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The idea of providing the city with moderate rental housing for senior citizens was first presented in 1970 to the Wadsworth Ministerial Association by Mayor Earl Gottwalt.

First Mennonite Church served as sponsor to provide the initial fund of $10,000 to organize the project. Menwa, Inc. was formed as a committee by action of the semi-annual meeting of the congregation, May 26, 1970, as a non-profit organization. The name was a combination of the Mennonite Church and the City of Wadsworth. In addition to the city representatives, Mayor Gottwalt and Accountant Robert Schultz, the church appointed to the Board of Trustees - Myron Friedt, Paul Klassen, Sanford Rohrer, Eugene Schneider, Grace Shoup, and Don Steelberg. The pastor served as committee chairman and negotiating agent.

Land options were secured from Fred Houder for acreage on High Street. On December 21, the Wadsworth Planning commission gave approval for the project. The architect was Kenneth Derr of Derr, Stueber, Corachione and Brown; the attorney, Charles Zumkehr. Application was filed April 1971, with the Federal Housing Authority who underwrite senior citizen's housing developments. There were delays in reviews and new filing procedures. With the help of Mayor Gottwalt and Congressman Charles Mosher who made contact with the Washington D.C. FHA office, the application for funding finally materialized in September, 1972.

However, since the FHA's figure was $100,000 under that of the architect's building costs, the FHA advised that the original two-unit approach (low rise and garden apartments) was not feasible and asked for another plan. In December of 1972, the FHA approved a one building, 2-1/2 story structure (as we see it today), and the land purchase was completed.

By the close of 1973 only the heating bid and an additional sum of $2000 to underwrite the architects' fees remained as problems. The Wadsworth Planning Commission approved the new site plans, with modifications, in 1974.

The D'Alessio Construction firm of Akron began work in the summer of 1974. The 70 unit apartment complex would include 68 one bed units to rent for $133 monthly, and 2 two bed units at $158, utilities included, or one-fourth of a person's income. Housing would be open to all persons over the age of 62, with no income or asset restriction, and those unable to pay the required amount could apply for rental subsidy at the time of application. When completed, the building would include a community room, laundry, beauty parlor and activities office.

Due to increased inflation, additional building costs required funding and FHA approval in 1974 and 1976. Original figure in 1974 was $1,331,000; in 1976 the final building cost was $1,499,000. Adequate loans were se- cured by the Board to cover requirements with assurance from the FHA that these funds would be covered with the closing of the project.

It was a glad day for the planners on August 4, 1975 when Menwa, Inc. announced the Grand Opening of its senior citizens apartment building at 531 High Street. Model apartments were open for inspection and appoint- ments could be made for resident application with the Arden Follin Realty Co. of Kent, 0H, the agent for this FHA insured project. Rentals began in August and the building was filled to 98% of capacity almost immediately. Esther Brubaker and Margaret Weinsheimer were our congregation's first residents.

Russell and Dorothy Welday and Elva Baldwin became residents in 1976 and rentals have continued at 1OO% of capacity with a waiting list. In November of 1976 the Board made plans for re-organization under permanent by-laws. City planners Earl Gottwalt and Robert Schultz were replaced on the all-church Board by John Althaus and Elton Beery.

First Mennonite Church received a Community Service Award from Medina County at the Ohio State Fair, at Columbus, August 30, 1977 - for responding to the needs of older adults. - The success of Menwa underscored the need for more such dwelling accommodations for senior citizens in Wadsworth.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in Vain. Psalm 127:1 NRSV