AVON – The Zone Coalition hosted a community meeting for residents of Avon, Madrid, Phillips and surrounding areas on May 7 at the Opportunity Center of Northern Franklin County.

Twenty-six interested people gathered to learn more about the Old Gym Community Center renovation project and share their hopes for the programs it will house.

David Robie, board chairman, opened the program with a history lesson about the building, originally a maintenance building for the Sandy River Rangeley Lakes narrow gauge railroad.

The building was then owned by the American Legion and local school district before finally being deeded to Zone Coalition in March. Robie then likened the collaborative effort of several area organizations to the whole human body: the feet being the Recreational Clubs like the ATV and Snowmobile Clubs; the hands are the Opportunity Center; the Phillips Area Chamber of Commerce acts as the senses; the Phillips Library and schools are the brain; and Zone Coalition, the heart of the community.

Leah Binder, head of Healthy Community Coalition through Franklin Memorial Hospital, facilitated the meeting.

Jill Berry-Bowen, former co-chairwoman of Zone Coalition, shared her goal of seeing the old gym become a community center following the January 2000 birth of SAFE Zone, a safe, non-threatening place for area youth to gather on Friday and Saturday nights. Bruce Spencer, Janet White and Winona Davenport shared their memories of happy times at the old gym.

People broke into four groups to brainstorm ideas of what they would like to see be available in the historic building. Parents of preschool and young children hope to see opportunities to gather for parenting classes and discussion, interaction with daycare facilities and a comprehensive summer program.

Parents of older children would like to see a place for the teens to hang out, with structured activities, a resource center for information and and skills, a resource center for information and skills and a place for physical activities, such as basketball and skateboarding.

Adults with grown children remembered the times they had at dances and gathering for exercise and would like to see these happen again as well as opportunities to learn crafts and enjoy intergenerational activities such as movies and plays.

The senior group is looking to get physically fit with weight training, exercise classes, and a walking track, a place for card games, a place to use computers, copier and fax machine and transportation to and from the facility.

Zone Coalition will apply for grants, look at local fund-raising opportunities and seek donations of time and materials from area business people. For information about the project, call Ginni Robie, board secretary, at 639-2713. Tax deductible donation may be mailed to Zone Coalition, P.O. Box 442, Phillips, ME 04966.

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