Modified: 1/12/2022 11:28:39 AM
Despite its name, the Wilton Community Center exists only as a concept. The group has been holding potluck suppers and community events like the winter Luminaria and townwide yard sales for years, but only in public or borrowed spaces, with no permanent home.
Under the name Wilton Collaborative Space, the Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library is administering a new community gathering space to be used by a number of town groups –including the Wilton Community Center – for the next six months, funded by a state grant and COVID-19 relief money. That longtime dream is expected to become a reality starting Jan. 18, with a planned meeting of the library’s youth science club.
Published: 1/12/2022 11:29:31 AM
One of the very first things Sandy Lafleur did when she moved to Wilton in 2013 was attend a pot luck supper hosted by the Wilton Community Center.
Lafleur, who has been a member of the Wilton Community Center board since 2014, has been named as one of two employees to run the facility as a coordinator, along with Jennifer Oak, who will act as her assistant.
The space will be in the Second Congregational Church at 25 Gregg St., located only a stone’s throw from the library. While it will be a rental, and its use as a church means there are certain limitations on leaving equipment there, in other ways, it’s ideal. It has a commercial kitchen, a stage and lighting, and more room than any space offered by the library.
“We’ve just limped along as a group,” Lafleur said of the Wilton Community Center. “But we don’t have a home, and that’s always been our wish. It’s hard to have that sense of community without a space for every segment of the community to gather.” The calendar is already filling – an open mic night Jan. 26, a teen pizza day Feb. 1 and a talk on the history of the Chinook, New Hampshire’s state dog, on Feb. 10.
Library Director Pat Fickett said she and the organizers of the space have been putting the pedal to the floor preparing their partners to start programming as soon as possible, after receiving the grant at the end of December. She said even this week, groups who want to use the space were going through an orientation process in preparation for space’s first week of programming. “It’s a lot to do in a short time,” Fickett said. “The timeline is so short; we’re working hard to get everything in place. It’s busy and there’s lots to do, but it’s all good things. I can’t wait to get it really going.”
One of the reasons for the rush is that the grant only provides funding through July. The town is also requesting a warrant article for $16,443 to provide funding through the remainder of the year, to take the collaborative space through December, and allow for a full year to pilot the community space concept. Whether it carries on beyond that, Lafleur said, will be up to the town, but she has high hopes that a taste of what a brick-and-mortar community center can bring to a town will be convincing.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.
The Wilton Collaborative Space is hosting an open house Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. for residents to see the space, meet collaborators and learn about the programming that is available. “I’m hopeful people will avail themselves of what’s on offer and see the value in this. I’d say, ‘Look at any community with a thriving community center, and tell them you’re taking it away, and the people wouldn’t be happy about it,’” Lafleur said.