By Sam Wildow
TROY —The Lincoln Community Center (LCC) introduced its improvements to the community on Friday and Saturday, highlighting its finished expansion of over 21,000 square feet.
The nearly $3.8 million expansion added programming, activity, and work space with ADA compliance and additional parking. Included in the new space is a high school regulation gymnasium; a lobby and reception area; program and activity areas; an exercise room and locker room; staff offices, work areas, and storage; and a kitchen and concession area.
“We’re grateful to be able to share our mission and our vision with the entire community,” Executive Director Shane Carter said on Friday. “We look forward to growing our organization and moving it forward.”
Carter discussed the history of the LCC, which has its roots going back to the 1800s as a school-house for African-American children in Troy.
“The Lincoln Community Center started in 1865 as a one-room school house,” Carter said. “It operated from 1865 until 1874, and over those nine years, it was a place where African-American children could learn arithmetic, reading, literature, and all the things that were necessary.” Carter said integration in the schools began in 1875 after a local student, who lived on Crawford Street, petitioned the school board to attend school at Forest Elementary due to flooding from the canal.
The Lincoln school sat vacant, Carter said, and was used for storage until a semi-professional football team wanted to use the space, putting the LCC on the path to becoming a local community center.
“Then came a request by a team called the Black Stockings — it was a semi-professional football team that was organized and wanted to use the grounds, as well as the building for a locker room,” Carter said.
Carter recognized donors, alumni, board members, and other visionaries who helped bring the needed improvements to fruition. Carter said planning for the improvements began in 2015 before the capital campaign launched publicly in 2019. The LCC received a $1 million commitment from Pat and Thom Robinson, a $1 million commitment from the Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC), and a commitment of $500,000 from Leib and Barb Lurie, co-founders of Kids Read Now, for construction and ongoing operations.
“This is absolutely amazing, more than I thought it would be,” Pat Robinson said. She complimented Carter’s and the LCC’s work. “I’m proud to be here today and be a part of this. Thom and I just kind of planted a little seed, and then all the rest of you chipped in, and it turned out to be what it is. It’s terrific for this area, and Troy should be very proud. This neighborhood should certainly be very proud.”
“I was flattered to be part of this, and I think it’s just unbelievable,” Thom Robinson said.
Kevin Harlan, president of UVMC, talked on Friday about how he had previously discussed the project with Carter and how the LCC came to this expansion.
“He told me very simply, he said, ‘The number of people walking through our doors is increasing, the number of programs we offer is increasing, and we’re out of room.’ And I thought, those are all good problems to have. That’s really where you want to get to, that’s how you know you’re serving your community,” Harlan said. “So Shane, to you, your board of directors, your volunteers, your entire staff, everyone that walks through the doors, congratulations. I’m confident that decades from now — maybe even generations from now — people will look back at this time and say, ‘Well done.’ They will say, ‘You were faithful to your mission, you have helped the legacy.’ And I know that this is a calling for you and many other people … and I will say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
“This is not about us,” Barb Lurie said on Friday. “This is about Shane, and the community, and the difference that he makes in the lives of the children and the adults of this community. We decided to give our time and our resources because of Shane and because of the strength of his character and the focus on his family.”
Leib and Barb Lurie both had classrooms named after one of their parents, including one for Barb Lurie’s father, James Stetson Mays, and one for Leib Lurie’s mother, Ellen Lurie.
Mays served during World War II and also served as a body guard to President Harry S. Truman. He grew up in the rural South and was the first person in his family to get a college degree, which was in social work. Ellen Lurie was the first female newscaster on NBC in 1952 and started an innovative community preschool program in Harlem, Leib Lurie said. He said she testified in Congress in 1963 on the program, adding Congress funded that program as part of a new initiative called Head Start. She also co-founded the Harlem Parents Committee “to bring about community control of schools to provide quality education” through integration, Leib Lurie said.
“We dedicate these rooms to those advocates of justice, education, and life-long learning,” Leib Lurie said.
Carter also recognized the staff of the LCC, saying the staff members provide a “tailored support to each individual’s need.”
“You see the end result, or you see the kid that graduates college, or the young person that goes on to get a law degree, or somebody that goes out, graduates, and comes back and impacts the center, but I think the ultimate thing that you can never, ever, ever measure is the amount of time and the amount of commitment that our staff puts into this place,” Carter said.
The space in the original 1939 building will be used and refurbished over time. The LCC Board of Directors just approved naming that original facility, “The John and Caroline Spencer Building” at LCC, in honor of John Spencer, then-President of Hobart Manufacturing. He and his wife spearheaded the planning, the campaign and the construction of the building.
The Legacy Campaign was organized and executed by a volunteer group of LCC staff, board members and community volunteers. That group included: Shane Carter, Maggie Sink, Karen Boone, Ken Willis, Ted Zimmerman, Bart Denlinger, Rob Burnette, and Dr. Jim and Linda Daniel. MT Studios was the architect and Level MB Construction was the general contractor for project. Bart Denlinger served as volunteer owner’s representative.
For additional information about the campaign, the project, or LCC programs, contact Shane Carter at Lincoln Community Center at 937-335-2715.