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LongviewWOW building ready for children's programming

LongviewWOW Facebook

A children’s discovery center under construction in downtown Longview is closer to becoming a reality.

Volunteers of Longview World of Wonders or WOW have raised almost $1.7 million as part of a $2.4 million capital campaign launched a little more than two years ago. Much of that money to date has been used to renovate a building – a former furniture store. It’s now move-in ready and has an occupancy permit, according to LongviewWOW advisory board president Lisa Yarbrough.

“We’re hoping now that we’ve been able to get the building open and we have a presence -- we’re in downtown on a main street that’s building up all around us -- that the city will step in and say OK, we want to help and give you money to really make this a reality,” Yarbrough said, who has worked on this project for six years.

One thing LongviewWOW has done over the years is keep programming a priority. Even without a building, Yarbrough estimates WOW put on about 10 children’s events annually.

The next one is special. It will be held in WOW’s new building. Niki Groce thinks as many as 1,200 people will attend the one-day exhibit.

“My role is the dinosaur chairperson, which is something I’ve always wanted on my resume,” Groce said with a laugh.

Groce is heading up Dinosaur George on Sept. 26. It’s a traveling dinosaur exhibit that has been on display at dozens of schools in Texas.

“When they approached me they said dinosaurs, and I said, absolutely yes. Who doesn’t love a dinosaur? We’re going to have a dinosaur dig and get your hands in the sand and look for fossils. I think we all have an inner paleontologist inside of us,” Groce said.

Volunteer Michelle Norris is focused on bidding out the exhibits that will go inside the 17,000 square-foot building, which Norris says has an industrial vibe with its exposed brick. She says the nonprofit has come to fruition through volunteerism, and more are needed now that the building can host events.

“We are actively searching for volunteers who would like to be anywhere from docents to playologists to interact with children in our programming and in a sense be part of this facility or programming committees. Our volunteers all get background checks, so that will be something they’ll need to do,” Norris said.

A volunteer recruitment event was held Wednesday. LongviewWOW hired an interim director last year. Yarbrough says having a payroll makes it more real. She says the organization is always searching for a fresh crop of volunteers to bring new talent and energy to get through the final phase.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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