By Kathy Johnson
Stuart Mills is happy. A year ago he had just taken on the position of executive director for the Rockfish Valley Community Center (RVCC) when he announced to those attending the 2012 Rockfish Nights that the center was “kicking off the Drive for 500,” a drive for 500 members. Mills said he was too new at the time to realize the RVCC only had 360 members. But he smiled as he said recently, “We passed 500 members.” And he has even bigger plans for the future.
There is a lot to be done at the center, Mills said, but the past year has brought a great deal of change and excitement. The center’s septic tank collapsed just as Mills took over and had to be replaced. “Then we bush-hogged the unused the old baseball field and we redid it for use by Nelson 18 & Under, and we put up working lights.” His plans include an expansion at the field next year to include girls’ softball.
A walking trail approximately 300 yards in length was created along the creek. Mills was able to get chips from VDOT and those were spread along the walkway. “It’s not finished,” he said, but that’s in the plan.
With the help of 21 volunteers, the entire building received a new roof. Volunteers spent a long day in May from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. removing all the old shingles and plywood. A professional roofer finished the job.
The Hamner Theatre moved out of RVCC, creating space for the new Rockfish Lounge and hopefully by the end of this year, the new Trager Brothers Coffee will open adjacent to the lounge. According to Mills, new Wi-Fi throughout the building makes it a perfect place to work.
The Treasure Chest, the RVCC’s thrift store, expanded into some of the vacated space and they now carry donated and on-consignment furniture. A new beauty salon is scheduled to move in.
But best of all, Mills said, is what he calls “Rockfish University.”
“With a (funded by the Dave Matthews Band), we now have what I call Rockfish University.”
Rockfish University is revitalized large classroom (made possible by generous grant from the BamaWorks fund and a lot of work by volunteers) with multi-media projection capability, “SmartBoard” interactive whiteboard technology, wide-screen HD television, Wi-Fi, all new lighting and seating for up to 30 participants. “And we have a movie screen coming,” he said.
With state-of-the-art high-tech capability, the room can be used as a meeting room, classroom, conference space, or as a training a space. Mills and other staff and volunteers have been trained to use the room and rental rates are as low as $25 for an hour.
None of the improvements made at RVCC would be possible Mills says without the support of the community, both as volunteers and as financial donors. That’s where Rockfish Nights comes in. This annual event, scheduled this year for November 16, “launches our annual fund drive,” explained Mills. It includes appetizers, entrees, desserts, entertainment and silent auction. This year’s entertainment is the very popular Abbey Road (the ultimate Beatles party band) with doors open and auction at 6, dinner at 7 and music and dancing at 8. Tickets are just $50 ($45 for members). “We’re expecting a sellout,” says Mills. “We have a maximum of 200. I recommend getting your tickets right away. We only have a few left.”
Mills says Rockfish Nights will also kick off the annual fund drive and his search for rock stars. Membership at RVCC will now have three categories—basic, sustaining and “Rock Star.”
“We’ve already got 17 Rock Stars signed up and we have new Business Council memberships as well. We’ll be hosting a quarterly Business Round Table with topics of interest to the business community,” said Mills. He said next projects include some asbestos removal, expected to cost $20,000, and then improvements to the heating system.