Long time members talk about 20 years at the Community Center

~by Taylor Bates for The Scranton Journal

Greene County Community Center | GCNO photo

Greene County Community Center (GCCC) is coming up on the 20-year anniversary of its opening. The facility is used and appreciated by more than 1,000 people a year and has become a great asset to the community.

It all began when Margaret May Peters left $600,000 to start a wellness and recreation center. People Active in County Exercise (PACE) was formed and the group researched a community center for 13 years. In 1991 the first fund drive was initiated to go towards the proposed center. Between 1991 and 1992, PACE collected approximately $1.3 million in gifts and pledges.

As 1996 rolled around, PACE decided to conduct a survey to see whether the Jefferson area would support a wellness facility. Through a survey conducted by the Iowa State University Extension, PACE learned that more than two-thirds of the population of Jefferson said that they would use the facility. In 1997, the architectural firm RDG Bussard/Dikis was hired to help design the project. The goal was to break ground that year.

Little did PACE know the place they were working to construct would be a building where friends could come together, and health could be restored. John Beltz was told by his doctor that he needed to make big changes to help protect himself from heart troubles, and “I’ve been going every day since then,” he said. Without the facility, it would’ve been a lot more difficult for Beltz to get his health back on the right track.

Arnold Steinke quipped, “I like to come to put up with John.” Without the efforts of PACE, no man would be putting up with anyone while getting in their daily exercise.

Betty Johnson uses a treadmill. | Scranton Journal photo

Other GCCC guests have commented on how they enjoy the ability to work on their health. “I always feel better when I come,” Violet Hoffman said. She has been exercising at the Greene County Community Center since opening day.

Betty Johnson has, too. “As you mature, coming to the gym keeps you going and helps you stay limbered up,” Johnson shared.

Most of the property the community center sits on was donated by Home State Bank and the rest was acquired from Margaret Winey. GCCC sits on a full block, and since it is in the center of the community, there was considerable effort put into making it look inviting and aesthetically pleasing to everyone passing by.

The total project cost was $1.8 million, and Jensen Builders received the bid. The work was sub-contracted to 40 companies to complete the construction of the community center. In November of 1998 the work was completed, and the facility was opened.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” Betty Kuebler exclaimed. “It really makes you get up and go.” Kuebler was one of the very first members of the facility when it opened.

The brand new facility had a lot of great features for its patrons to take advantage of. Upon opening, the community center’s features included an enclosed, suspended walking track, two meeting rooms, a fitness and weightlifting area, a preschool room, a racquetball court and a large multi-purpose room. There’s also a gym, two locker rooms, office rooms and a storage room.

Pat Hastings (left) uses a stationary bike while (continuing from left) Ken Hastings, Esther Weaver and Vince Kennedy use NuStep machines.  | Scranton Journal photo

Many patrons of the facility have taken advantage of the indoor workout area since the day the gym opened. Esther Weaver, who is deemed the facility’s oldest user, is 98 years old. Weaver goes to the Greene County Community Center every day to stay limber. She enjoys seeing all the other patrons. “We’re one big happy family,” Weaver commented.

Another long-time guest of the community center, Donna Sutton, agreed with Weaver. “I see people here I don’t see anywhere else. I get to develop friends while getting my exercise in,” Sutton explained.

Along with meeting friends, patrons like Isabel Smith enjoy the chance to stay healthy without battling the extreme weather Iowa faces sometimes. “It’s such a nice place to come, summer or winter,” Smith explained.
Dorothy Hess left a $500,000 endowment to purchase equipment as well as keep it all updated at the community center. In the last 20 years, there have been many changes and improvements. Shelves in the storage room and the janitor closet have been added to make organization and storage easier. A bathroom was converted into a laundry room to eliminate trips to the laundromat. In 2010, the preschool was moved to the Early Learning Center and the room was changed to another meeting room that also functions as a fitness room and new flooring was put in.

In 2011, the small meeting room on the second floor of the facility was converted into a massage therapist area. The room was occupied by Danielle Ross until 2016 when Peg Moranville took it over. 2011 was also the year the lobby got a facelift when new carpeting was installed.

Vi Hoffman inquired about donating a flagpole to GCCC in memory of her husband Harry. In 2015 the city removed the tree in the planter as its roots were shooting out and causing the bricks to move. Following removal, Vern Foje put dirt back into the planter circle. Then the new flagpole and a flag light were installed.

“I came here before this was a new facility, and it’s been great,” Foje said. He has been very helpful in keeping the center in great shape and is always willing to jump in and lend a hand.

The fitness room flooring was replaced with a rubber floor from Excel Floor Covering with Lance Swain. The project was paid for by PACE and the hotel/motel tax. PowerLift generously sent a crew and equipment (at no cost to GCCC) to help move everything in the weight room so the new floor could be installed. The lights in the gym have been updated by Durlam Electric to LED lights, which has cut down on utility costs for the facility.

In the bathrooms, the old partitions were swapped out with new after the original partitions were beginning to rust. The center curtain in the gymnasium was replaced in 2017.

The next projects on the list are expected to be done in the fall of 2018. One of these projects will be replacing of the gym floor with a new Sport Court. Also on the schedule is to have all four bathrooms painted by Gary Goodwin, and all new counters installed by Tri County Lumber.

As the facility reaches its 20-year mark, long time attendees point out things they’ve enjoyed. One couple, Ken and Pat Hastings, enjoy visiting the gym together in the mornings. “It’s such a good facility, how can you beat that,” Ken pointed out. His wife added, “And we get our social time of the morning in!”

The Hastings aren’t the only couple to visit GCCC together. Doris and Vince Kennedy have been coming since 1998. “It’s been a great way to get out of the weather. Vince was a mailman and after some run ins with dogs, this was a great way to get our exercise without worrying about things like that,” Doris said.

“Yeah, what she said,” Vince added with a grin.

In the 20 years of the Greene County Community Center, friendships have developed and people have been able to enjoy a high quality way to enhance their health, all within the comfort of their own community. Improvements are constantly being made and there are always friendly faces to be seen.

Long time members of the Community Center include (front, from left) Esther Weaver, Arnie Steinke, Betty Johnson and Violet Hoffman; and (back, from left) Betty Kuebler, Donna Sutton, John Beltz, Isabel Smith, Ken and Pat Hastings, Deloris and Vince Kennedy, and Vern Foje.  | Sccranton Journal photo

Pat Hastings said, “They have some awfully good people working here,” and that opinion seems to ring true from many GCCC attendees. The community has kept the community center alive and well for 20 years and hopefully can continue to do so for years to come.

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