The Augusta Levy Learning Center, like its namesake, has served the Ohio Valley for quite a while. It has left an impact on the lives of local children that can’t quite be matched.
It made its home in North Wheeling, at the old Sacred Heart Church in North Wheeling, where they stayed for ten years.
On July 7 at about 9 a.m., authorities received a call about a fire.
“When I drove here from the tunnels, I could see the smoke and just prayed it wouldn’t interfere with our building or they could get it out quickly,” said Angie Wood, the executive director of the Augusta Levy Learning Center. “Unfortunately, it’s just a loss.”
When crews showed up, they were able to get into the bell tower to investigate — but it quickly got out of hand.
“Within two minutes the fire had spread across the attic. I had to pull the crews out and we made an attack from the outside,” said Tony Campbell, Wheeling’s assistant fire chief.
Soon enough, every resource the Wheeling Fire Department could provide was on the scene, including a ladder truck from the Cumberland Trail Fire Department. Dozens of onlookers watched in heartache as they saw crews battle the flames.
When it was finally put out, some rooms were a total loss, while others were virtually untouched.
At first, it was difficult for everyone affected, including Staci Stephen, the center’s development director.
“You know, after being there for 13 years, you know not making that turn to go to North Wheeling and coming here,” she said, referring to her morning commute.
For students, the loss was especially hard.
“We actually had a student go by the center and say fix school, fix school. And we have another one that they showed him the pictures of the building and the parents said he was visibly very upset,” said Wood.
The Ohio Valley community immediately began pouring in support for the school. Not long after the last embers were extinguished, they began donations for both supplies and money. After that, a GoFundMe set up, and that raised $1,715 off the bat. A few weeks later, firefighters in Wheeling joined forces with Waterfront Wednesdays to hold a dunk tank (which saw WTRF’s own Taylor Long and Caroline Peters getting dunked!), and that raised another $2,902. On August 11, Hoagy’s Heroes rode 500 miles to Toledo and back, raising around $5,000 for the center.
All that was just in the first month since the fire.
In the second, they announced a new temporary home right in the heart of Downtown Wheeling at the Children’s museum, which more than doubles the accommodations of their old home.
With the massive strides made so far, the rebuilding efforts are still ongoing. Most recently, the Capitol Theatre hosted Dancing with the Ohio Valley Stars (featuring 7News Meteorologist Emily Goodman and co-hosted by 7News Anchor Rachael Dierkes), where all the proceeds benefited the Augusta Levy Learning Center.
Through all of the tragedy, the Augusta Levy Learning Center has made leaps and bounds since losing their home in North Wheeling — but they, and the Ohio Valley community as a whole, made sure that they only bent, and will never break!