‘A Home Built On The Foundation Of Remembrance,’ Community Center And Senior Center Ribbon Cuttings Held
With eyes toward the past and the future, nearly 200 residents and new members gathered Friday, July 19, to see officials and volunteers involved in the Newtown Community Center and Senior Center cut the red ribbon, opening the doors. The threat of excessive heat predicted for the day did not seem to keep the curious and excited away from the celebration.
Among the morning's speakers was Matt Arienello, director of the community center.
“… May the Community Center be a home built on the foundation of remembrance, framed in a sense of acceptance, inclusivity, and unity as strong as the community which it serves,” he said as part of his remarks.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal thanked the many people who played such a big role in seeing this project through.
“I hope… you are feeling a sense of pride for a job well done… none of this would have been possible without your efforts,” he said.
He also thanked GE, “who came together after the unimaginable” events of 12/14.
The project was funded through a 2013 gift from GE of $15 million for the development, construction, and operation of a community center. From GE is $10 million to design and build and another $5 million to underwrite at least five years of operating expenses.
Mr Rosenthal also thanked Rusty Malik of Quisenberry Arcari Malik, architects; and the building construction firm Caldwell and Walsh.
“It’s important we never forget the horrific tragedy [the community center] resulted from,” Mr Rosenthal said. “I expect the center will be a source of great joy and togetherness, but for many, it’s important we remember the 26 beautiful souls who aren’t with us today. For their families, every day is a struggle.
“We would give everything and all of this to undo the pain and turn back time,” he said.
Former First Selectman Pat Llodra also spoke on Friday. She thanked Mr Rosenthal and Mr Ariniello for recognizing that “this facility was borne of a tragedy. We should always remember our special challenge in making it a success and that is to honor those who lost their lives on December 14, 2012, and a special note to GE representatives … you have never wavered in your commitment and heartfelt compassionate mission to do good for Newtown.”
John Godin, resident and GE member, said, “In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, about 150 GE employees living in Newtown, myself included, gathered to find a way … to give back to the town and help with its healing. We landed on idea for this center as a place where the town could come together, create new memories, unite, and grow stronger.”
Facing the growing crowd, Mr Rosenthal said, “All right, come on in …”
Following the hallway down one wing of the building brought the crowd of visitors to a second location outside the Senior Center, a center for active living, which is “sorely needed in our community,” Mr Rosenthal said during a brief opening ceremony held in the west wing of the facility. “The space really is beautiful.”
He turned to Director of Human Services Natalie Jackson, who was “thrilled,” she said, to see the new space open.
Newtown Community Center’s facilities, totaling approximately 35,210 square feet, include an arts and crafts room, six multipurpose activity rooms to accommodate activities ranging from music to group gatherings, a commercial kitchen, an approximately 5,000-square-foot banquet room; a six-lane, 25-yard pool, a zero-entry activity pool, and outdoor connections to the surrounding area of the Fairfield Hills campus.
The separate Senior Center of 9,450 square feet will cater to seniors’ programs and activities and strive to enhance and expand the current program offerings.
Visit newtowncommunitycenter.org to learn more about staff, programming, and memberships.
For the full story, see the July 26, 2019, print edition of The Newtown Bee.