Grace Youth Center donated as new library
St. George — The Jackson Memorial Library was just a few months from starting construction on a new building when the Lillius Gilchrest Grace Institute offered an alternative — the former youth center at 71 Main St. in Tenants Harbor.
The Grace Institute’s gift to the library, finalized July 3, is a five-year-old building on eight acres of land next to the St. George School.
Board President Margie Grace Shethar said financial constraints had forced the center's closure.
"It was a difficult decision to close the Youth Center after so much hard work by staff and board members," she said. She added that the Grace Institute has served the youth of St. George for 70 years.
"It's an incredible building, closer to the school and the town office and will be a bigger and more robust facility,” said library Director Yvonne Gloede in a news release. “We’re going to be able to do so much more for children, adults and families at this new site. With the closing of the youth center there will be an even greater need for the library to provide more programs aimed at middle school students.”
The library staff will be expanded to accommodate additional programs and hours of operation.
Money donated for the new library will be used for renovation and create an endowment for building maintenance.
The current Jackson Memorial Library building was a gift to the town that housed the library for 77 years. The library board will return the gift to the town so citizens can vote on what to do with the vacant property.
The former youth center building is more than double the planned space for the new library. "It's an excellent space, plus the eight acres are gorgeous," said Jim Graf, co-chairman of the capital campaign.
The library hopes to collaborate with the town conservation committee to create nature trails on the property. "The traditional learning experiences in the library will be expanded to the outside," said Graf.
The building can function as a library and a community center, open to artists, programs and various community groups. "The possibilities are really limitless," he said.
Board President Susan Bates said she is sorry to lose the location on Main Street. "It was going to be a wonderful presence, but everybody understands the gain in terms of space and location next to the school," she said.
The board members said the closing of the youth center is unfortunate and they are committed to fill that void by providing a safe place for students.
There will be an open house July 31 from 5 to 7 p.m. for the community to see the building before renovations begin.