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A gym-dandy place for the community: Nelson couple converts part of former school into community center

NELSON – A family is making sure that the former Nelson Elementary School continues to serve a community purpose.

The nearly century-old school closed down in 2013 when Nelson and East Coloma school districts consolidated, and its main building was torn down in 2016.

The school’s gym was left intact, and the school board sold it to Dave and Tracy DeVries in June for $30,100.

The Nelson couple, who own Xtreme Realty in Rock Falls, both attended the school at 207 Pope St. and have family ties to it – Dave’s great-grandmother taught there, and other family members were students.

They’ve turned the gym into a community center and event space, just like it was years ago when people would host a variety of parties there such as wedding receptions and birthday celebrations.

The DeVries live kitty-corner from the property and wanted to keep it a part of the community rather than let it become an eyesore.

“We wanted to make sure it didn’t fall into disrepair,” he said. “We wanted to make it available and bring it back to good condition.”

Work done on the building includes installing new plumbing and a new well, pouring new concrete and cleaning up the space.

It provides space for community events and sports practices, and private groups can rent the building by contacting the DeVries or going to Parties on Pope on Facebook.

The Lee County Zoning Board signed off on rezoning the property to operate as a community center earlier this month, and final approval will go to the County Board today.

“It’s a neat thing,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to turn it into something that pays for itself.”


Call Dave DeVries at 815-441-1446, email him at or find Parties on Pope on Facebook for more information or to book an event at the new community center and event space in Nelson, 207 Pope St.

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