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Grant funds help Omro restore historic Masonic Temple - May 22 2015

OSHKOSH, WI - The Masonic Temple in Omro's nationally designated historic downtown is being renovated after Future Omro was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

Over time, the Masonic Temple and other buildings like the Old City Hall Clock Tower have deteriorated, which community leaders say is affecting the integrity and visual appeal of the downtown. A partnership, including the City of Omro, Omro Area Historical Society and Future Omro Chamber Main Street Program, has developed a plan to restore these landmark buildings to their original condition.

"This renovation aids in recruitment and retention of businesses to the area," said Dana Racine, Future Omro Chamber executive director. "More businesses in downtown and in the industrial park will lead to more employees who become residents with children in our schools and neighborhoods."

Phase I of the restoration project, which included repairing the Old City Hall Clock Tower's windows and doors, was completed last year. While the exterior of the Clock Tower was spruced up, a volunteer continues to hand-wind the clock every week.

Phase II, which is currently underway, calls for removing the bricks that have covered Masonic Temple windows for years. The bricks originally were installed to conserve energy. The restoration, performed by Laib Restoration, is being done in such a way as to return the building to its original architectural design while also protecting the historical collection within, Racine said.

The building is important in the community, not only for its historic value, but also for the colorful history of the Masons, Racine said. Initially, the Omro Lodge of the Masonic Order occupied a series of rented halls. But in 1891, the members were upset over the expensive rent ($10 per month) and decided to build their own.

"The Masonic Temple is one of the key historic cornerstone buildings located on Main Street," Racine said. "The community is very proud of the Temple as it serves as the location to one of the area's longest standing Free Masonry Chapters, having been chartered in 1867."

Volunteers and community players from Omro and the surrounding cities collaborated to raise more than $25,000 for the restoration projects. John Steen, past president of the Omro Historical Society, has been an advocate for rejuvenating the downtown area.

"My wife, Melanie, and I helped raise this money the old fashioned way - by knocking on doors and talking to people," Steen said. "I think when these historical windows are finished, it'll be a great jump start for downtown Omro."

The project is expected to be complete by July 4, just in time for the Temple to be on display during Omro's Fourth of July parade and festivities.

Racine said about $2,500 needs to be raised to support the restoration projects, and additional donations will support future work including revising historical markers and creating historic walking tours of the community, walking trails and a community bike program. Contributions can be directed to the Future Omro Chamber Main Street Program. Contact Dana Racine for details at 920-685-7005 or dracine@omro-wi.com.

Community Impact grants, such as the grant to support the restoration of Omro's Masonic Temple, are supported by generous donors that have entrusted the Foundation with using their charitable gifts to address emerging community needs. Estate gifts from Richard Bork, Norma E. Sartwell and John and Helen Schuster made these recent grants possible:

ADVOCAP, Inc. - $60,000 (over three years)
To help at least 75 low-income people in Winnebago and Green Lake counties obtain transportation that helps them achieve self-sufficiency through the Work-N-Wheels program.

ASTOP, Inc.- $4,600
To increase support for victims of sexual abuse in Green Lake County through a case management approach, which cares for the individual's crisis in a holistic way.

Green Lake County - $2,912
To support training for the start-up of a Drug Treatment Court that would expand existing services to provide alternatives to incarceration for individuals facing criminal charges for offenses motivated by drug or alcohol addiction.

Oshkosh Area Community Pantry - $1,500
To purchase technology to better communicate program and community resource information, as well as improve data collection and reporting.

Park View Health Center - $1,987
To buy a Nu-Step Recumbent Trainer for physical therapy to improve residents' and outpatients' strength, as well as increase their endurance and mobility.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call 920-426-3993.
 

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