Church continues as fellowship hall on Depot Street

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
At the Chapel Hill Community Center open house are, from left, Jean Mills, Donna Gilbert and Ruth Sweeney.

CHAPEL HILL -- The community center here looks like a church because that's what it's been and it's still serving as a fellowship hall, complete with meeting room, kitchen, exercise machines and a pool table.

Dozens of people attended the center's open house Friday at 206 Depot St. where they celebrated community cooperation that was obvious among town leaders, the Lions Club, county officials and the public at large.

"When everybody is pulling together, good things happen," Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper said just before the opening ceremony. "Now, we've got to put in the programs that will draw in people.

"We're happy with the start," Cooper said, "and I can't say enough about the cooperation."

Visitors agreed.

"This is something we've needed for a long time," Chapel Hill-area resident Wanda Symons said. "I'm hoping we can get exercise classes."

And so, even before officials' opening remarks, ideas were flowing on what could be done in the building. Those attending knew three exercise machines are in one of several rooms on the building's lower floor.

King Lion Jerry Hooper "got a sneak peek" inside the building before the open house, he said. "I was totally blown away."

His good impression counterbalanced concern for the nearby state park.

"Not knowing what's going to happen to Horton (State Park,)" Hooper said, indicating concern that the town center might be the alterative to the park's lodge. "That's the only place to meet" in large groups.

He also reflected hope for a town library at the center and thanked the community for its support of the Lions Club that donated a significant amount of money for the center.

"We're shy of 100 members in our Lions Club," Hooper said, noting that the club's big annual fundraiser, the Tractor Pull of the South, requires 400-500 people to conduct the event that draws tens of thousands of people. "People come out of the woodwork to help us" so Lions can help their community.

Cooper heaped praise on Town Administrator Mike Hatten for his leadership, coordination and hard work toward converting the church into a community center. Hatten thanked those who helped the community project.

Among the groups and individuals he mentioned was Alderman Marion Joyce; "our lead candidate to develop the library" in the center, Hatten said. Joyce has deflected total responsibility, pointing out that she doesn't have a library degree, but it's obvious she's laying the groundwork for establishment of a library.

Chapel Hill has no library now, so town officials are hoping to work cooperatively with those leading Marshall County's library in Lewisburg. If developed as envisioned, Hatten said the town library would be under the jurisdiction of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The idea set well among one of the group of friends who assembled for sandwiches, chips, vegetables, soft drinks, cookies and other refreshments. Their comments reflect the need for a center of convenience, one that offers an alternative and a place to make friends and share their life stories.

"I've been going to the Senior Center in College Grove, but this is closer," Symons said.

Arlene Kincaid of Saddlewood Apartments in Lewisburg has been to the Senior Center in the county's Hardison Office Annex in Lewisburg. She also has a friend who drives her to Chapel Hill where they plan to visit on a regular basis. Kincaid used to live in Chapel Hill, but she grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where she met her husband.

"He was working at the White Tower. It's like White Castle. We got married and moved to Tennessee. Without lights or (indoor) water, I had to learn everything. I learned how to milk cows and do whatever, but it was a good life."

Now, she plays Rook and Rummy; "We enjoy the fellowship."

Across the luncheon table, Ruth Sweeney said, "We're the senior citizens. We'll be here every day."

Kincaid interjected; "I won't be here everyday. I come here on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

Kincaid's friend, Jean Mills, said, "I drive her."

Mills knows there's a pool table in the building, but said she won't be shooting pool because she doesn't know how.

"We're going to get Homer (Zimmerle) to teach us how to shoot pool," Sweeney said and Irene Smith interjected, "I worked in a pool hall in Kentucky near Hazard."

"She," Sweeney quipped, "was running around with the Dukes. She was Daisy."

Smith explained that the establishment also offered square dancing, "and they sold food and beer. No whiskey. Just beer."

Obstreperous customers were kept in line with a wire brush that Smith held, she said.

Sweeney said, "I was baptized in this church."

During his remarks, the mayor quipped that he's changed his attitude about participating in senior citizen events after he realized, "I am an old people."

The light-hearted turn of words led to others' remarks. The town administrator reported the purchase price of the building as about $66,000. The Lions Club provided some $33,000 and the city chipped in $20,000. Much of the work was done by the city, but it's clear it was a community effort and there's no debt on the building.

Hatten concluded his opening remarks by reflecting on community spirit in and around Chapel Hill as realized after a house fire in the Farmington-Rich Creek area on Wade Brown Road just four days earlier when the residents were offered help.

"If you are so unfortunate as to have something bad happen to you," he said, "you want it to happen in this community. People pitch in and it does not matter who you are."

Good things and people came together on Depot Street in Chapel Hill last Friday.