by Kate Evans
Five years after the former Greenwood Elementary closed, that school building’s new chapter as the Greenwood School Community Center has kept the location alive as a community hub for southern Morgan County.
The center has continued to grow and expand for more than five years since the Morgan County School Board sold the school and its land to the Greenwood Church.
The sale contract had a clause that the property would revert back to the school board in five years if the church didn’t meet its mission. Community center board and committee members feel they’ve surpassed expectations and accomplished a lot in five years especially with two years of the COVID pandemic.
Volunteers were preparing hot lunches delivered by Senior Life Services for area seniors during a mid-week October visit by The Morgan Messenger. The center’s community boutique was having a pop-up sale and its library was open.
The community center was getting ready for the Annual Family Fall Festival and Trunk and Treat with food, games, barrel train rides, hayrides, cupcake walks and a bounce house.
Community center board member Cindy Largent-Hill said their Family Fall Festival attendance the first year was 150 people. It grew to 500 people last year. The festival is their biggest event with the largest attendance.
Most kids wear their Halloween costumes. People decorate their car trunks and give out candy. A tractor pulls a train of barrels that are cut into little cars. The barrel train ride is a huge hit, she said.
The center also held a new “Back To School Party” on Sunday, August 13 with train rides, water slides, snow cones, games, food and playground fun. The South Morgan Volunteer Fire Company brought water for the water slides and sprayed kids with hoses.
“The kids had a good time,” she said.
Senior lunches on offer
Area senior citizens come to the Greenwood School Community Center for a hot lunch on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. They can eat in or take the food home.
Largent-Hill said that around 50 residents participate overall. Between 20 to 30 people take meals each week, with an average of six to eight people eating at the center and more than 20 taking meals offsite.
The meals from Senior Life Services of Morgan County are hot, full and healthy meals, Largent-Hill noted. Volunteers help unload the food and pack the meals to go. Mary Ellen Largent coordinates the food preparation and oversees volunteers. A recent Wednesday meal was parsley potatoes, ham and pinto bean soup, cornbread, dessert and milk.
The senior lunches align with the center’s mission of providing services to all ages, said board president Brad Michael.
Mary Ellen Largent set up and organized the Greenwood School Community Center library, which has books for all ages, said Largent-Hill. Their lending library has also given away hundreds of free books to the
The community center also oversees the outdoor Free Little Library just outside the building. Their libraries encourage the love of reading, Largent-Hill said.
Volunteer Jeanne Tracht runs the center’s community boutique, which offers gently-used adult and children’s clothing, housewares, toys, arts and crafts and other items for sale.
Tracht, Linda Cole and other volunteers keep it just like a store. Everything is really inexpensive and a lot of free stuff is available, Tracht said. The community boutique is open the first Friday and Saturday of every month and is always open when the library is open.
Tracht, president of the Greenwood Women at Greenwood United Methodist Church, said they know all their people and families.
“It’s a community,” she said. Operating the boutique is fun and a ministry, with some 75 people visiting the boutique on Fridays and between 40-50 people shopping on a Saturday, Tracht said. They’re constantly putting out new items. Gay Rogers is a neighbor volunteer that watches for donations to move to their locked shed.
Tract’s husband and volunteer Nick Tracht is always fixing things and moving things for them. Nick Tracht said that he’s never met a bunch of women so dedicated.
Some money made by the boutique is donated to Starting Points, Hospice of the Panhandle, the Morgan County Homeless Coalition, Berkeley Springs High School, other schools and to people that are displaced by fires, Jeanne Tracht said.
A new wooden deck along the front of the community boutique has a handicapped-accessible ramp on one end and steps on the other side. The new entrance was a longtime dream of Tracht’s as handicapped people couldn’t get in the building.
VBS, lunches & fundraisers
Vacation Bible School takes place in the summer for five evenings for school-age children, said Largent-Hill. Some 75 children and 30 volunteers attended this summer. Activities and a meal are provided. They collected peanut butter and macaroni and cheese for the Morgan County Backpacks Program during Bible School and also at the Back to School Party.
The center hosts a fellowship dinner — a Hunter’s Brunch — on the first day of hunting season. People give donations for the meal and come to see their friends, Tracht said.
The center’s supporters volunteer for work days in May and throughout the year. People mulch, pull weeds, plant flowers around the entrance.
“People see a need and jump in and do it,” Largent-Hill said.
Largent-Hill said the center’s board plans to have free or by-donation family events every other month year-round. Other events include a Pancake Dinner and a Christmas gift card raffle during December that’s done live on Facebook.
Board of directors
Greenwood School Community Center board of directors president Brad Michael said the center has many tremendous volunteers from all over the county and all walks of life.
There is a really nice, diverse mixture of community folks and Greenwood United Methodist Church members on their board and board committees, Michael said.
Committees include building and maintenance, observatory, library, community boutique, landscaping and activities. The committees are mostly led by volunteers and give monthly reports on their needs.
Their board of directors meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. during the late fall and winter and at 7 p.m. in the spring and summer. The meetings are open to the public and people are welcome to come and share their ideas for the community center.
Michael said they have a strong partnership with the new Morgan County Observatory Foundation board of directors. They plan to maintain and continue observatory activities and events and work together to have the whole complex stay as one.
Apple butter & more
Monthly boutique sales are phenomenal, Michael said. The center sold out of the apple butter they made at the community center and at the Apple Butter Festival. Making apple butter is the center’s biggest fundraiser. Volunteers cooked up, jarred and sold hundreds of cases of jars this year.
The Greenwood School Community Center also raises funds through rental fees for family reunions, baby showers, birthday parties, wedding receptions, fellowship gatherings and other events. Michael said they’ve hosted live concerts with the Flashbacks and All Grassed Up. Several live semi-professional wrestling events are scheduled. The first was held two weeks ago.
It takes a village
The center has been very blessed and have had a lot of positive community support, Michael said.
“It takes a village to run a community center. The key to our success is our volunteers. They’re passionate about it and do a phenomenal job,” he said.
Michael said as they look to the future, they may need an events coordinator with some grant writing experience. They want to keep growing and enhancing opportunities for service and community and will be considering their strategic plan for the next five years and what they need to do next.
Jeanne Tracht felt the center has met and surpassed their five-year expectations. Largent-Hill noted that it’s a community center for anyone in Morgan County. The board greatly appreciates their many partnerships with community organizations and other churches.
The observatory is a good neighbor, Largent-Hill said. When there was no room for the middle school Bible class, they were able to use space in the observatory. The kids planted some flowers and did some landscaping and cleanup at the observatory as a thank you.
Largent-Hill said she’s met a lot of new people and neighbors through the community center. She really loves the number of children and families that come to their events.
“It feels good to see people playing softball or families using the playground,” Largent-Hill said of the community center’s continued role as a meeting place and community hub.
Upcoming events at the center:
— Christmas Bazaar on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
–Hunter’s Lunch on Monday, November 20 at 11 a.m.
Greenwood School Community Center is located at 8989 Winchester Grade Road in Berkeley Springs. Anyone interested in contacting the center can reach them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, messaging through their Facebook page or calling 304-258-8715.