PLYMOUTH – Andy Thompson believes every community needs a place to gather.
The municipal councillor has been actively working with community members in support of much-needed renovations of the Plymouth Community Centre.
“The price of oil has been a death blow to this community centre,” said Thompson. “It went from heating by wood then coal and then oil. When I was running for council some of the seniors had approached me and said they wanted to use the centre and asked if they could get a little oil in the tank to heat the building for their meetings.”
Thompson took their wishes one step further and worked with community members on getting federal and provincial grants to spruce up the centre. The grants helped pay for interior work such as new floors and a kitchen space with the majority of the work done by the airfield engineering flight and volunteers. The building was made accessible with a new outdoor ramp and renovations to its bathroom.
“There are two ways to fix up a community centre,” he said. “With big money or small pockets of money. We went after the small pockets of money and we are successful.”
Thompson said the community centre is an important landmark in the town because it was the former Plymouth School from 1919 to 1974.
“I never went to this school, but I can remember being five years old and sitting outside my house listening to Mrs. Chalk ring the bell. I used to watch the kids play outside at recess all of the time,” he said.
Alan MacKay, a student of the school in the 1950s, said he remembers the days when the Grade 6 boys would take turns shoveling coal into the wood furnace downstairs for heat.
“Some boys would fill it really full and you would have to open a window it was so warm in here,” he said with a laugh. “The inside of the furnace would be blood red. I am surprised it didn’t strip the paint from the walls.”
The Plymouth Community Centre is hosting an open house July 23 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. for students of the school, said MacKay. It is a time for them to socialize and reminisce about the old school days.
Thompson said the centre is an ideal location for hosting such events and he is pleased to see other community groups like the Golden Glen Seniors now use the centre weekly.
“Seniors are here every Tuesday and they play cards and have a lunch,” Thompson said. “It’s important for seniors to be able to get out. They need to socialize. They are the best support system we have the in the community. If one of them is not feeling well or missing from the card game, they will kick into action and check up on each other.”
He said the centre is for both young and old residents to use and people will see lots of activity around it this summer when a recreation student is hired for eight weeks to put on a summer program for children. He added a Labour Day garden party will also be held in September, while the hall is open for rentals throughout the year.“Years ago, when I was growing up here, you would hear a car coming down the road you would know whose it was,” he said. “Now there is so much traffic and new development here, we can’t do that anymore. This place brings the community together and lets us get to know our neighbours again.”