By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
An overwhelming wave of Boyne City community support has resulted in a permanent home for the Boyne Country Community Center (BCCC). The second half of the $50,000 needed to purchase their new location at 212 North Lake St. was raised spontaneously by attendees of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce annual award banquet on Thursday Jan. 20.
[private]“We had no idea that was going to happen,” said BCCC board secretary/treasurer Stephanie Carter. “We knew we were going to be given a 60-second slot at the beginning to plug our organization, but we didn’t expect such a huge surprise.”
The BCCC board had only $5,000 in the bank when Boyne City business owner and BCCC fundraiser Jim White pledged $10,000 and then came to the board with news that the Boyne City Masonic Lodge was up for sale. “It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming. It’s promising,” Carter said. “It gives us hope for the second phase which we really didn’t have before, so we’re just thrilled.”
Started a couple years ago as a dream of the late Jerry Matelski, the BCCC had been using the old Carter’s grocery store building as its headquarters, but the recent outpouring of financial support and a great real-estate deal has changed all that. While White was able to raise much of the initial $25,000 in recent weeks, he was veritably deluged with pledges and cash donations after he gave a brief presentation on the community center during the chamber’s banquet. “Jerry Matelski, who was the idea man behind the community center, passed away in December. He secured a place at Carter’s, but they were never going to own the building and perhaps operate it if they ever got enough money,” White said. “When I discovered the Mason Building was for sale for $99,000 I approached them and said this was for the community center.”
The response White got from the Masons was a shock.
“We were motivated to sell the building and when the community center stepped forward I told them to make us an offer and don’t be too surprised if we work with you on it,” said Boyne City Masonic Lodge Worshipful Master Ron Freed. “As masons in Boyne City we’re a community-minded organization anyway and to see the old lodge to the the community center is like having your cake and eating it too.” He added, “The building is still going to be a great benefit to the community.”
The Masons were looking to sell the building due to dwindling membership and the high cost of maintaining a building which they seldom use. Freed said the Masons’ drastic drop in asking price was due to the importance of the community center’s success. “When I was a kid I lived in Midland and in the ‘50s they built a community center with all sorts of activities for kids and I think it is very important for kids in the area to have a place to go other than hang out on the streets,” he said. “This is not a teen center, but a place for the whole community to use.”
For the meantime, the Masons are working with a local organization to share their meeting space until a new home is found. Though the Masons have had a lodge in Boyne City since 1882, their first building burned in 1951 and they were forced to relocate to the existing building which was built in 1954. “We were faced with the issue either we could sell our building and move on or we disband and we didn’t want to disband,” he said. “Another option was to consolidate with another lodge, but that would have taken the Masonic fraternity out of Boyne City forever.” Freed added, “All of the sudden this has freed us up to build membership and have fun and do great things for the community instead of just sustain ourselves and pay our bills each year.”
The next step for the BCCC is to sign closing documents and begin forming committees for the next phase of the project. “We’ve got two committees starting: one is a building committee to go in and see what needs to happen to get the building handicap accessible and energy efficient,” Carter said. “The other part of it is the program planning, revising our vision and mission statement and business plan and figuring out what programs we’re going to promote and offer there.”
Anyone interested in working on the project may call Carter at (231) 881-6248 or BCCC board president Renee Santina at (231) 675-2652.
“The community support has been overwhelming and we’re just very thankful for the support that we’ve received,” Carter said. “We hope that more people will see the value of the project that we’re trying to get running and step up and want to help by volunteering time and services for the benefit of all community members.”
She added, “A lot of people have mentioned that this project started out as a vision of Jerry Matelski and we definitely want to remember him. I think Jerry was with us last night.”
The former Carter building on M-75 was the original goal site for the BCCC. Although the Masonic building is much smaller at around 6,000-square-feet, programs that won’t fit in this building will be outsourced to other nearby locations. [/private]