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White Lake residents, flooring co. step up for gym floor

Volunteers pose in front of a pile of lumber, milled from donated wood, that will be used for the new gymnasium at White Lake School. (AP Photo/Antigo Daily Journal, Lisa Haefs)

By Lisa Haefs
Antigo Daily Journal

WHITE LAKE (AP) — White Lake is conducting the modern day equivalent of a barn raising.

With the groundbreaking of a $3.5 million community recreation center at the White Lake School building slated for April 19, community members have donated 90 cords of valuable, hard maple logs to create the gymnasium floor.

“I don’t know of another community willing to do this,” said engineer Doc Smith of EDS Builders, the project’s general contractor. “It’s going to be a beautiful floor, and when people see it, they will say, ‘It’s our own floor. It’s from White Lake.'”

That kind of contribution is not unusual for the people in the White Lake community, said project volunteer Todd Lambert.

“It’s like the old days of raising a barn,” he said. “Cut some wood, throw some food together and make something to be proud of.”

The idea dates to the opening morning of deer hunting season, when Lambert was sitting in his stand. The community had voted to proceed with the project through a referendum election 11 days earlier, and Lambert was thinking about ways to get people involved and perhaps shave a some money from the cost.

The community was built on forestry, nestled in woodlands, and home to Robbins Flooring, one of the premier flooring manufacturers in the nation. Getting some folks to part with a few logs, whether from their back forty or backyard, seemed a natural fit.

It was.

“We just started talking and it took off from there,” Lambert said. “Everyone got involved. It’s become a source of pride among community members.”

Dan Wickersheim, who served on the building committee, coordinated the effort, working with staff members from Robbins, soliciting donations, and arranging for loggers and trucks.

“One simple little idea ended up being a pretty good project,” Wickersheim said.

At first, organizers wanted to get a few dozen cords of wood, enough perhaps to allay some of the costs. But it quickly mushroomed.

“As the word got out,” Wickersheim said, “we had people giving everything from just a few trees to full truckloads.”

Donors even included some landowners who had voted against the plan, he said, telling him that “the referendum passed and I’m on board.”

White Lake School District Administrator Bill Fisher said that is inspiring.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said.

By the time the last load was delivered to Robbins earlier this year, 30 to 40 landowners had contributed a total of 90 cords of hard maple. Several dozen more volunteers donated their equipment, time and labor.

Robbins marked the wood as a donation and graded the timber as it moved through the milling process.

Smith said the company cut the district a deal on that process, and the school also will get a break on the subflooring, a key piece of the component system.

“We’re getting a college floor for the cost of a high school floor,” Smith said.

And more important, White Lake is getting its own floor.

“This is about putting our wood on our floor,” Wickersheim said. “People will take their grandchildren into that gymnasium and say, ‘That’s our wood.’ There will be some sentimental value there.”

Smith said White Lake could serve as an example of what a small town can accomplish.

“It’s something I hope gets contagious,” he said.

Wickersheim said he is pleased, but not surprised, by the outcome.

“The school is definitely the heart of the community,” he said. “As long as we have a school, the community is going to continue to have a heartbeat.”

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Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

One comment

  1. I hope The Daily Reporter shows us a photo of the floor when it is completed. What a nice story:)

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