By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
The transformation of the old Keizer School building into a community center was just the beginning.
A community-wide effort to save the local landmark was critical. So was a match of urban renewal dollars and a cheap place to put the building when all was said and done.
Al and Anne Rasmus got involved on the ground floor. Anne volunteered in the city manager’s office and they lived across the street from Les Zaitz, a Keizertimes publisher who helped raise $250,000 in 90 days to spare the Keizer School from the bulldozer.
Al had recently retired after selling his title business, and at age 52 was looking for something to do. Anne had been in engineering and was volunteering in her own right.
“I’m the second of 12 children,” Anne said. “I’ve been busy all my life. It was an opportunity to learn, to work with the community.”
Al drafted a business plan and Anne helped with the fundraising effort. Soon enough the money was raised, the building moved and restored.
“If there hadn’t been the plan, we wouldn’t have this (building),” said JoAnne Beilke, a former Keizer Heritage Foundation president and its current strategic planner. “He pulled together a plan that was workable for the fundraisers to get behind.”
But once the fanfare died down, someone had to run the thing. Al and Anne have never accepted a dime to ensure the Keizer Heritage Center was something the community could all be proud of.
The results are evident. It gave a home to some of Keizer’s long-standing and fledgling cultural organizations, like the Keizer Art Association and the Reading Connection (now the Keizer Community Library). It gave rise to the Heritage Museum, where monthly exhibits entertain and offer insight into our history.
Beilke said it all goes back to Al’s original plan, which included leasing space to nonprofits and using an upstairs room for rentals to keep the building looking fresh.
Thanks to their efforts keeping the facility booked for everything from weddings to community forums, the rent charged to those organizations is nominal. And taxpayers haven’t contributed a dime to the building in more than a decade.
“They are passionate, resilient, and humble while they tend to the our town’s oldest public building,” said Keizer Chamber of Commerce President Rich Duncan, who presented the Chamber President’s Award to Al and Anne at the chamber banquet Saturday night.
Duncan has had a chance to see their handiwork up close and personal. He was the foreman on the restoration project, and the chamber was in the building for many years until its recent relocation to Keizer Station.
“The time and commitment to that building – there’s hundreds of hours,” he said.