PITTSFIELD -- A big anniversary lends itself to big news, and the staff at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center had just such news to report as it marked its 100th annual meeting in the city this week.
Executive Director Kelly Marion said the past year has brought the center into its most solid financial footing in more than a decade.
"Our mortgage is paid off in full," Marion said. "So we start the school year of 2014 debt-free."
The source of the center's debt was a complete $4.1 million renovation of its 165 East St. space undertaken in 2003 and completed a year later. Lenders included Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank and TD Bank.
Marion said the single most important development in cutting that debt: The sale of a 33-acre parcel the center owned near Onota Lake to the north side of Parker Brook.
The parcel comprised a portion of the center's 881 2-acre Camps Stevenson-Witawentin property, the rest of which the center still owns.
In the works since 2009, the parcel sale netted the center $1.2 million when it was finalized back in May. The property was purchased by Donald Bernard, former owner/operator of The Seven Stones camp-resort in Great Barrington. Bernard reportedly has plans to develop the recently purchased parcel.
Work on finalizing the sale for the Brigham Center garnered attorney Jeffrey Lynch "Volunteer of the Year" honors at the meeting. Marion praised Lynch's dedication, recounting how at one point he donned a wetsuit to better explore the lake property.
"Talk about going above and beyond -- Jeff went from his business suit to a wetsuit," she said.
Lynch reciprocated the credit.
"The Land Use Committee and [center staff] was so focused on the goals of this agency," he said. "We all contributed. Everybody got it done."
Lynch hand-delivered the check to the bank, which paid off the center's mortgage.
He wasn't the only one awarded at the meeting. The center, which serves 3,000 families in the community per year, had more honors to dole out.
Juliana Martinez, 12, and Ariel Saldana, 9, earned "Girl of the Year" and "Youth of the Year" honors, respectively. Additionally, center employees Danielle Butler, Rachel Colucci, Marie Ruel and Marlena Willis all received recognition for five years of service.
On the bureaucratic side, Dianne Supranowicz officially stepped down as president of the center's executive committee, yielding the position to Ryan Melle.
"The staff is truly dedicated to the well-being of the children of this area," Supranowicz said. "It's been a great honor to be part of this organization and I will still continue to be part of it."
Finally, longtime center employee Vicky Palardy used the occasion to formalize her forthcoming retirement.
Marion also said a recent agreement between the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center and the Catholic Youth Center to house the CYC's volleyball and basketball programs on East Street has been working out to the benefit of all. In August, the CYC closed its doors at 26 Melville St. because of deteriorating conditions inside the 100-year-old building.
"We were thrilled to provide a resource that wasn't being used for such a good cause," she said.
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