During this year's State of the Community event, Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler and leaders from three community organizations gave updates on the Jeffrey Mansion expansion project, an initiative to help local students gain work experience and increasing the availability of a library program that helps with internet access while on the go.

The event was held Feb. 10 at Columbus School for Girls' Shedd Theater, 65 S. Columbia Ave.

For the first time in its nine-year history, the program took the form of a roundtable discussion with Kessler, Bexley Public Library director Ben Heckman, Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Elaine Pelz and Bexley Community Foundation board of directors chairman Jeff Walker. About 50 people attended the event.

Kessler said the city anticipates breaking ground for the planned expansion of Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., this spring.

The $3.25 million plan includes expanding the mansion's ground floor to create a multipurpose space for recreation programming and community use, installing an elevator and reconfiguring parking to create 20 more spaces. Kessler said the city has identified $2.25 million in funding thus far to implement the plan, with $1.5 million pledged by the Bexley Community Foundation, $250,000 from the state capital budget and the remainder from city funds.

"The expansion of Jeffrey Mansion is bringing more classroom space to the mansion, more event space to the mansion, and it's going to bring, for the first time ever, accessibility to the mansion" with the elevator installation, Kessler said. "We'll be able to go from this new lower level up to the third floor."

Walker said the community foundation surpassed its fundraising goal for the project. The foundation originally announced in 2017 that it would raise $1 million for the expansion.

"In 2018, we increased that goal to $1.5 million, and I'm happy to say that we wrapped up major fundraising at the end of last year with roughly $1.7 million raised for the Jeffrey project," Walker said.

Pelz said the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with area high schools and Capital University to form a new internship program for local businesses that are chamber members.

"The benefit to the students, obviously, is experiential learning as well as dipping their toes into that pool of, 'Hey, this is a career path that I might be interested in'," Pelz said. "On the reverse side, the benefit to the businesses is fresh ideas, extra hands and the possibility of hiring someone who could be a potential employee."

Bexley's library will expand a program that allows patrons to check out mobile, wireless internet hotspot devices that enable them to access the internet wherever they are, Heckman said.

The library will increase the devices available for checkout from the current five to 20 this year, which he said furthers the library's mission of connecting the community with resources and information.

"We love being the heart of the community," Heckman said.

"We are very much the connective tissue to the things that go on."

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