ECO Center has filled a unique niche in the community since the fall of 2014. Located on County Road 59 outside Caledonia, ECO Center teaches respect for nature via its annual Earth Day celebration, fall festival, Phobia Haunted Trail, summer day camps, and educational field trips, as well as classes in homesteading and green living, in their 4-acre woods and tall grass prairie.
ECO Center was an idea born from a dream shared by owner Emily Ollervides and her husband, Paco. They wanted to offer a space where local schools, families, and community members could engage in safe, educational, and fun activities for learning and sharing new tips for greener living.
Together, the Ollervides raise their two children, Sofia and Nicolas, to respect nature, learn by experience, and most importantly, have fun doing it. They share their space with their free range chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits, and three cats, Diego, Blue and Jack Jack.
ECO Center annually holds a fall festival filled with family-oriented activities—train rides, zip line, slides, farm animal interactions, and a variety of educational and sensory activities—as well as their popular Phobia Haunted Trail for the Halloween crowd.
ECO Center’s programs have received support from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio EPA, and DKMM and have been awarded and recognized as the 2015 Keep Ohio Beautiful’s Green Business, 2016 River Valley FFA Valued Employer, and the 2017 Upper Olentangy Watershed Conservation Local Business category.
“Our mission is to provide safe, fun, outdoor experiences through environmental education and hands-on learning opportunities,” said Ollervides. “We provide an outdoor extension for teachers’ science curriculums and offer lessons for Pre-K through 8th grade that engage students’ creativity and critical thinking skills. The lessons are offered outdoors and focus on our woods and native prairie, using equipment such as microscopes, binoculars, compasses, thermometers, and field guides.”
ECO participates in after-school programs, Saturday in the Park, the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce, and partners with the Marion County Park District.
“We have been able to offer field trip transportation subsidies to local schools. We host science-based field trips tailored for teacher’s curriculum needs deriving lessons from STEM-approved resources,” said Ollervides.
According to Ollervides, ECO Center has received community support from local businesses, organizations, and individuals. She wishes to acknowledge and thank Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative, Morral Companies, Hessler’s Screen Printing and More, Peacock Water Company, Tri-Rivers Career Center, and Del-Co Water. ECO Center also appreciates the many groups who regularly visit, including the Marion Family YMCA, United Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Marion Church of the Nazarene, Girl and Boy Scouts, and area school districts.
“An amazing mentor and friend has been Angie Carbetta from Marion County Recycling and Litter Prevention,” she said.
Carbetta is a huge green living advocate. Her office annually hosts the Eco-Art Show at the Marion Palace Theatre. The 2018 event is Saturday, November 17, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and features fine art and handcrafted gifts made from recycled items. This popular event is attended by upwards of 1,000 people each year.
“We are grateful for local families and groups attending our events and their interest in ecologically responsible living,” said Ollervides. “ECO takes great pride in being a leader in our industry, developing partnerships in and outside of Marion County, and teaching a love for the environment we live in.”