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Borne Of Pain, Positivity And Possibility Arise



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Rising out of numerous public forums and scrutinization of options by those appointed to the commissions and committees charged with bringing this multi-million dollar project to fruition — a challenging task as gifter General Electric required that the $15 million dollars finance something this town lacks, and one that threatened to create more division than unity — the Newtown Community Center at Fairfield Hills is finally a reality.

It is big and bright, and it is ours. It is clear from the soaring foyer filled with natural light, the broad hallways, and the spacious rooms that all who contributed to the development of the center, which opened this week, intend it to be a welcoming space. The new facility is meant to unify the citizens of Newtown’s five boroughs through the power of programs and the versatility of this gathering space.

What makes a community center a place that welcomes every resident — old, young, poor, rich, married, single — is diversity of programming that recognizes the uneven distribution of wealth and abilities. We are assured that free seminars and events are planned to augment programs requiring payment. Programming that invites the public in at no cost will hopefully not be an afterthought.

Operating a facility as large as our Community Center, which houses a tremendous indoor pool, is costly. Even with five million dollars of the GE donation set aside for the first five years of operations, monthly membership fees now range from $18 for a teenager to $41 for a family of four.

Room rentals for private events range from $20-$140/hour for members, depending on the space and day. Special programs and events require fees from $10 to $125 this summer.

More than a quarter of Newtown residents live at a level that barely meets the minimum required to live here and are one emergency away from financial collapse. The United States Census Bureau states that another four percent of Newtown’s population is at the poverty level. More than nine percent are food insecure and depend on local food pantries in order to put food on the table.

The Community Center administration has had the foresight to offer membership assistance for those on limited incomes or with circumstances beyond one’s control. It is a positive move toward drawing in all who can benefit from this new facility — because for families struggling to put clothes on their backs and food in their mouths, $41 a month is a luxury.

The facility itself is undeniably designed to exude bonhomie. Those involved in bringing this space from blueprints to actuality offer a warm invitation to discover a place where communing with one another has no boundaries, where all feel comfortable and find comfort.

We are fortunate to have this attractive facility and appreciate those who are working to make it the communal place it longs to be. Funded by the horror of 12/14, this Community Center demands a truly inclusive spirit; in doing so, it has the potential to become the heart and soul of Newtown.

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