XENIA — Hundreds said hello to an old friend on Friday as the Collier Chapel at the Legacy Campus celebrated its grand re-opening.
Built in 1872, the chapel was the cornerstone of the former Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home/Ohio Veterans Children’s Home, serving as a place of worship and social gathering for the 13,500 children who resided there until 1995. Through an herculean effort, spearheaded by Bill Chavanne, class of 1955 and president of the Home History Fund, $1.2 million was invested in the chapel and adjacent cemetery for updates to keep their memory and spirit alive.
Chavanne called the chapel a “starting point for teaching the history of the home” and a way to show Ohioans how the children were raised in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Robert Gilbert, president of the Association of Ex-Pupils (AXP) and a member of the class of 1968 said many of the alumni have different stories of their time there.
“One story we take with us every day is a memory of the campus and this structure is a cornerstone of this campus,” he said. “We call ourselves ex-pupils only because that encompasses the group of people who spent time on this campus. We all were a part of this organization.”
Work included refinishing the chapel floor, painting inside, refreshing the stained glass windows, HVAC improvements, outside maintenance, and polishing each and every chair in the chapel. Much of the money used for that came from ex-pupils, Chavanne said. The State of Ohio contributed $400,000 thanks to the legislative work of State Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia), State Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London), and former State Rep. and current county commissioner Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek). Athletes In Action, which owns the land, also played an instrumental role in the grand re-opening as did Gov. Mike DeWine, who played basketball on the campus as a child.
“You don’t know how much we appreciate it,” Gilbert said.
DeWine was to attend but exposure to COVID-19 kept him quarantined in Cedarville. He sent a video message speaking of the importance of the chapel, saying visitors will be able to come there and learn about the home and its history.
The Legacy Christian Academy choir sang a pair of songs that had special meaning to the home and Karen Purpero treated the crowd to classical piano music from Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.