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Longview World of Wonders announces downtown discovery center

Longview World of Wonders announces downtown discovery center
Longview World of Wonders

POSTED: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:30pm

UPDATED: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:44pm

Longview World of Wonders today announced the planned opening of its hands-on, children’s discovery center in early 2014 in downtown Longview.
The nonprofit organization recently purchased the former Texas Furniture Building at 112 E. Tyler St. Renovations should begin in the coming weeks.

With the mission to inspire a life-long love of learning by giving children the opportunity to imagine, create and explore in a hands-on, educational environment, Longview World of Wonders (LongviewWOW) Hands-On Discovery Center will serve children of all ages, with a specific focus on early childhood through seventh grade. The exhibits will unleash the creativity in children and encourage them to explore and learn in a fun and interactive environment.

The resources required to make this vision a reality are leadership, funding, volunteer support and community involvement. A $1.9 million capital campaign was publicly launched today to raise dollars for building renovations, exhibit design, fabrication and installation, staffing and operating capital to open the center. The initial phase of the capital campaign launched in October 2012. To date the campaign has commitments for one fourth of the total $1.9 million. Rhonda Bullard, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and nonprofit consultant, has been retained by the organization’s board of directors to conduct the capital campaign. Bullard has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit work.

Karen Ritch, LongviewWOW board president, thanked current and previous board members who have seen this project grow from a dream to a reality.

In 1999 the city of Longview hired a firm to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed children's museum. That effort faded out after the events of 9/11 and got placed on the back burner. Good ideas tend to resurface, though, and, in 2009, a group of people got together to formally organize Longview World of Wonders. The organization began operating as a "museum without walls," providing fun and educational events for East Texas children at various locations around Longview. Mike Elswick, the organization’s founding president and current advisory board member, and a core of other dedicated volunteers stayed on task of taking the findings from the 1999 study and bringing them forward to eventually result in the center announced today. During the past 4-1/2 years, this group of volunteers has spent hundreds of hours in the effort to provide the children of East Texas an interactive, hands-on learning center to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Ritch thanked Jim and Liz Lockhart, the former owners of the Texas Furniture building where the children’s center will be located. The Lockharts’ generous purchase arrangement with LongviewWOW provided the catalyst to move the organization into its next phase.
Jim Lockhart, who was not in attendance Thursday, separately encouraged local businesses and individuals to support the center’s completion.
“We are thrilled to have a project like this in downtown Longview. Knowing this space will serve the families and the children of our community is something our entire family is very supportive of,” Lockhart said. “The purchase arrangements allow the board time to raise the dollars needed to open this very important gift to our city and we look forward to seeing that happen. We encourage local businesses and individuals to provide the funding to make this a reality.”

Ritch also thanked the Junior League of Longview for being the first major donor to support the center’s opening. The League donated the first $56,000 to begin renovations on the building. Ritch stated, “With education being a major focus area for the Junior League of Longview, this project is a perfect community partnership between nonprofits to serve the children of our community. The League funds made starting renovations a reality.”

Michelle Norris, facilities chairwoman for the LongviewWOW Board, announced Hugman Construction, Inc., a locally owned architecture, construction and interior design firm, has been secured as the general contractor on the project. Exhibit Concepts, an exhibits design, fabrication and installation firm from Ohio, has been hired to develop the exhibit space, which will be completed in three phases as funding is available.

About Longview World of Wonders
Longview World of Wonders is a group of parents, grandparents, educators and civic leaders, whose mission is to inspire a life-long love of learning by giving children the opportunity to imagine, create and explore in a hands-on educational environment. A 501(c)3 organization, our initiative is designed to build awareness in the area and to bring educational opportunities to the community’s youth. For more information, please contact us at

More information about Longview World of Wonders is available at

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