OnlineNW is constructing a world-class fiber internet network on the West Valley Community Campus in Willamina. 

The West Valley Community Campus (WVCC) is a building dedicated to providing space for community members to connect. But before it was a collaborative community center, it was a high school. Built in 1938, the campus was eventually abandoned by the school district when a new high school was built on the other side of town. This left the campus unattended, directly exposed to weather damage, overgrowth and decay. 

Around seven years ago, plans of deconstruction were in motion and the town was preparing to tear the structure down. But during this time, a community member bought the campus with an aspiration: to turn it into a community center and foster the growth of cultural, recreational and educational opportunities for the community. And in December of last year, the campus was officially donated to the West Valley Community Center volunteer team for a total restoration.

Today, it is a work in progress that is steadily creating more and more opportunities for people to collaborate with one another and see their creative aspirations come to life. Regular activities include health classes such as yoga and soap making, as well as music events and seasonal festivals. Moreover, several rooms are open for rent for events such as meetings, wedding receptions, dances, reunions, and parties. These rented rooms help support the growth and operation of the building, while forming greater connections within the community. 

A gathering place at the campus

Marian Lucas is the vice-chair of the WVCC board, and has been one of the project leaders after joining the team as a volunteer bookkeeper roughly six years ago. Marian is currently an active contributor to the growth and development of the campus, having lent a considerable amount of her time as a volunteer. Reflecting on the substantial role that this new fiber connection will provide the campus, she said: “The difficult thing about rural living, is that it can be isolating. But it’s so good for the spirit to have community.” More than ever before, the community of Willamina is empowered not only with a connection to one another, but a significant connection to the global economy. “The sky’s the limit,” Marian said. She explained the aspiration for the community center: “The idea is that someone has a dream. And the WVCC provides a space for those dreams to develop.” 

The campus board is doing amazing things for the development of the center. But the community collaboration extends beyond the center itself, as other volunteers have teamed up to help establish a vision and generate excitement among surrounding communities to unify and bring change to their region. 

Arthur leads the discussion at the 2019 WVVP community dinner

Arthur Schwartz is the chairman of the West Valley Visioning Project (WVVP), a separate volunteer team built from a diverse variety of members with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. This team is dedicated to bringing the new wave of Innovation to both their communities and school districts by encouraging tech-based advancements and developing stronger connections. While doing so, they reach out to their community over their website and Facebook page in the form of interactive activities like community polls, photo contests, and free community dinners. All is done with the goal to involve one another with the development of their region. Arthur says, “we want people to be able to hold the vision of what we can accomplish.” 

The WVVP is teamed with the Ford Family Foundation: an organization that is dedicated to the west valley and is currently guiding the WVVP through the process of bringing positive changes to their community one step at a time. The team is creating plans and cultivating ideas to strengthen the west valley itself — including bordering towns of Sheridan and Grand Ronde. Arthur says: “We could benefit our communities by collaborating. We’re so much stronger when we band together and build our bridges.” 

Printed photo entries from the 2019 photo contest

Susan Richman, yoga instructor at the community campus as well as active WVVP volunteer, says: “The biggest changes happen at ground level. And we’re an amazing group of people that can get things done.”

Community hubspots like the West Valley Community Center bring people together in spectacular ways. With a powerful connection to worlds undiscovered, future advancements are becoming more and more achievable. Moving forward, the Visioning Project will continue to harness change-making aspirations of the community to advance forward. And the Community Center will develop further, now with a leading-edge fiber network providing a more powerful internet connection than ever before. 

To get involved with the West Valley Community Center or the Visioning Project, visit their websites. They are always accepting new volunteers.

West Valley Community Center: westvalleycommunitycampus.org

West Valley Visioning Project: wvvproject.org