Serving youth. Changing lives.
On March 20, 1924, James B. Chambers, then President of The First National Bank in Elm Grove, founded The James B. Chambers Memorial Association, a corporation created under the laws of West Virginia. The purpose of The James B. Chambers Memorial Association (J. B. Chambers Memorial) was intended to serve the needs (moral, social, and economic) of the children of Elm Grove. The J. B. Chambers Memorial was structured as a non-profit association both under West Virginia law and the Internal Revenue Code in effect at the time.
On May 6, 1933, J. B. Chambers died, thus passing the on-going administration of the J. B. Chambers Memorial to a governing board of trustees. In addition to a moderate amount of cash and marketable securities, the major asset of the J. B. Chambers Memorial was approximately 4.5 acres of land in Elm Grove, commonly referred to as “The Old Fairgrounds.” For many years, the Memorial operated a “Settlement House” and playground environment for children which was administered by Mrs. Dorothy Barker. This concept enjoyed much success for a number of years and was eventually operated in concert with the City of Wheeling’s Recreation Department. Unfortunately, because of deteriorating structures and their ongoing maintenance costs, as well as general societal changes, these once successful programs were no longer utilized by young people and could no longer continue.
The J. B. Chambers Foundation trustees continued to seek out opportunities to benefit young people and were successful in obtaining an able partner in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Wheeling. In June of 1969, the Memorial agreed to lease to the YMCA approximately 1 acre of its ground for a term of 99 years at a fee of $1 per year in order to construct the Chambers Family Branch YMCA. In addition to the leased land, the Memorial also participated as a significant contributor to the capital expansion and building project. As the YMCA grew, the need for more space became apparent. Responding to this need, the Memorial agreed to lease an additional 0.5 acres of its land to the YMCA in order to construct the Edmund Lee Jones Annex for the Family Branch YMCA. Again, the Memorial responded to the construction costs of the new addition and, in fact, fully funded its cost.
During the late 60s and early 70s, construction of the Interstate 470 bypass was underway. As a result of this project, as well as the Interstate 70 project previously completed, many local businesses along Route 40 had to relocate. Route 40 was widened into a four lane highway which tended to increase its utilization. The J. B. Chambers Memorial was then approached by the State Highway Department in an effort to obtain a portion of the Memorial’s land in order to widen Kruger Street in Elm Grove. As a result of these negotiations, the Memorial obtained 0.541 acres of land between Route 40 and Chambers Street.
Then in February of 1988, the A & P Store which joined the J. B. Memorial’s property terminated operations. The Memorial acquired this property December 1, 1988, as a result of a previously granted “Purchase Option.” This acquisition then completed the ownership of approximately 5.97 acres of land which is bordered by Route 40, Kruger Street, Lounez Avenue and Key Avenue.
Since the early years of the J. B. Chambers Memorial’s existence, many social, economic and regulatory changes have taken place. As a result of the Federal Tax Reform Act of 1969, the J. B. Chambers Memorial became a private foundation as defined in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As the area changed from a social and economic perspective, the J. B. Chambers Foundation expanded its service area from Elm Grove to the greater Wheeling area. The mission and purpose of the Memorial, that of serving youth, has not changed but rather simply expanded geographically to encompass more of Wheeling.