As Published in the Abilene Reporter-News by Brian Bethel on Tuesday, December 8, 2020
AEP Foundation presented a $100,000 grant Tuesday to help fund completion of Abilene Heritage Square, the future home of the Abilene Public Library's main branch.
The site also will offer educational opportunities, exhibition space for local and traveling exhibits and event spaces for public and private use — including a 700-seat auditorium.
Located in the former Abilene High School, later Lincoln Junior High, on South First Street, the $44 million project is expected to be completed in 2023.
The facility is focused on self-improvement, education and bringing the community together, according to a news release.
It also will house Stone Owl Institute, an after-school program for teens to learn the principles of civic service and free-market economics.
Julio Reyes, AEP Texas vice president of external affairs, presented an enlarged version of the contribution check at The Grace Museum on behalf of the AEP Foundation.
Reyes said American Electric Power, parent company of AEP Texas, created the AEP Foundation in 2005 to continue a tradition of corporate philanthropy.
The foundation's goal is to play an active, positive role in the communities where AEP employees live and work.
“This will be an incredible facility and will preserve a storied campus for another century,” Reyes said, adding that the project will "clearly enrich the lives of many."
He commended the efforts of board members from both the Heritage Square project and institute for their efforts to "enrich students’ understanding of this country and promote a better understanding of our free enterprise system.”
Jane Varner Beard, president of the Heritage Square board, thanked AEP for its investment.
"Their donation will provide a permanent home for the innovative Stone Owl Institute, which is already garnering national attention," she said.
With AEP’s help, local high school students will have the opportunity to become better citizens, while earning scholarship funds for college or technical training, she said.
"AEP has been bringing physical light to our community for many years," Beard said. "With this gift, they are now bringing the light of knowledge to our area."
Taylor Sturgis, who is both a board member of the Heritage Square project and chairman of the Stone Owl Institute's board, said the grant would make possible classrooms where "students will continue to gain an understanding of what it means to be an American."
The foundation's gift will be remembered not only as an investment in the community today, but also in the lives of those "who will one day serve as the leaders of Abilene, Texas," he said.
AEP maintains the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, with more than 221,000 miles of distribution lines to deliver power to nearly 5.5 million regulated customers in 11 states.