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900 Coalition: Restoring Garrettsville’s Historic Identity

GARRETTSVILLE – A new grassroots organization called the 900 Coalition is hosting their first community fundraising event: “Tools of the Trades Day” on Saturday, September 8, at the former Paul’s Lumber Yard at 8018 French Street (off of Freedom Street) from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Vehicles from many different occupations and trades will be on display for kids and adults to explore. Inflatable bounce attractions will provide entertainment. Additional activities will be indoors.

“The 900 Coalition was recently formed as a way to generate funds for local projects that will have lasting beneficial impacts for the entire community,” says Garrettsville Police Department Sgt. Eric Dunn, Director of the 900 Coalition. 

The organization’s name originates from the area it serves. Among Portage County safety services, the Garrettsville area and the Garrettsville Police Department are known as “900” when identified by other agencies on the police radio. The term “coalition” represents the alliance among groups for a common goal — to serve the Garrettsville community. Those involved are members of Garrettsville safety services. Their goal is to become a non-profit fundraising entity, and are raising capital to file for non-profit status with the IRS.

Next on their list: Raising funds for their initial project: to place a fitness facility inside the Community EMS garage for employees of the police, fire, and EMS agencies.

Pending funding, the 900 Coalition plans a joint project with the Eagles Club to place a statue of Garrettsville founder John Garrett prominently in the village. The proposed site is on the Eagles’ new property at the corner of Water and Center streets, across from the location of John Garrett’s original mill.

Funds will also be sought to design and construct a September 11, 2001 memorial in the village.

Dunn explains, “The 900 Coalition will strive to be an ally of support for local government projects, or privately funded projects, that provide a benefit to the community. We will only be successful if the people get involved and contribute. For those employees in the service agencies that have not got word of our organization, then this is an open invitation to come join us. Folks are eligible to participate if they are employed by the Garrettsville Police Department, The Garrettsville-Freedom-Nelson Fire District, and Community EMS District. For those in the community that are just now hearing about us, come support us.”

Born and raised in Warren, Dunn was hired in 1993 as a reserve police officer on the Garrettsville Police Department. He has coached basketball in the Garrettsville schools, and his wife is from Garrettsville. “I have seen many changes to the village throughout my tenure here,”Dunn says.

“I see the community’s biggest issue as the loss of it’s identity. It seems more and more of “Garrett” is being removed from “Garrettsville.” The 900 Coalition hopefully can help restore more “Garrett” back to Garrettsville. There has been great development and growth, but there has also been significant loss, especially in historical aspects. Many landmarks that define “Garrettsville” are being lost or are in need of restoration.”

Dunn explained that the police department is housed in a building that was built in 1928; originally the location of the Garrettsville Journal. Though historical, the building is not ideal for use as a police facility. “So starting back in the early 2000s, I was pushing for the PD to send me to a grant writing class to pursue funds to upgrade the facilities and equipment,” Dunn said. He is now in the process of preparing grant applications for the police department. “So basically, the idea was at first to just help find funds for the police department but morphed into a bigger enterprise to help the village as a whole.”

Dunn has worked here for almost 19 years, and feels that Garrettsville is his second home. “I am investing my time and money in Garrettsville because I feel that Garrettsville has a great story to tell and the potential for a robust future,” he explained.

Dunn’s motto for the future is to bring the Garrett back to Garrettsville. “Right now our history is disintegrating before our eyes,” he says. “Are we going to leave our children rotting buildings and vacant lots, or can we reinvest and rebuild using modern techniques and a historical theme suited to carry on the Garrettsville name for another 150 years? John Garrett took a mighty big risk in coming here and settling. He took his limited finances and invested them in this area with no guarantee of success. Obviously, his investment is a reality today. It’s time to pay it forward.

“I believe that the time is right to start investing in Garrettsville’s future while highlighting the things that draw the most people to it. That being a small historical town that hasn’t lost touch, or the appearance of, where it came from.”

For Tools of the Trades Day, additional organizations are encouraged to share their vehicle or piece of equipment for the event. Sponsors are being asked to help provide promotional material and souvenir shirts for people attending. The 900 Coalition would like to also hand out back-to-school packages at this event. Dunn encourages businesses and agencies to donate educational material for this initiative.

Anyone interested in donating to the 900 Coalition should make out checks or money orders to “900 Coalition.” Donations are also accepted for the 900 Coalition at Middlefield Bank.  Dunn can be reached at edunn904@aol.com. The coalition’s Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/900Coalition.

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