With one century under its belt, the Carter Community Building Association continues to make the Upper Valley a better place to live and play.
By Barbra Alan
The year 1919 saw the world emerging from the Great War and still fighting the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. The average life expectancy for Americans was 55. The 18th Amendment, establishing Prohibition, was adopted. It was against this solemn backdrop that Lebanon, N.H., philanthropists Mr. and Mrs. William S. Carter founded the Carter Community Building Association (CCBA) “for the purpose of furnishing the young people of Lebanon (New Hampshire) a healthful and uplifting club life, following in its line of work that of the YMCA and kindred institutions.”
Back then, the CCBA inhabited a single building on 1 Campbell Street. The building was just a couple of years old, and had been used by the Red Cross to assist the families of World War I servicemen. After the war, the Carters opened the building to the public for a variety of sporting events as well as dances and weddings. For Lebanon’s youth, the CCBA provided a much-needed place to blow off steam, socialize, and celebrate. One hundred years later, the CCBA does that — and so much more.
The CCBA’s 100th anniversary has been a perfect opportunity for Executive Director Shelby Day to take a step back and appreciate how far the center has come over the past century. “It’s been amazing to go back through the history [of the CCBA] and look through board meeting minutes from the 1940s and 1950s — it really shows how much we’ve grown,” she says.
Day has been doing more than sifting through boxes of old documents; she’s been mining her own treasured memories. “I was born and raised in Lebanon, and the CCBA has been home since I was 6 years old,” she says. “My parents, my uncles — we all grew up with the CCBA. I’d come here after school. Later, in my teens, I worked out here with my mom. And now my own children get to enjoy it. So, this is more than a job for me, it’s a way to give back for all the CCBA has given me and my family.”
After leaving Lebanon for college and a 19-year career as a student success and wellness professional at a Vermont military college, Day returned to the area and the CCBA about two years ago. While so much had changed in and around Lebanon and at the CCBA since she was a kid, it didn’t take long for Day to feel right at home again.
“When I did my final interview in the Carter Community Building, I was at the same table where I’d sit and do my homework as a kid,” she says.
A Community Resource
As executive director, Day oversees the various daily functions of the CCBA and works in partnership with the many people who are dedicated to the center’s success, including community volunteers, educators, the board of trustees, and the coordinators and directors of the various areas that make up the CCBA. Many, like Day, have long-time ties to the center.
One of the keys to the CCBA’s longevity has been its ability to grow and change with the community it serves. Over the years, the CCBA’s membership has flourished —today it’s nearly 2,000 members strong — prompting its expansion beyond the Carter Community Building to include the Witherell Recreation Center and the Canillas Recreation Pavilion to better meet the health, wellness and child care needs of the Upper Valley.
The CCBA offers members access to a comprehensive free-weight room, cardiovascular center, fitness studio and circuit training room, and a wide variety of services including fitness classes; health, wellness, and fitness coaching; nutritional counseling; and even a youth strength and conditioning program for 7th and 8th graders.
The Dwinell Pool — a 25-yard indoor swimming pool with six lap lanes, diving board and hot tub — is home to the center’s aquatics programs. Community members can take swim lessons, lifeguard training, aqua aerobics, or simply enjoy doing a few laps.
One of the most popular services the CCBA offers is child care, including a preschool program, school vacation camps and a summer camp program, ensuring that the community’s younger members learn and grow in a safe, nurturing and fun environment.
Red Cross Roots
And true to the original building’s Red Cross roots, the CCBA offers American Red Cross courses in CPR/AED, First Aid, Lifeguard Training, Lifeguarding Re-certification, Babysitting Training, Lifeguard Instructor Training and Water Safety Instructor Training.
The CCBA also offers community events throughout the year like barbecues, dances, and holiday events. “There is always a lot going on that touches every part of the community,” Day says. “When I’m asked who we serve, in my opinion, it’s the entire community — people of all ages.”
To ensure that the CCBA truly serves the needs of all community members, regardless of their financial means, it offers a variety of scholarship programs — quite a feat for an organization that operates mostly from membership and program fees, as well as grants, endowment income and donations.
“One of our biggest scholarships is the Pat Walsh Scholarship Fund, which is named for a beloved former CCBA director and helps supply kids with equipment they need for baseball,” Day says. “We also have a sneaker fund to help families purchase sneakers for their kids, and a youth scholarship program that helps our kids be members of the CCBA, so they can come to the Witherell Center to work out, swim, play racquetball. There are also scholarships for swim lessons, summer camp programs and sports camp programs.”
While some of these scholarships date back to the CCBA’s earliest days, others have been created over the years through the generosity of community members who value all that the CCBA does, and want to pay it forward, in keeping with the philanthropic spirit of the Carters.
When Day reflects on the CCBA’s first 100 years, one word springs to mind: community. “It’s the best description of the CCBA, it’s what keeps us going every day, and it’s our number one mission,” she says. “The CCBA is more than just a place to go and work out and be healthy — it’s also a place for friendships, family and community. When you consider our name, the Carter Community Building Association, people tend to think of the ‘building’ part as bricks and mortar. But it’s really about community building, which is what we’ll continue to do for our next hundred years.”
It’s safe to say that Mr. and Mrs. Carter would be pleased.
Barbra Alan is a writer living in Alexandria, N.H., with her husband and two children.
Did You Know?
The CCBA is self-supporting and receives no municipal, state or Federal funding.