By MADI LIETZ
Of the Keizertimes
The Keizer Grange Hall is well known for its historic roots in the city, starting as the Keizer School to being a meaningful community place, Grange Hall number 785 will now continue its history as a new youth mentoring center.
Tim Davis, CEO of Valor Mentoring and The REC, is the new owner of the Keizer Grange Hall where he will start another youth mentoring center. Valor Mentoring is looking at opening and operating the center in early October of this year while still honoring the building’s past.
Being steps from McNary High School, this youth center will offer a variety of study and mentorship opportunities to Keizer students. In the downstairs of the hall, there will be a coffee shop/study area. The cafe will open at 7 a.m. providing teens with places to work, electronic plug ins, and snacks. The upstairs of the building features a wide open space along with a stage that will host various activities including video game tournaments, open mic nights, karaoke, and more. The space will also be used for mentoring and tutoring programs.
Early October is the goal for operation. Davis says his team will try to improve the building by a dramatic amount and whatever is left over by October will be saved for “phase two.” He expects the center to serve 200–500 kids a week when fully running.
“It doesn’t make sense to us to have it go till February when the school year is half over,” Davis said.
Renovations have already been made to the building with many more to come. The Grange Hall is getting a new look from licensed electricians, landscapers painters and others. Many people have also stepped up to help Valor Mentoring with their construction, Rodda Paint donated gallons of paint to help decorate the outside walls. GD Tech donated to Valor Mentoring along with supporting a full-color LED reader-board sign for the outside of the youth center.
Other community members have and still can help support the Keizer Grange Hall’s new purpose through three different sponsorships. When donating $25 a month or donations of $100 or more, a person can get their photo put into a large collage of images within a six-foot mural of The REC logo. Donors who contribute $1,000 can get their signature on The REC mural. People who donated $10,000 or more will have their name engraved on a commemorative plaque honoring those founding donors.
The full purchase price of the Keizer Grange Hall is $500,000 not including any of the renovations made to the building. Davis says that Valor Mentoring is going to do this project debt–free by raising the money. They’re doing this through private giving companies and through fundraising efforts. Marion County is also partnering with Valor Mentoring and will be providing some funds for the project.
When creating The REC the Valor Mentoring team took a few before and after photographs along with including some memorable artwork throughout the establishment. For this project, Davis says he wants to do a better job at documenting the building’s story. Davis went back into the Keizer Grange Hall’s history files finding articles and photographs from 70 years ago. One of the photos showcased the past board of directors and their wives in front of the Grange Hall. Davis is now enlisting the help of the Keizer art community to put those photos into large frames. Another treasure found in the hall was original china that featured saucers and plates each engraved with 785. Davis knows he wants to do something to honor the Grange’s number “785” but isn’t sure how he will yet.
“Just different ways we can honor the Grange and offer people who are visiting a mini history lesson of what the building is about,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest history lesson will be Davis’s virtual reality (VR) project. Before any improvements were made to the Keizer Grange Hall, Gregory Dean Photography went inside and took a 360-degree rendering of the upstairs and downstairs. When finished, visitors will get the chance to use VR Goggles to see the Grange Hall before it was bought, halfway through renovations, and then the building’s final product.
Davis says doing a better job of telling the Grange’s story was important to him because this isn’t the last building Valor Mentoring is going to buy. They are continuing to look for places and opportunities in the city or around Keizer that can serve the community in a healthy way.
Something that made purchasing the Grange Hall more difficult was its limited parking access. The youth mentoring center will be intended as a place that students can walk to after school or arrive by city bus. In the evenings parents can drop off and pick up kids as well. Davis is also looking into a partnership with McNary to see if during events visitors can use the school’s parking lot, but nothing has been agreed upon yet.
The new mentoring center will also be a youth-led facility by an advisory board comprised of two Clagget Creek Middle School students, two Whiteaker Middle School students, three McNary High School students, two Corban University students, and two Chemeketa Community College students along with Davis and former mayor Lore Christopher.
The group will meet monthly to speak about what type of programming they would like to see at the center. They’ll get to input what days of the week will work better for certain events and menu item options. The students will also get to see how much the facility spends on coffee, wages, electricity, and taxes. Allowing them to get real-life experience in running a business. Davis hopes that it will serve as leadership development for the students.
Davis says that Valor Mentoring relies not only on their staff but volunteers for this project. They welcome any community input on landscaping, plants, photography, art, and more to help with the work on the Keizer Grange Hall. With the amount of kids the center expects to be interacting with they won’t be able to staff every service, more volunteer opportunities can be found on the Valor Mentoring website valormentoring.com.
Davis hopes teens find the new youth center as a place where they can feel safe and have fun. He wants students to have a space where they can do activities they’re passionate about and is looking forward to being able to focus more on mentoring programs in this new location.