COPLEY TWP.: When Gretchen Laatsch approached fellow members of the Louise Sumner Board about raising $100,000 to build a pavilion at Sumner on Ridgewood, one person told her it couldn’t be done.
“ I thought she was out of her mind. I was very against it,” said Pat Sites. “We are a service organization and didn’t know a thing about fundraising and shouldn’t change our mission. But we’ve accomplished both with this project.”
The 26-member board, which serves residents of Sumner’s assisted-living unit, wanted to do something big for the residents during the board’s 100-year anniversary.
About 100 people showed up for the Centennial Pavilion groundbreaking Sunday afternoon. Board members were easily identified with balloons in hand.
The pavilion will be built in the center courtyard near the Saunier building in the health- care complex at Sumner on Ridgewood. It is expected to be completed by spring.
“This is a real boost toward the future of Sumner,” said Thomas Miller, Sumner’s executive director. “At our strawberry festival a few years ago we rented a tent and the wind came up and blew it down on us then blew it away. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it could have been a disaster. This [pavilion] will be a permanent structure.”
Residents and their families teased the activities supervisor, who was smiling ear to ear.
“Yes, I am so excited. I can’t wait,” said Emily Dorland. “This will change elder programming for our residents. The pavilion will serve as a hub for many outdoor activities. It won’t be just for cookouts, but movie nights and crafts and so much more.”
Laatsch, who chaired the fundraising effort and is fondly called the “cheerleader” of the project, said one of the main reasons for the pavilion was the lack of trees on the property to provide shade. Sumner relocated from Akron to Copley Township only nine years ago, so the trees are still small.
“There’s no shaded area outside, no place for residents to just sit outside by themselves, with each other or with their families,” Laatsch said. “There will be a sidewalk and ramps with a slight incline for wheelchairs and landscaping around the pavilion.”
Laatsch, who was the emcee at the groundbreaking, acknowledged the people she called “heroes” for their help with the project, including Fred Zumpano, project manager; Martin Caruso, architect; Larry Becker, fundraising consultant; and members of the staff at Sumner.
Members said the board’s mission is to help residents enjoy life a little more. It sponsors events, welcome new residents and spends time with them.
The Louise Sumner Board was named after Amelia Louise Sumner, daughter of Judge Charles Sumner. In her will, written in 1872, she said she wanted to establish a home for men and women over the age of 65 “of good moral character, yet unable to maintain a comfortable home.”
A home was established on North Prospect Street in 1911, five years after her death. In 1950, the home was moved to 209 Merriman Road, to a mansion willed to Sumner by Eleanor Baldwin Gibbs, wife of Harry H. Gibbs, owner of a sewer pipe business.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.