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Visionaries turn old bathhouse into new library for resort

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Some people look at a building and see only what it was constructed to be.

When Ethel Thompson saw the small, rectangular concrete-block building that once was the back bathhouse at Eagle Creek Resort, she envisioned a library.

About 250 to 300 people live in the resort, Thompson estimates, adding that she thinks at least half are children. The resort sits on the border of Owen and Carroll counties and on the banks of the Kentucky River and Eagle Creek. The bathhouse, she said, was built for people who camped on the river and creek banks in tents, providing them a shower and toilet facilities. There is no “primitive” camping there anymore, so the building has gone unused, she said.

Taking a leap of faith, she took her vision to friend and Eagle Creek neighbor Bob Alberson. The proposal was agreed on by the resort board – of which Thompson and Alberson also are members.

“It was my idea, but it’s Bob’s dream,” Thompson said Thursday, adding that Alberson has overseen all the work. “I told him what I wanted, and he put it all together.”

Since word got out about the project, several people have volunteered time and materials to help with the unusual transformation.

“It’s just been amazing, the people that have just come forward,” she said.

Volunteers came to help paint walls and tear out the stalls that divided the room for toilets and showers. That opened up the main room of the building, in which Thompson hopes to have shelves filled with books and family friendly movies.

Already, boxes of books and movies on VHS tapes have been donated by other resort residents. Additionally, the Carroll County Public Library has promised to bring a shelf for books and movies on VHS for adults and children. Outreach librarian Sue Guelda will visit the Eagle Creek location to switch out titles at least once a month.

Librarian Shannon Taylor, who Thompson contacted to help set up the service, said Eagle Creek will be a welcome addition to the outreach program. “It’s good for their community and gives us a way to reach out to them, so they can find out what’s going on here at the library and become a part of our community.”

In February, Thompson said she and two girls who live at the resort baked cookies and put together “Cookie Grams” with flowers for Valentine’s Day, which they sold door-to-door. The effort raised $425, which was used to buy concrete to patch holes in the floor and walls, she said.

The primary goal, she said, is to provide a multi-use facility – not just a library – for the children.

One of the shower stalls was left intact, she said, and will be used as a tutoring room for students who need a little extra help with homework. She already has been contacted by teachers who have offered their time as volunteer tutors.

When the weather is good, she also plans to offer outdoor games in the large yard outside of the facility, such as badminton, volleyball and corn hole.

Thompson wants to offer movie nights for young people, and has had wiring installed to allow for four computer connections, in hopes that someone may be able to donate computer equipment for the young people to use.

“We want our children to know that we care about them, that we want them to learn and we want them to grow,” she said. “We want to give them something to do so they won’t get into trouble.”

Though most of the response has been positive, Thompson admits the project has had its naysayers. “They’ve said it can’t happen, that ‘you’ll never do this,’” she said. “But we’ve turned them around. … I don’t believe in negative; where there’s a will, there’s a way. Everyone is excited about the project.”

And she said that neither she, nor Alberson, want any of the credit. “God is so good, and we have to give him all the glory.”

In addition to books, movies and computers, Thompson said the project also could use donations of an air conditioner to replace an ancient one of hers that she had installed, and a heat source so the facility can be used in the winter, as well.

Other items needed include a televison and VCR for the movie nights, and a microwave so they can serve popcorn; tables for adults and children; computer desks; and a small refrigerator where juice and drinks can be kept for the children.

Thompson said the library will have adult supervision when it’s open, so that everything runs smoothly, and said she hopes residents will volunteer their time.