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Uses for Screven County Academy abound for those of all age groups

The people living in the duplexes out back already have asked if the seniors in the middle building are going to have bingo night.

And can they come?

It’s just the kind of interaction Dave Shah was hoping for on the 14.7-acre tract he bought in July on E. Ogeechee Street – the former Screven County Academy.

Shah, who also owns Sylvania Discount Tobacco, is going to keep the Screven County Academy name.

The City of Victory church already has leased the school’s former gymnasium. An adult day care center, Touched by An Angel, is slated to open later this month in part of the main school building.

And Shah said he is in talks with someone who wants to open a pre-K nursery in the former nursery building.

The children would play beside former classrooms that he’s turning into apartments, and eventually, into an assisted living facility.

The seniors could look out their windows and see the children play and could walk to church next door. Eventually, Shah would like to construct a large, new building on the back of the property that would offer affordable rental apartments.

And much later, Shah is considering building a banquet facility that could be rented for meetings or parties. Several acres at the front, dotted with large pine trees, would become a park.

The Screven County Academy is one of several properties Shah owns and rents in the area.

He said he wants to make money, but he’s also looking for ways to help in the community along the way.

The entrepreneur who turns 29 on Dec. 15 said after a childhood spent bouncing back and forth between his native India and the United States, he’s glad to set down roots. “This is home,” he said. “I love it here.”

He’s made friends with his polite, hard-working ways. “He has a real good heart,” said Stan Sheppard, a broker with Tri-Counties Real Estate who helped Shah with the project. “He’s the kind of citizen that we can be proud we have,” said Sheppard, who also is chairman of the county commission.

Shah is studying to become a volunteer firefighter, is active with the chamber of commerce and is on the airport promotions committee. He said his mother and his sister help him with his businesses. His father travels between Sylvania and India, where he is a developer.

Shah donated the paved, circular road on the Screven County Academy property to the city and named it Devdhara -- a combination of his real name, “Devang,” and his sister’s name, “Dhara.”

By donating the road, Shah made it so that his tenants could have the option of purchasing their buildings one day. The land had to have frontage on a city street in order to be divided.

Shah’s neighbor, Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans, said she’s thrilled with the work he’s doing at the Screven Academy. “He has tried to make the best of very move that he has made,” she said. “It’s great to have people like that.”

Shah graduated with honors with a double major in international business and management information systems from Montclair State University, in Montclair, N.J., and went to work for Advanced Data Systems in Maywood, N.J., which makes software for doctor’s offices. He started as an assistant to the vice president and within five months was promoted to being a director of the company.

Shah said he liked the job and was making good money, but his father always wanted him to be a businessman. So when an acquaintance offered Sylvania Discount Tobacco for sale, Shah came to town to investigate and decided he could learn to operate a cash register.

He soon moved his family to Sylvania and the eventually bought a house in Sylvan Heights.

Shah said he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much without a lot of help from a lot of people, including: his parents; his sister; Jerry Manack; Eagle Properties; Tri-Counties Real Estate; lawyers Grady Reddick and Donald O. Sheppard III; Sylvania Police Chief Gary Weaver; Phyllis Butts, of the city; the city’s planning and design committee; city council members; and Evans.