Over a year after a devastating fire, the clubhouse of the Southwest Conservation Club in Waynedale is ready to entertain once again.
When the doors re-open for a fish fry at the facility off Bluffton Road on Friday, it will signify the end of a 13-month quest to bring the club's centerpiece back to life.
On the night of April 15, a fire whipped through the clubhouse, damaging over 90 percent of the building. While the definitive cause of the fire is still a question, many people believe it started due to an issue within the ventilation system.
Many of the club's most treasured mementos, including pictures, historical documents and the infamous moose heads in the main room, were lost.
"We had so many distraught members wondering how we would come back," said Alex Cromwell of the Southwest Conservation Club. "But we pulled together very quickly."
A private donations campaign began to assist in the rebuild, along with help from area businesses. While money was raised to renovate the burned building, activities with the SWCC continued.
"We were able to continue having the majority of our events, primarily because most of our member activities happen outside," Cornwell said. "We tried to continue as we did before.
"We treated it like even if it took five years to restore the clubhouse, we would still be in operation."
Luckily, it did not take five years. While original approximations had the clubhouse being fully restored in eight months, slight delays pushed completion back to 13 months.
The SWCC took the opportunity to make some improvements to the clubhouse. The walk-in freezer has been expanded as well as the kitchen facilities. No longer is there little room for kitchen workers to maneuver and store supplies and foodstuffs.
"We modified some things in terms of workflow (in the kitchen) to give volunteers easier access," Cornwell said.
While Friday's fish fry will be the first event in the newly-refurbished clubhouse, plans are to have a grand opening in April of 2018 as part of the 80th anniversary of the Southwest Conservation Club. The organization offers its members access to 37 acres of ponds, trap & skeet fields, a firearms range, archery course, campground, hiking trail and more.
With the clubhouse now ready for business again, 80 years can be celebrated in style.
"It has probably taken a bit longer than expected, but we had so many different things to decide and so many difference variables to overcome," Cornwell said. "I think the extra time was worth it to have a nice facility."
Friday's fish fry runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and is open to the public.