Service restores a home and strengthens community

Two seniors, whose friendship began during freshman orientation, embarked on a meaningful journey as they led a group of incoming freshman on a BergServe project this past August.

Greg Doyle and Seth RobertsonGreg Doyle, a political science major and history minor from Perrysburg, Ohio, and Seth Robertson, an accounting major and computer information systems minor from Burton, Ohio, are both honors students set to graduate in May. The two volunteered to lead a BergServe project this past fall and were assigned to help with the restoration of the Spiva Manley home.

Located on Madison Street, the home was purchased in 1854 by Spiva Manley, a local grocery store owner, and one of the first African-American merchants and homeowners in Tiffin. Not only is the Greek Revival style house an architectural asset to the community, but is also one of Tiffin’s oldest standing structures. In 2009, after years of vacancy and neglect, the house was to be demolished, but the Tiffin Historic Trust stepped in and proposed plans to save the home, purchasing the property from the city in 2010.

When Doyle and Robertson found themselves among a crew of local volunteers, they were initially skeptical because of the poor condition of the house. The two soon realized the opportunity that was before them, not just in the work they could contribute to restore the home, but in the significance it would bring to the community. After volunteering at the home as part of BergServe, the seniors decided to dedicate their time for their honors service-learning project at the home as well.

“The volunteer crews pulled together,” Roberston said. “It looks so much better.” In addition to taking pride in preserving part of Tiffin’s history, the seniors said the project allowed them to connect with the local community in ways not typical for college students.

“It was one of those experiences that when you get out of the classroom and just put your hands to work and get to work with Tiffin community members, you really grow and gain that bond with the community that you’re attending school in," Robertson said. "It’s something you can’t get just sitting in a classroom. It’s something that not only makes you proud of who you are as a student, but makes you want to come back and gain that connection with your greater community. It was an awesome experience. I know Greg and I are very fortunate to have that opportunity and to gain that bond with the Spiva Manley house.”

Retired Senator Ray MillerDoyle and Robertson had the opportunity to show off the renovation progress recently to retired Ohio Sen. Ray Miller, who was visiting Tiffin to take part in Heidelberg’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. During his keynote address, Miller praised their work and its significance.

“The work done on the Spiva Manley home is phenomenal,” Miller said. “It’s important to your community and to the state of Ohio. It’s important because the education will begin when the first questions are asked.”

The experience opened new avenues for Doyle and Robertson and they hope that other college students will volunteer and find a way to take part in the local community. “It changed the way I think about certain things,” Doyle said. “In the spirit of Martin Luther King and his legacy of service, especially for college students, this has been really meaningful to our education.”

If you would like to get involved with the Spiva Manley project, or other restoration projects in our community, contact the Tiffin Historic Trust at

Posted on: 
Jan 25, 2011