King seeks to renovate Main Street building

Mar. 17—Nicole King has big dreams for a red brick building on the east side of Ottumwa.

She hasn't let cancer keep her from pursuing those dreams.

King, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that has sapped her ability to speak, eat or drink normally, has eyes of turning the building at 1117 E. Main St. into something that will stand the test of time. She posted about the project on her Facebook page last September.

"To me, that looks like a one-room schoolhouse from the past," she wrote in a letter expressing her plans for the building. "There is just something about that building that draws me to it. I used to talk past the building each day with my dogs, wondering what this house could be."

King formed Main Street Schoolhouse Inc., a non-profit, which purchased the house for $12,000 on contract early in 2020. Getting the project, which would be a first-floor area "where students of all ages can come for help with their education."

The second floor would consist of apartments.

"There will be volunteers available for helping and answering questions. There will be computers for people to work at, to complete homework or projects," she wrote. "There will be supplies available for doing homework and projects, tables and chairs and comfortable nooks for anyone to work from. There will be snack available.

"Everything will be free of charge."

She envisions the back of the building as a meeting area that people can rent for fun events, and said the money raised through renting out the building will go toward keeping the schoolhouse going. Also, apartment rent will go toward keeping the schoolhouse in operation.

King, a former Ottumwa Community School District teacher, said the idea came when there was a discussion years ago about closing north side elementary schools and building one large building, and that the East Main Street building would have been an ideal spot.

But King is still aiming for financial help to get the project off the ground. She said she has been working with a grant writer to raise money for renovations, citing that many of the grant deadlines are staggered throughout the year.

"I'm seeking startup donations for my project," she wrote. "We are wanting to get basic electricity in the building, along with windows. This will create an environment where my volunteers can work at their own pace, in a controlled area.

"Starting this project has helped me stay positive and motivated about my life. I've been through some pretty low times lately, dealing with all the things I can't do anymore," she wrote. "This project has made me look forward to each day and think about a bright future."

King said she had to retire from teaching because of her disability, but sees a better day.

"It broke my heart having to retire from teaching because of not being able to talk anymore," she said. "This will allow me to work with children again, in my own way."

If interested in donating, there are several options:

— Send a donation to Nicole King, 320 Chester Ave.

— Send a donation to Meridian Credit Union at 1206 N. Jefferson St.

— If writing a check, make it payable to Main Street Schoolhouse.

King is also seeking anyone with carpentry skills who are willing to donate their time to renovation. Daryl and Andrew Stangl, who are on the non-profit's board, are carpenters and would be directing the work.