Westerville News & Public Opinion

WARM growing into new space

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After more than 850 hours of work by more than 300 volunteers, the Westerville Area Resource Ministry is finally settling into its roomy new home at 150 Heatherdown Drive.

The local charity, which runs a food pantry and provides social counseling services for clients, purchased the new $1.2 million facility in April. It since has been transitioning from its longtime quarters -- and long overcrowded quarters -- at 175 E. Broadway Ave.

WARM Executive Director Scott Marier said that reception to the new building has been great, and upgrading from about 6,300 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet has revolutionized WARM's work.

"We love it. It's fantastic," he said. "It's only been three weeks, and the dust is still settling. ... We'll be recalibrating for some time because of the adjustment we've made."

While the endeavor was large both in size and in financial impact, Marier cautioned against assuming that WARM is growing for the sake of growing.

"When we were leasing before, there was always a sense of, 'Are they permanent?' " Marier said. "This ensures our sustainability.

"It's not about WARM and getting bigger -- it's about need and service. We didn't buy this building to build some sort of fiefdom. It's really a response to the demand."

Marier made it a point to note that the Westerville City School District -- the geographic area which WARM serves -- is the 11th-largest in Ohio, giving the organization a large responsibility.

"That footprint is large and broad," Marier said. "Most people think of it as a smaller place than it really is."

With nearly seven times the space and new warehouses, offices, meeting space and a chapel, Marier said WARM is better equipped at its new location to help those in need.

"It really takes the expectations of operation to the next level," he said. "It's not the Taj Mahal, but there's definitely a new expectation of being a part of Westerville."

Despite the massive transition, WARM never paid a moving company, and its volunteers completed the entire project. Even Marier was impressed.

"The key for us is our team of volunteers, who accepted the challenge of moving and not missing a day of service," he said. "We never shut down. It was maybe a bigger challenge than I thought when I challenged them originally."

As it starts this new chapter in its history, WARM is set up at the new location using only about 20,000 of its 40,000 square feet. And Marier still isn't sure how the rest of the space will be put to use in the future.

In the meantime, they've allowed the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club to store the flags for its annual Field of Heroes display in one of their storage rooms. They have discussed allowing a doctor or dentist to rent part of the vacant office space. Regardless of use, WARM has plenty of space.

Now, rather than aspiring to bigger things and more expansion, Marier said WARM can focus on service, and won't have to worry about its building for quite a long time.

"We won't have to build in my lifetime," he laughed, "or maybe the lifetime of another one or two other executive directors."

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