Cooper Community Resource Center Unveiled to Public


Photo by Abe Frato, Photo Edito

On Thursday, March 30, the new Cooper Community Resource Center opened to the public for the first time since Oberlin Community Services acquired the building and surrounding property. The building, located at 500 E. Lorain St. in Oberlin, is approximately 27,000 square feet and located on a four-acre property. It will be outfitted with loading docks, a large warehouse, walk-in coolers, and a dedicated space for the Choice Food Pantry.

After weighing the costs of expanding its current building, constructing a new facility, or moving to other locations, OCS purchased the property on East Lorain Street from the National Association of College Stores for $1 million. Funding for the initial purchase of the building was provided to OCS by Roger and Fran Cooper.

Roger Cooper worked at Oberlin College as the treasurer from 1970–1984, while Fran Cooper worked for law and mortgage firms and as an administrative assistant at the College.

Fran Cooper, who volunteered at OCS, said that the couple had decided to donate the funds because they believe in the mission of the organization.

“I’m so excited that this new building is coming,” Fran Cooper said. “This building will be an uplifting building and a hub for organizations.”

Another anonymous donor gave $500,000 toward a community room on the first floor, which will be named after Ann Fuller, executive director of OCS from 1981–2006. The current stage of the capital campaign aims to raise $400,000 from the public to renovate the property. Nearly 1,000 pledge cards were distributed in Oberlin Friday, March 31. Donors were also asked to collect spare change in medicine bottles and deliver them to OCS through the month of April.

“We want everyone to have the chance to help make the Cooper Community Resource Center a reality,” Connie Ponder, a member of the OCS board, said. “Whether that means giving a dollar or ten dollars or a hundred dollars or a thousand, all your gifts are meaningful, and we welcome them because they’ve come from the heart. Oberlin is a heartful community.”

An anonymous couple has pledged to match capital campaign donations up to $100,000 in memory of Jacqui Willis, a volunteer and board member of OCS.

Willis lived in Oberlin for 40 years and was deeply involved in the City and the surrounding community. She worked as an administrator and media specialist at Lorain, Elyria, and Strongsville City Schools and served the community in organizations including Oberlin Recreation Committee, Athletic Boosters, Lorain County Alliance of Black School Educators, Jack and Jill, Inc., Oberlin Black Alliance for Progress, and OCS. At OCS, Willis organized the annual Juneteenth picnic, volunteered weekly at the choice food pantry, and collected back-to-school supplies for Oberlin children each summer.

“Jacqui would say, if she were here, ‘There’s no gift too small, as long as you’re helping people,’” Susan Egloff, a longtime sustaining donor of OCS, said.

OCS has contracted Williams Brothers Builders Inc. to begin renovating the first floor of the building in April. The first phase of renovations will create space for OCS’ food pantry and food warehouse, and renovations are expected to finish by August.

“Our hope is that we will be able to move in by fall,” Executive Director of OCS Margie Flood said.

OCS anticipates future renovations on the second floor of the building, to create office space for OCS partner organizations such as Providing Oberlin With Efficiency Responsibly.

“We are really excited about getting other area partners in the office space to make a community resource center,” Flood said. “Right now, legal aid comes to OCS once a month, but OCS doesn’t have the space to give them a full office. What we are talking about now is having an office [at 500 E. Lorain St.] so they can be onsite more often. That’s how it is with a lot of our community organizations — for example, POWER has an office at OCS, but [they] have to share it with several people, so now [they] will have their own office and our partnership can continue.”

Greg Jones, energy advocate at POWER, sees the collaboration between nonprofits as key to their mutual success.

“It just was a natural fit for what we do in housing to match up with what Oberlin Community Services did with all the other services,” Jones said. “That’s why it’s important now, for all help services — if you are a help service to people, then you need to be in one spot so people can find you and get help.”

Flood also expressed OCS’ goal of making the building energy-efficient.

“Eventually we hope to finish with solar panels on the roof and really make this a model community resource center,” Flood said.