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SUPPLY—After years of waiting, planning, fundraising and building, the Cedar Grove Community came together Saturday morning for the opening of its new community center.
“This was 12 years in the making. There were a lot of obstacles and setbacks, but this was (completed) with the work of a great many individuals,” Andre Herring, president of the Cedar Grove Improvement Association, said.
“This is a gift to our children and our grandchildren.”
The community group raised $71,000 for the project and received a United States Department of Agriculture grant of $51,000 and a USDA loan to cover the cost of the $434,000 construction project.
Randall Gore, USDA rural development director, was raised in the Cedar Grove area and attended the opening.
Gore said Cedar Grove last had a true community building, like the facility that opened Saturday, 30 years before in the canning house run by the extension service.
“The extension service came with the ladies of the community and taught 4H, canning, quilting and how to be a good citizen,” Gore said.
He described it as a place people came to talk and resolve issues.
That role would now be served by the community center, he said.
The canning house was opened in 1951, said Laura Bryant, who was a child when the canning house was operating.
Bryant said it was equipped like a factory and whole families were taught how to can fruits, vegetables and meats.
“It was a unique process, and families worked together,” she said.
Sandra Robinson, a long-time Cedar Grove resident like Bryant, said long after the canning operation closed down, a group of women created a community center out of the old building. They used it for meetings, birthday parties and oyster roasts.
Bryant said the canning house was used as a community center starting in the 1970s. It lasted through the 1990s.
As the canning house aged, community members began to discuss what it would take to build a real community center.
Kim Grissett made a special presentation of a plaque to recognize Eugene Hewett, who started that discussion.
In the fall of 1985, (Hewett) and a group of concerned citizens talked about creating a community club to discuss community issues. Grissett said that group formed the Cedar Grove Improvement Association.
Grissett said even though Hewett is now in assisted care in High Point, “he still loves and still talks about this community.”
Cedar Grove moved forward with finding property to buy and build a new center beginning in 2001.
In 2004, the community bought property at the corner of Cedar Grove Road and Turkey Trap Road and put up a building—basically a concrete floor, walls and ceiling—which gave them a space to use, but not a fully functional community hall.
Robinson said the community building had a limited amount of electricity, like a construction site. But events took place where they would bring out a barbecue grill or fryers to do the cooking and use the facility that was available.
“When the exterior building went up in 2004, we had dinners and events—but had to be out before night,” Robinson said.
Herring said the property and the original building were paid for through fundraisers including fashion shows, fish and chicken plate sales and car washes.
But despite the fundraising, it did not appear they would be able to generate enough funding to complete the building without taking a new approach.
That was when Herring contacted Gore, who assisted the Cedar Grove community in applying for the USDA grant and loan.
John Thompson was the architect of the upgrades to the community building.
The building now includes a large multipurpose room, a smaller dining area next to a kitchen, and three classrooms.
Thompson said they super-insulated the empty shell that was in place and finished the interior.
“It’s a very efficient building,” Thompson said.
“Ricky Hewett Construction did an outstanding job. It’s a good, high quality, local craftsman.”
While Thompson had a vested interest in seeing the building’s grand opening, he and Shirley Babson also represented the board of education. They were two of a number of elected officials or their representatives who attended the ribbon cutting.
“This has always been a community that worked together,” Babson said. “They are always looking toward the future.”
The event drew a crowd that nearly overflowed the building. Community members of all ages came out for the opening and stayed for a fish fry lunch.
“My heart is so full. It’s a happy day to finally complete a product like this. It’s so beautiful,” Cedar Grove community member Brenda Hewett said after the grand opening.
Herring said the community building’s primary purpose will be for citizen meetings, civic activities and music performances.
“We’ll have a youth committee to start a tutor program and an adult services committee,” Herring added.
“We want to set up a computer room and also plan a movie night.”
Herring said the building would also be rented for events to help cover loan payments.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.