Two local businessmen and brothers will serve as the co-chairmen of the Portage Public Library's effort to fundraise for a $1.5 million expansion project.
Chad Stevenson and Jeff Liegel, the owners of the Portage Culver's restaurant and several others in the region, were tapped as the campaign leaders by a fundraising task force.
Library Board member Addie Tamboli, also a member of the task force, called the news "fantastic."
"They bring great energy in their support for the community and the children of the community," Tamboli said Tuesday. "I think it is pretty evident that they are very giving and caring people."
The fundraising campaign hopes to raise about $800,000 from the community to support the project, which has also gotten a boost from the city of Portage and the Bidwell Foundation. Those two entities are expected to kick in $700,000.
The process is being guided by an Indiana-based fundraising consultant firm, Woodburn, Kyle & Co. That firm was hired in August at a cost of $90,000 plus some expenses such as partial cost of air travel.
Consultant Peter Woodburn said Tuesday morning that picking the campaign leaders was an important step.
"I feel like we stepped over one of those big obstacles, which was finding the right leadership," Woodburn said.
As originally proposed, the nearly 6,000-square-foot expansion of the 253 W. Edgewater St. building would entail improvements to stormwater issues at the main entrance, interior renovations to create a young adult area, the addition of a children's area and other interior changes related to staffing.
Liegel and Stevenson, who are both in their early 30s, said they wanted to make the community better by boosting one of its best assets.
"The library is something that is a staple in the community and it makes the community stronger," Liegel said of their decision to accept the fundraising leadership role. "And really, anything for the kids and reading ... that is definitely a big part."
Stevenson added, "The library is a great amenity for Portage. We want to make it top-notch and up-to-date for the future."
In a 2009 interview with the Daily Register, the two discussed the reason that they call each other brother while having a different last name.
When both were young, Liegel lost a father, while Stevenson lost a mother. Their families melded together when their surviving parents met and married.