Instruments in the Federal Valley Resource Center music room

Federal Valley Resource Center provides accessibility through music lending library

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STEWART, Ohio (WOUB) – The building that is now better known as the Federal Valley Resource Center first opened its doors as Rome High School in 1897. 

Sign outside of the Federal Valley Resource Center.
This sign advertises the Federal Valley Resource Center, which provides opportunities and resources to Stewart residents. [Morgan Anderson | WOUB]
Flash forward 125 years and not just past students who call it their alma mater, but the entire community of Stewart feels its presence. 

The center focuses on equal and affordable access in the community for resources, education, and experiences in Athens county, one of the lowest income areas in Ohio. The center provides a food pantry service every Tuesday and “pantry days” on the last Sunday of every month. 

The pantry is a choice pantry, Therese Lackey, president of the center’s board of director said, meaning participants choose what to take based on what their family needs, rather than just being given whatever is available. Lackey said this is a source of pride for the board.

Support extends into its community thrift store as well. For a reasonable price, anyone can shop at the store to find anything from clothing to household items. Money earned through the store’s sales goes toward funding the center’s repairs and maintenance. 

While serving the community, the center has faced a number of setbacks, including not being able to properly maintain the building nor having the funds to keep many of its programs afloat, Lackey said. The old high school building is 125 years old, and repairs are sporadic and costly when volunteers try to restore it to its original state. However, the maintenance and program operations have been able to stay alive thanks to community donations, past alumni, and volunteers.

Lackey said she is most passionate about being the program director.

“We act as a community center,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of something so important in our community.” 

However, Lackey’s passion for the community did not start with her involvement at the center. Growing up as an Athens county resident and now residing in Stewart, she has seen the first-hand value of what accessible resources can do for children and adults alike as both an educator and volunteer. 

Federal Valley Resource Center's updated auditorium with the curtains open and microphone stands on stage.
The auditorium at the Federal Valley Resource Center has recently been restored to its original state. It is a part of the old Rome High School built in 1897. [Morgan Anderson | WOUB]
One of the missions Lackey has added is making music education both accessible and affordable. As a retired music teacher for the Federal Hocking local school district, she said she believes music should be available for everyone.

“For example, if there’s a child that wants to be in [the] band, why buy an instrument?” she said. “Just come borrow from us and you can borrow for the entire school year.”

The center allows people to borrow instead.

“All of our programs are [free] and we offer all of our services to help the community,” she said. “We feel that that’s what a true community center should do.” 

Known as the “music lending library,” more than 100 instruments can be loaned out to both youth and adults across five different counties in southeast Ohio. This creates an opportunity for people to experience instruments without investing money.

A volunteer, Brendan Hart, playing the drums that are available in the music lending library.
Brendan Hart gives a drum lesson at the Federal Valley Resource Center. The center allows residents to borrow music instruments free of cost. [Morgan Anderson | WOUB]
A former student of Lackey and a current volunteer, Brendan Hart said he shares the same passion for bringing music education to the Federal Valley Resource Center. Hart grew up actively participating in the program and now teaches drum lessons to give back. 

“There’s music everywhere, and that’s where people go whenever they want to feel better or have any emotion,” he said. “So I feel like this program gives kids, and really anybody, the opportunity to pick up any instrument and play it and see [what they like].”

For more information, visit the resources the Federal Valley Resource Center offers at, or via email at