WOOD RIVER — The people of Wood River are putting the old Good Samaritan Society nursing home to good use.
The building, which was vacated in 2019, is already the home of the Stick Creek Kids Child Development Center.
Work is now underway to move the town’s senior center, library and food pantry into the building.
When it’s all done, it will be called Legacy Station.
After residents were evacuated in the flood of 2019, the Good Samaritan Society decided to close the nursing home for good. The people behind the Stick Creek Kids Child Development Center, who had been thinking about building their own structure, realized it would be a good fit for them. Stick Creek is located in the northern part of the building. Right now, the south wing is vacant.
“The whole premise behind Legacy Station is to bring the four pillars of a community — the child care center, the senior center, the food pantry and the library — under one roof, in a building that had been the cornerstone of the community for half a century,” said Wood River native Michelle Setlik.
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Wood River is taking the space and “turning it into something for the benefit of the entire community,” Setlik said.
Wood River, she said, will be the only community in Nebraska that will have a senior center, food pantry, library and child care center in one building. It will be a multi-generational community center.
The cost of the project is expected to be $3.1 million. Funds and pledges received so far total about $1.2 million. That amount includes $400,000 donated by a Wood River native, and a $433,000 community development block grant. The city has also committed money.
The public phase of the drive began recently, aiming to raise the additional $1.8 million.
If things go well, construction will begin in August, with the work finishing up in July 2024.
The benefits of the project will be many. The food pantry now has limited space inside the Wood River Senior Center, which is at 120 E. Ninth, next to the grocery store.
“The food pantry has never had its own dedicated space,” Setlik said. With the move, it will have greater refrigeration and freezer capacity. There’ll be more tables and room for volunteers to work.
The senior center will also expand. Food served at the senior center is already made in the Stick Creek Kids kitchen.
In its new home, the library’s space will more than double — from 1,950 to 4,385 square feet.
Librarian Veronica Kaufman says the plan is exciting.
The new library will have a meeting room that seats 35 people. The library will include room for young people, a technology room (including makerspace) and a genealogy heritage room.
When the new facility opens, the current Maltman Memorial Library will close.
The size of the old Good Samaritan building will not increase, but access in the area will improve. A drive will be built connecting Lilly and East streets. The increased access will make it easier for food to be unloaded from trucks.
“There’ll be added parking as well,” said Matt Troyer-Miller, pastor of Wood River’s Mennonite Church. The food pantry is a ministry of Wood River’s churches.
The pantry is expected to become busier. For some people, there’s a stigma attached to picking up free food. But when patrons enter the new building, people won’t even know where they’re heading.
The project creates possibilities for different organizations to work together, Troyer-Miller said.
It will also create intergenerational experiences. People visiting the Senior Center will be able to look at the Stick Creek kids playing outside.
The seniors will be able to read to children and hold babies.
The young people from Stick Creek Kids will have easy access to the library.
Another benefit: People working inside the building will be able to help out with the other ventures when needed.
“And that’s really what small towns do,” Setlik said.
On top of everything else, the building will also serve as a storm shelter.
Gifts of $1,000 or more will be eligible for a Nebraska income tax credit while supplies last.
To learn more about the Legacy Station project, call Eric Nielsen at 308-380-5448, Sara Arnett at 308-380-7030, Veronica Kaufman at 402-649-7967, Matt Troyer-Miller at 308-380-3852, Susie Powell at 308-390-3491. Heather Rotter at 319-520-7502, Setlik at 308-380-4480 or Mayor Greg Cramer at 308-379-5575.