Mantua – “Community Center? I hope to tell ya! Look at it; look at all the people who are here.  There ain’t no more places to park, so many people.  We’ve needed this—a place to gather– for a long time”, she said, directing her friend to the old principal’s office.  “That was Tom Rauber’s office.  I ought to know, I was in it enough times!”  So said a 40ish blonde lady touring the building.  And overheard while walking about the hundred plus year-old Mantua Center School building: “I just love it here (in Mantua). I work in Akron, teach there, I live in Stow, but I’m building a house now off Center road. Going to move back, hopefully by this summer.  This building is everything that was/is Mantua. I grew up here, went to this school. We all–my sister and brother– turned out pretty well.   I want my kids to be able to experience everything about a small town that I did.”  And another comment heard while on the top floor: “I live in Cleveland now but I went here to this school as a kid, went through this school. I’m bringing back my own children, Sarah and Bobby here, to see and experience this building.” And finally, exclaimed by an elderly man eating a hot dog with sauerkraut, “This place is built like a bomb shelter—walls are 30 inches thick, I think……. what with the new administration and going’s on in Washington,  we may just need it for that!”
If the building could talk, a deep voice would reverberate from deep within and would say, “I haven’t seen so many people going up and down my stairs in 15 years.  Boy, are those footsteps nice!  Yep, they all got older but I still recognize ‘em all!”  People came from not just the Crestwood School area but from Akron, Hiram, all over Cleveland thanks to the generous coverage by our three local newspapers—The Villager, The Record Courier, and The Community Journal.  Perhaps this is a great testament to the fact that, despite the internet and social medias, local newspapers are indeed not passé, but in fact are blending right in to this newer dissemination of information.

So it went during the morning and afternoon by the likes of any number of people who showed up on this Saturday to walk through the Mantua Center School and see the process of renovation in action—the adding of an elevator to allow people to easily get up and down the  three flights of stairs. “I’d like to have a nickle for every time I climbed those stairs,” said a  middle aged man once again climbing those stairs. “Mrs. Schweitzer’s room was up here.  She was my favorite teacher.”  A conservative estimate of 250-300 plus people attended, walked about the whole building, examined the artwork being auctioned off, and bought dozens and dozens of homemade cookies–more cookies available than Carter has liver pills, (remember those?) as they say. There was lots of food available for lunch; simply make a donation—your choice of hamburgers, hot dogs, a raft of salads, and pastries.

Of course one of the main purposes of the SweetheART Walk was to raise money for the continuing renovation of the building and show support by the community for this project that means so much to so many. And this support is so much needed and appreciated by Trustee Victor Grimm who has nurtured this project along from conception to fruition.
One of the secondary ideas of the whole art auction was to allow the community to see what progress has been made with the installation of the elevator.  The whole project is moving along nicely.  The auction drew a crowd of about 75 to 100 people who were bidding on any of over eighty items ranging from carved wood items to band saw boxes of walnut, to local scenes by local artists and residents.  Rick Painley, father of Leanne Painley, a Task Force Member and creator of the Cookie Walk, was the auctioneer who did a lively and magnificent job of auctioning off various paintings and creations.  Two scenes depicting rural and farm scenes, painted by much-beloved Crestwood teacher Marilyn Alger went for three hundred dollars. The Alger family decided to donate the paintings because the school was so important to Marilyn.

A very popular item was kids’ art.  This was a print making project by Mrs. Timbrook’s 5th grade class. Each student started with a photograph of their choosing, created an image in carved styrofoam, and made prints from it. They also wrote artist’s statement about what they had done. There were nine paintings.  All were a huge hit and inspired quite a bidding war. They sold for a good buck.  Other popular items were woodcraft, ceramics, and glass and enamel and metal creations as well as paintings by local people.
It is conservatively estimated that the event brought in  over $3500, all of which goes to the ongoing construction of the Mantua Center School Community Center. Needless to say, next year’s event is already being scheduled and designed.

It is obvious that the local community came together on a number of levels to rally forth and make this a success.  The two entities that cooperated to put this event on were the Mantua Restoration Society, headed by Carole Pollard, and the Community Center Task Force chaired by Terry Vechery.  Pollard stated, “The people of this community clearly want and support the kinds of things that the Mantua Restoration Society Inc. advocates.  Our purpose is to save and renovate Mantua Township buildings and sites.”  They have engaged in fundraising  and activities since 2010.  The Task Force was created to develop a Community Center at Mantua Center School.

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Skip Schweitzer, of Mantua, can be described from early on in life as an avid outdoorsman and old car restorer and aficionado. He comes from a long line of great lakes fishermen and hunters. He is a taxidermist and a retired psychologist. His grandfather Charles, a machinist and fisherman who fed his family with fish during the Great Depression, was one of the original auto restorers at the Thompson Auto Museum, now the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. Skip learned to hunt, fish and restore cars from his father Roy and learned the value and appreciation of antique automobiles from his grandfather. Skip has, over the years, restored upwards of 25 automobiles including many Fords, Studebakers, Buicks, Jeeps and VWs. Skip has written extensively on automobiles and outdoors for several newspapers, magazines and auto publications this past 20 years. His current antique automobiles include a 1930 Ford Model “A”, and a 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Skip’s most frequent bylines are, Outdoors With Skip, and The Old Road.