YOUNGSTOWN Center to open shelter

The agency won several grants to build the windowless concrete and steel structure.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Violent winds and rain may whip the red cinder block addition to the front corner of the McGuffey Centre.
Inside, however, is the calm during the storm.
The addition blends seamlessly into the East Side community center's red brick facade. Youths and senior citizens who take cover inside the new $83,325 storm shelter certainly will notice, however, when nasty weather hits.
McGuffey Centre officials will unveil the new addition Tuesday after four months of construction.
Situation: The community center was built on Jacobs Road in the 1960s. There was no place to go, however, during a tornado warning or other such potential weather emergency, said Jennifer C. Miller, the executive director.
The building's basement stairs are narrow. That's not something you want to face trying to quickly get youths ages 5 to 18 and senior citizens -- some in wheelchairs -- out of harm's way.
"They weren't able to get down the stairs," said Lillian Cunningham, the center's administrative assistant.
McGuffey Centre has a variety of after-school education and recreation programs. It also has workshops for senior citizens, some up to 90 years old.
The agency looked at ways to turn one existing room in the building into a safe shelter. The two-story building could collapse in extreme weather, however, so a separate room was needed.
Grants: The agency won several state and federal grants to help build the 32-foot by 30-foot, windowless concrete and steel shelter. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency paid $32,700 and the Federal Emergency Management Agency $30,375. The center added $20,250.
The room is big enough for about 60 people and has a furnace and air conditioning. There is a handicap-accessible restroom and a kitchen sink and counters. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets can store food, blankets and other emergency supplies. Ceiling tiles should minimize the howling wind noises from outside. That will help keep children and older people calm in an emergency, Cunningham said.
The grants came in January and construction started in June.
The center expects to become part of the Mahoning County emergency plan, sheltering people in weather emergencies, Miller said.

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