100 Year Old Schoolhouse Gets New Life As Community Center - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/24/04

100 Year Old Schoolhouse Gets New Life As Community Center

With a little tender love and care and a lot of sweat, volunteers breathing new life into a piece of Stone County history.

Right now they are working to turn back the clock on a 100 year old schoolhouse by transforming it into a new community center.

"First and second grade was together and I was in this room," said Judy Bechtel while walking through the halls of the school

She says It breaks her heart to see what time and neglect have done to the place where she says her love of learning started.

"I retired the year before last with 28 years of teaching," said Bechtel."I got my start right here."

Tired of seeing the building waste away Bechtel and other volunteers are giving the old Home School building new life as the Big Level Community Center, where neighbors can come for weddings, reunions and meetings.

Faye Cooley is one of the volunteers.

She has always admired the hardwood floors and 13-foot ceilings.

"We did have an option of having something new but when you look at the structure itself and the memories. Why would you take and just bulldoze a building down or let it go to waste when you can take the same money and put into it and make it just a tremendously gorgeous project?" said Cooley.

Jack Breeland is a graduate of the school, so was his father.

The 80-year-old spent Saturday teaching 12 year olds Ethan and Evan Riley how to replace the building's window panes.

"My generation won't be here much longer," said Breland. "So hopefully we can get some younger people involved and bring them on to more interest in the place and keep it going."

More than 30 years after closing the school's former students say they still cherish memories of their time at Home School and they want to make sure future generations have that same opportunity.

Volunteers also plan to construct a walking track, a baseball diamond, and an arena.

All the work is being paid for with donations.

For more information on how you can help or book an event call Faye Cooley at 601-928-2743.

By: Danielle Thomas

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