It’s been 35 years since the Southeast Linn Community Center was incorporated. Since its origins a few things are the same, and a few things are different, said longtime SELCC volunteer Nola Owens, who guided meal delivery for the center.
“The important thing hasn’t changed — which is taking care of people in the community,” Owens said.
Owens was among dozens of current and former staff, board members, volunteers and other community members who celebrated the SELCC’s anniversary Monday, Sept. 6. The event included an open house, allowing visitors to see the SELCC’s start and evolution.
There was also a reception which included a keynote speech by Rev. Kalen Fristad, first president of the SELCC board.
Fristad used Edgar Guest’s poem, “It Couldn’t Be Done.” to talk about overcoming doubts to build the Southeast Linn Community Center building next to the library in downtown Lisbon. As with the lead character in the poem, the founders of the SELCC didn’t agree “It Couldn’t Be Done,” without trying to succeed.
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
Iris Plattenberger helped recruit an initial committee and then Southeast Linn Community Center Corporation which elected Fristad president, Plattenberger vice-president and Ann Opatz secretary. Plattenberger asked people to join an advisory board, Fristad said, though the group offered more hands on work than advice.
The early meetings felt a bit like a full-time job, Opatz said, reflecting on the beginning of the center, as the board met with bankers, architects and city officials. The biggest focus was to raise the funds to get the building built. The programming would follow once the center was established.
Seeing the SELCC continuing and evolving is gratifying, Opatz said.
“We were fortunate to have the right staff, and volunteers dedicated to the mission,” she said. “The needs in the community have evolved and people providing the leadership are adapting as well.”
Speaking at the celebration, SELCC director Nicole McAlexander reiterated the SELCC mission, which is to “facilitate the well-being of the citizens of Lisbon and Mount Vernon, with emphasis on the economically disadvantaged, children, and senior citizens of our community.”
“Strengthening those three groups lifts up the whole community,” McAlexander said. She also mentioned how the SELCC survived recent challenges brought on by COVID pandemic.
“It was astounding to see how the community stepped up to offer even more support,” McAlexander said. “It’s a beautiful reminder that this is truly a community center.”
Similar to Opatz, Fristad was gratified to see the SELCC continue to adapt to meet the needs of people in Mount Vernon and Lisbon.
“Building the building wasn’t the end, it was the beginning,” Fristad said in his speech. “All of you over the past 35 years — you have made it a community center.
“For that I congratulate you.”