The civic cen­ter you know well, but can’t name

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - OPINION - David Raf­ferty is a Green­wich res­i­dent.

“Meet me to­mor­row at the OGRCC.”

Where?

“You know, that build­ing in Old Green­wich where the kids play bas­ket­ball, and they have all those artist and an­tique shows.” Where I buy the beach passes? “That’s right, the OGRCC.” Sound fa­mil­iar? Ev­ery day hun­dreds of peo­ple go to play in the gym, at­tend a meet­ing, get some med­i­cal screen­ing or do one of a dozen other things go­ing on in the build­ing they think is called “the OGRCC.” In re­al­ity, that build­ing is called the Eastern Green­wich Civic Cen­ter (EGCC), and the OGRCC ... the Old Green­wich-River­side Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, the topic of to­day’s col­umn, is sim­ply the build­ing’s largest ten­ant.

But first, for his­tor­i­cal pur­poses and just for fun, the EGCC was con­structed in the mid-1900s by the Elec­trolux Com­pany and was known as the Ek­man Cen­ter. With an au­di­to­rium, food ser­vice and re­cre­ation fa­cil­i­ties it was a place where Elec­trolux em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies could un­wind af­ter work. Af­ter Elec­trolux de­parted, the Town of Green­wich pur­chased the prop­erty and rechris­tened it the Eastern Green­wich Civic Cen­ter, which it has been ev­ery since.

So why then do so many peo­ple mix up the OGRCC and the EGCC? Well, that’s a good ques­tion and frankly, one with no great an­swer. Type ei­ther one into Google Maps and you get the same lo­ca­tion. Build­ing name dyslexia and mod­ern GPS co­or­di­nates aside, as I said to­day’s topic is about the Old Green­wich-River­side Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and specif­i­cally, its cur­rent 75-year an­niver­sary.

It’s wartime 1943 and on the home front, sac­ri­fices and short­ages meant peo­ple couldn’t af­ford to waste gas shut­tling teenagers around town for re­cre­ation. But like to­day, par­ents wanted their kids out of the house, so with the help of the First Con­gre­ga­tional Church, res­i­dents in Old Green­wich and River­side es­tab­lished a mod­est pro­gram that of­fered movies, dances and some sports on an ad hoc ba­sis right smack in the com­mu­nity that kids could walk or bike to. Folks with long mem­o­ries will re­call that the orig­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ated un­der the names Club Shangri-La and Bin­ney Bru­ins.

Most club ac­tiv­i­ties were orig­i­nally held in the June Bin­ney Memo­rial Parish House, but with the war end­ing but the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pop­u­lar­ity boom­ing, the OGRCC name was for­mally adopted and the group was ad­mit­ted as a mem­ber of the Green­wich Com­mu­nity Chest. The Chest, which would be­come Green­wich United Way years later, was a driv­ing force and fundrais­ing stal­wart be­hind the OGRCC un­til 1958 when the or­ga­ni­za­tion struck out on its own for good.

And boy has it grown. In 1947 the OGRCC man­aged three ath­letic pro­grams with about 150 par­tic­i­pants. To­day, thou­sands of chil­dren and adults play mul­ti­ple sports and par­tic­i­pate in dozens of other pro­grams an­nu­ally. OGRCC ac­tiv­i­ties, par­tic­i­pants and mem­bers can now be found from Banksville to Tods Point, so yes, a 75th an­niver­sary is a good time to cel­e­brate with a new pro­gram.

“We thought it only fit­ting to mark this mile­stone at our most pop­u­lar and cel­e­brated com­mu­nity event,” says OGRCC Board pres­i­dent Kirk Schu­bert. “We in­tend for Set Sail to be­come our new, an­nual event, com­bin­ing our sail­boat re­gatta with a show­case of OGRCC pro­grams and com­mu­nity fun.” So what is Set Sail? Es­sen­tially, it’s the next evo­lu­tion of the im­me­di­ately pop­u­lar, fam­ily friendly Model Sail­boat Re­gatta launched by the OGRCC in 1962.

This year, Set Sail is to be held Oct. 14 at the newly cleaned-up Bin­ney Park Pond in Old Green­wich and will fea­ture not just the boat re­gatta, but the OGRCCs an­nual Hal­loween Poster Paint­ing pro­gram, other kids ac­tiv­i­ties, beer, food trucks, and the op­por­tu­nity to lounge around, meet your neigh­bors, and re­con­nect with what makes Green­wich such a great place live. It’s a tick­eted event, with op­tions to just par­tic­i­pate in the Re­gatta, all the way through to all-in­clu­sive pack­ages, so go to the OGRCC web­site (www. myo­grcc.org/set­sail) for more in­for­ma­tion.

Just as im­por­tantly, let’s take a mo­ment to rec­og­nize that it’s th­ese seem­ingly small things, th­ese echoes of our past that con­nect us as a com­mu­nity. Con­grat­u­la­tions OGRCC, 75 years is a long time. But also con­grat­u­la­tions to the gen­er­a­tions of Green­wi­chites who built and nur­tured the OGRCC, which has served our town and our chil­dren so won­der­fully.

DAVID RAF­FERTY

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