality,” Pam McCarthy, executive director.

It is a major undertaking to find qualified volunteers willing to take time out of their own lives to teach others and provide a valuable service to the community, but 20-30 people have committed to work on Saturdays this spring. These hands-on contributions are combining with over 100 donors who gave financially to the project. Local corporations such as Nationwide, PNC and Honda have pitched in as well. There is still time to be part of this exciting effort by donating funds, materials or volunteer labor. Simply contact us at info@cchouse.org to discuss ways to get involved. Visit the English Center site for more info.

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