Area residents donate building

By Jay Braman Jr.
Tragedy struck in Pine Hill back in 2000 when a 10-year-old boy took his own life.
As the community mourned, it was said by many that if perhaps there were place where kids could go, maybe things like this would not happen.
Florence and Bernie Hamling were Pine Hill dwellers back then. They had a building right on Main Street that Bernie’s Company, Zircar Products, Inc., had been using to house a research and development arm of the firm.
When they heard of plans of a nonprofit group forming to create a community center the Hamling’s immediately offered the mammoth stone block structure for use, donated for a dollar a year.
Now, almost a decade later, the center has become such a part of the community that the Hamlings have donated the building outright.
All are invited to celebrate the recent donation of the property at 287-289 Main Street, Pine Hill on Sunday, July 12 from noon until 2 p.m. The center will hold its annual membership meeting from noon until 1 p.m. and then celebrate the Hamlings’ generosity with a free pulled pork barbecue.
“I have seen the community center grow and become a solid organization over the nine years it has existed,” said Florence, who now resides in Fleischmanns. “We are pleased to offer this gift to the Pine Hill and surrounding communities. With continuing support from neighbors and friends, we’re certain the center will always be a special place for activities, education, music and art, remaining a beacon of grassroots, nonpartisan community effort in Pine Hill forever.”
The building began as Griffin’s Garage in the 1920s. It was then purchased by Domenick and Mary LoFrese in 1975 and converted into an eyeglass factory, Vista Optical. Now the building has a warm, welcoming feel and houses a local art and craft shop, a stage, an internet radio station, a computer lab, a pottery studio, a full kitchen, and various meeting and office spaces.
James Krueger, the center’s director, was pleased with the Hamlings’ generosity.
“We have been given a beautiful space,” he said. “We, meaning the whole community, are fortunate to be the recipients of such a generous gift.”
As owners of the property, the board of directors behind the center is kicking kick off a go-green campaign to raise funds to make the property more energy efficient and help the center utilize new technologies for shrinking their carbon footprint as well as their monthly bills.
Having recently completed a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) energy audit, the center needs $18,000 for work suggested by the report.
Ulster Savings Bank has already stepped up to the plate with a check for $2,500 to help complete the necessary work. They have also given a commitment for another check in the same amount if the center can match it.
For more information call 254-5469 or visit www.pinehillcommunitycenter.org.