An abandoned elementary school building is being transformed into a source of hope in Marysville.

An abandoned elementary school building is being transformed into a source of hope in Marysville.

The former East Elementary School facility at 212 Chestnut St. is in the process of renovation. When it opens to the public in October, it will be the home of The Hope Center, a faith-based community center operated by the Marysville Area Ministerial Association (MAMA).

"It brings together several components and missions," Hope Center executive director Jessica Schulze said. "Compassion, community and Next Generation - it's a three-part story. It's why we are existing and what our mission is."

One wing of the building will be dedicated to "Compassion Ministries," and programs. Those will include a new home for the Clothes Closet, the Personal Needs Pantry, the Family-to-Family Furniture Bank and the Community Kitchen program.

Schulze said the move will enable the Community Kitchen to expand its services.

"They serve fresh, nutritious meals two times a week in the community already," she said. "This will expand their programming, once the volunteers come online, to serve hot, fresh meals every day of the week so that no one goes hungry in Union County again."

The Emergency Assistance Program will also be located in The Hope Center. That program, operated through the Union County Sheriff's Office, will provide more mentoring programs and expand its services as well.

Another major portion of the building will be dedicated to community use and spaces.

"The heart of that is the Caf Esperanza, which is Spanish for 'hope,'" Schulze said. "It will be a full-service coffee shop, with open mic nights, comfortable lounging and places for the community to meet and gather together."

The facility will include several meeting rooms that will be available for support groups, parenting classes and rental for what Schulze called "programs that enrich the lives of Union County residents."

The Next Generation element of the project will be the new Youth Center.

"It will serve our young people after school hours and some weekend hours," Schulze said. "It will provide a safe, nurturing, fun and exciting place for our young people to spend time. There's not a lot of space for that now here in Marysville. There's not a lot of places for our young people to go.

"We're excited to be able to provide that kind of space so that relationships between caring adults and our next generation can be fostered and developed so that we can make an investment in them," she said.

The Youth Center will serve students in grades five through 12.

"We hope to have that open by Christmas," Schulze said.

The facility will also include a prayer room.

"We're excited that we have an opportunity to serve the whole person," she said. "If we can serve the whole person, we can transform the whole community. One person at a time, one unique life at a time, we're trying to help each and every member of our community access the things that they need. For some, it may be a hot meal. For others, it's the opportunity to give a hot meal or to give of their time, talent or energy."

Schulze said an uncertain economy has driven the need for additional services.

"As a faith-based community, we have the opportunity to help fill gaps," she said. "People who have never had to access programs or services before are needing to now. Whether it's a meal or back-to-school clothes for kids, there are a lot of people who have never needed things like before who do right now. There's a unique opportunity in our economic climate for people with more to give back."

Schulze said the building is being leased from the Marysville Exempted Village School District for $65,000 a year; a combination of financial resources will help cover expenses.

"It's a very affordable price for a 54,000-square-foot building," she said. "We are not taking any tax dollars of any kind. The primary source for us is people who give online or through the mail. Churches are another source of funding, as well as grants and foundations, and we are a United Way agency."

To learn more about The Hope Center, including how to contribute, volunteer or access services, visit www.hopecenterohio.org.