Field project gets boost

WHEELING – Philanthropy is nothing new for members of the Schenk family, who have joined the list of those supporting the planned East Wheeling J.B. Chambers Recreation Park.

City officials joined trustees of the Albert Schenk III and Kathleen H. Schenk Charitable Trust on Tuesday to announce a $150,000 contribution from the foundation to the project, construction of which is expected to begin sometime in mid-August. Louise Coulling, daughter of the organization’s namesakes, said the focus on improving the lives of local youth sold them on the project.

“We are interested in helping children and helping revitalize East Wheeling. … We really love Wheeling. It’s our hometown, and we love to give grants locally,” Coulling said.

Albert Schenk III died in June 1995, and his family established the trust in his name three years later. His sizable donation to Oglebay Park in 1953 led to the creation of Schenk Lake, where park patrons today still enjoy paddle boats, fishing and Oglebay’s annual Independence Day fireworks show.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said safety, recreation and family gathering places are some of the most important things people look for in a city. He believes the new recreation park will enhance Wheeling in each of those areas.

“We felt this was a great way to enhance our downtown area, particularly East Wheeling,” McKenzie said.

Publicly announced contributions toward the project from non-governmental sources now total $1.25 million. Other sources include the J.B. Chambers Foundation, at $750,000; Wheeling Hospital, at $250,000; and the Bordas & Bordas law firm and the Roy and Dorothy Chambers Foundation, at $50,000 each.

Total project costs, including property acquisition, demolition, design and construction, total about $3.3 million. Identified funding sources total $3.01 million, including announced donations, the $1.2 million taxpayers have spent on the project to date and the $560,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding the city plans to spend to replace the Elks Playground.

The Tuesday announcement came on the same day City Council heard first reading of several measures related to the East Wheeling project that will come up for a vote Aug. 6, including the award of $2.08 million in construction contracts to James White Construction of Weirton, and a loan of up to $1.15 million to get construction started.

City leaders still are seeking another $200,000 to $300,000 in donations, according to McKenzie. Some donation pledges will be fulfilled in several yearly installments, Herron said, but the city needs cash now in order to finish the project this fall.