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A Short History of RVCC 
Upon its 10th Anniversary Year: 

The Rockfish Valley Community Center had its beginnings like all community endeavors - with a group of involved citizens who rallied around a cause, a possibility, a dream.  The vacant old school building stood awaiting it next incarnation, the children having left it for a modern new building up the road.  In November 1999, a group of local citizens and Ruritans met in the new school to discuss the possibility of using the old building as a Community Center.  The precedent was set by other schools in Schuyler, Massies Mill and Fleetwood, all of which had been vacated during the County's consolidation into two elementary schools.  Now these schools were Community Centers owned by local groups. 

At the third meeting of the Rockfish
citizens group in December 1999, the core group sat huddled in the old building’s cold, unlit auditorium in kiddie chairs, wondering how to proceed.  The agreement that was finally reached by the Nelson County Board of Supervisors in January 2000 allowed the group to use the school as a community center with decreasing subsidies from the county over a three year period.  During the first year, all utilities would be paid by the county; half paid the second year; and by the third year, only a few repairs. 

A board of directors was formed and the organization was incorporated on March 20, 2000.  Papers were filed by attorney Sam Eggleston to apply for tax-exempt status as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  The first officers were Mary Hamilton, President; Ellen Neal, Vice President; Naomi Anabel, Secretary; and David Cunningham, Treasurer.  Then the work began! 

The building required a lot of power cleaning and painting by volunteers and the U.Va. Service Fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO).  Creativity spurt forth in community leadership and grassroots program ideas like a new found spring!  The original intentions of organizing a community center were varied.  Preserving a historic building circa 1938 where many  had attended school was a fundamental motive.  What inspired the group was the vision of community participation for all, but especially for youth.  Marian Pearce orchestrated the youth theater; Tammy Zirkle organized game nights; Mike Neal was passionate about sports in the outdoor fields.  His son Jacob suggested the idea of the Treasure Chest Thrift Store.  A group of kids banded together to form a computer club and found government surplus computers so they could play games.  Naomi Anabel wanted to establish a child care center.  Pete Perdue was talking to seniors about locating their club in the building. 

Membership began as a means of supporting the Center.  So did the “Rockfish Review” a talent show organized by Marian Pearce which drew a standing room only crowd.   Rowena Olwell organized a silent auction.  Pancake breakfasts were started as a way for Tae Kwon Do to earn their rent payment for evening classes. 

All of this initial energy propelled the group through the hard job of organizational development.  Sustaining programs and paying for utilities requires money and organizational structure.  The Treasure Chest generated income while its first employee’s salary was paid by the senior program Experience Works (formerly Green Thumb).  Amy Childs became the first manager.  Early Board Presidents were Mary Hamilton, Ellen Neal, Tammy Zirkle, succeeded by Vice President Bill Howard, and Bob Pingry in 2006.  Treasurers were David Cunningham, Joyce Murino, and Bill Howard.  Vice Presidents included Ellen Neal and Pete Perdue.  Other early founders and leaders were Marian Pearce, Ann Stober, Gifford Childs, David McBee, Linda Baker, Rowena Olwell, and Aaron Messer.  A part-time Executive Director was hired in 2004 – Phyllis Wilson, later succeeded by Ellen Neal.  Center Managers have included Mary Nan Ollis, Helen Kimble, Jessie Smart and Bo Holland. 

How have the original ideas of community center materialized?  Founding members Ellen Neal and Gifford Childs gave their assessments in a recent interview.  The Theater transformed from community youth theater to the serious, professional Hamner “black box” Theater with paid staff, and continued until October 2012.  The Treasure Chest is also more than what was originally envisioned, being open 5 days a week with paid employees and a handful of dedicated volunteers, offering a large selection of recycled clothing, books and household items.  It provides household items and clothing free to those experiencing house fires or other similar disasters.  Room leasing is a mainstay of income for the Center although not originally envisioned as such.  The emphasis on arts, education, children’s programs and music were definitely in the vision of the founders.   Today the variety of tenants manifests these interests, including sculpture, jewelry making, sewing, art therapy, movement and massage. 

Movement classes of yoga and Tae Kwon Do have been present since the early days and continue to enhance the quality of life for participants. 

The youth programs require steady planning and oversight and have been difficult to maintain with volunteer leadership.  Use of the outdoor fields for soccer and baseball is not as frequent as envisioned, nor have community leaders emerged to organize the activity and pay for field maintenance.  On the other hand, the Center takes great pride in the children’s playground and its high quality equipment as well as the skatepark construction, both projects having been build with volunteer labor and contributions. 

Early days were plagued with vandalism and graffiti.  While always a target, the Center has managed to lessen this type of defacement and keep the building and grounds looking respectable. 

So what do we learn from the early history of RVCC?  We see that community energy evolves with different individuals emerging at certain times to lead an effort, inspire a project, energize a work day, instruct a class, or organize a fundraiser.  The building stands with its doors open to the creative idea, the artist and the crafter who needs a studio, the individual who needs an office, the dancer, yoga instructor or teacher who needs a classroom.  The community space evolves.  It is there for individuals from all walks of life and for the diverse groups that make up

Nelson County and the surrounding area.  Its support structure is less bricks and mortar than hands, hearts and pocketbooks.  

The tenth anniversary year is especially commemorative since it’s the year in which RVCC became the owner of the building and ten acres of surrounding land.  The Nelson County Board of Supervisors sold the property to the RVCC Board of Directors and now its our responsibility to maintain it and help it thrive as a community center.  Join with us in making RVCC your community center.  You can start by attending one of our numerous events and becoming a member.  Check out details at 

Submitted by

Sarah Jane Stewart, President

~updated May 2013

Where Community Happens!

Rockfish Valley Community Center

501 (C) (3) Non-Profit Organization

190 Rockfish School Lane, Afton, VA 22920

 PO Box 106, Nellysford, VA 22958 | Office: 434-361-0100 |Fax: 434-361-0102 |

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