IMPORTANT UPDATE: On Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at 9:45 a.m. the Jacksonville Community Center will break ground on its new community center. The public is invited to celebrate this historic event. A short program will begin at 10:00 a.m. and light refreshments will be served.

On April 25, 2017, the Jacksonville Seniors, Inc. fulfilled a long-time organizational dream by presenting the Jacksonville Community Center (JCC) a check for $153,200. In handing the check to Rick Patsche, JCC President, Judy Hall, the Seniors President said, “This check represents more than two decades of blood, sweat and tears.” According to Hall, the Seniors have been operating the Thrift Store for 19 years, saving the profits to build a community center.

One might naturally ask, how does a Thrift Store, even one that has operated for nearly 20 years, where the average item is probably priced at two dollars or less, save more than $150,000?

Not many people may remember the Anne Allen Book Club or the Brown Bag Lunch Club, but more than 25 years ago, those two informal groups formed the genesis for what would become the Jacksonville Community Center. These groups began originally discussing the need for a senior center for simple activities like meeting to discuss books or having friendly conversations over lunch. The idea of a senior center, however, quickly evolved into a multi-purpose community center that would serve and be used by children and adults of all ages.

Under the leadership of community activist Vi Davis, Jacksonville Seniors, Inc. was incorporated in 1995, with the mission to build a community center and to help and promote the Food and Friends operation in Jacksonville. After receiving its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in 1997, the Seniors began to solicit donated items that they would sell at a Thrift Store. Long-time Senior leader Donna Schatz recalls, “We first operated our Thrift Store out of the garage next to the existing community center (Sampson House). Then we moved into our current location in the City-owned Brunner Building in 2003.”

During the nearly 20 years, Seniors, Inc. has operated a Thrift Store in Jacksonville, hundreds of volunteers – mostly seniors – donated tens of thousands of hours sorting, cleaning and pricing items and staffing the store. Although Vi Davis credits Anne Allen with proposing the idea of a community center, Vi served as President for 6 years followed by 12 as Treasurer from 1995 to 2013. She could be found at the store daily and was involved in every aspect of the store bringing the same management and professional style that she employed at U.S. Bank. Known for her high energy and “get it done right” attitude, Vi watched every penny that came into the Thrift Store. Good friends have described Vi’s leadership style as “bossy boss,” “a steel magnolia from Texas,” and someone “who had a way to push people,” – all in an enduring and loving manner. Vi was a doer who never lost sight of her goal of saving money to build a community center. Under current President, Judy Hall, in the last fiscal year alone, 41 volunteers spent more than 4000 hours in operating the Thrift Store, and nearly 5000 customers from 48 states and 40 countries generated gross sales of $22,560.

In the early 2000s, Vi and the Senior leadership had the foresight to realize that operating a Thrift Store was enough to keep their hands full without the challenge of raising hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to build and then operate a community center. In 2003, a separate nonprofit, the Jacksonville Community Center, was incorporated and received its tax exempt status to create a multi-purpose community center for all ages.

In accepting the check on April 25, Rick Patsche, JCC President said, “The real story is not just the generous $153,200 gift from the Seniors, which is incredible and unbelievable, but the fact that the Seniors have been saving for this day for nearly 20 years. That is dedication, perseverance and commitment without which we would not be breaking ground on May 31.” According to Patsche, he met with numerous foundations that were impressed that for years the Seniors had been saving money for a community center. “In almost every instance those foundations gave us a grant because the local residents had ‘skin in the game!’” says Patsche. Thank you to the Jacksonville Seniors and to the many volunteers and community leaders who have brought us to this day.