A building constructed 114 years ago for the comfort of streetcar workers is now being used for the comfort of veterans and their families.
Known as the Clubhouse, at 115 N. Madison St., it was built in 1910 by the Southwest Missouri Railroad Co. as a place to unwind and socialize for its 200 employees, most of whom lived in Webb City.
Because that’s basically what the building will still be used for – except for veterans – that’s what it’s still going to be called.
“We’re not changing the name at all,” says Scott Hettinger, executive director of Charlie 22 Outdoors.
With the exception of his office, Hettinger says the rest of the three-story building is to be used for the comfort of veterans, their families and volunteers.
Charlie 22 rented the building from another nonprofit organization, the Webb City Historical Society, for more than a year before Charlie 22 officially obtained ownership on Friday, Jan. 26.
The chain of events leading up to Charlie 22 getting the Clubhouse had to be a matter of “God’s timing,” says Hettinger.
After the organization’s fifth year, it was still being operated out of Hettinger’s home in Webb City. “What you see in here was in my house and a shed,” he says. In August 2022, “we knew it was time to find a place to rent.”
Rooms on the ground floor are in use by prayer and Bible study groups.
They found several places with everything they needed but were always a day late, beaten to the punch by other renters. “We were literally calling a day late,” says Hettinger.
In desperation, they were spreading the word that they were looking for a place to rent.
Here’s where connections come to play: Ben Miller, CPA, was renting office space on Main Street from Eileen Nichols, president of the historical society. Ben told his wife, Pam, who works with Scott’s wife, Barbara, that Nichols had more space to rent.
That would have been great, except that Nichols was in the process of selling her building. “Once again, our timing was terrible,” says Scott.
“Then she mentioned to me, ‘How about the Clubhouse?’”
“That would be great,” he thought, “but we couldn’t afford to buy it.”
At that time, the Clubhouse was temporarily owned by the City of Webb City, but it didn’t really have a use for it. There was a large sign out front of the Clubhouse asking for proposals.
Behind the scenes, there was a successful effort to have the city deed the Clubhouse back to the historical society.
Charlie 22 signed a one-year rental contract with the historical society in November 2022.
“I think everybody won and is winning,” says Hettinger, going back to when Nichols mentioned, ‘“How about the Clubhouse?’
“I’m more than thrilled. It (Charlie 22’s operations) went from being an office to much more.”
There’s a “billiard parlor” (just like there was for the streetcar workers), along with a large living-room area on the second floor meant for playing cards and reading.
On the ground floor, in addition to the office, there is a room used by prayer and Bible study groups, and support for spouses of veterans.
The third floor is an opportunity for expansion.
Hettinger, a former history teacher, says the historic aspect of the building “hits home for me. I’m going to do what I can to respect that.”
That attitude is one of the main reasons members of the historical society cited when voting on Jan. 4 to sell the building to Charlie 22.
Another, of course, is Charlie 22’s mission to “show hope” to veterans, especially those at risk of suicide.
“We’re not going to cure PTSD, anxiety, depression, anger and doubt,” says Hettinger. “Those aren’t going away. We just want to show a way to battle them – that Jesus is the answer.”
Hettinger says Charlie 22 Outdoors is blessed with a support base that understands “what we’re trying to do – so we could write a check” for the building.
In other words, rather than paying rent or paying off a loan, Hettinger says Charlie 22 will be debt-free. “That’s even more amazing.”
A “billiard parlor” was one of the ways streetcar workers could wind down in the Clubhouse when it was built in 1910. Now, there’s a pool table available for veterans.