Twenty years ago, as the millennium began and the doors of the new Rockfish River Elementary school welcomed students for the first year, the old Rockfish Elementary on Rockfish School Lane in Afton was turned over to a small group of local residents to become a community center. A constitution and by-laws adopted in June 2000 declared the center’s name, Rockfish Valley Community Center (RVCC), and purpose: to serve the recreational and educational needs of Nelson County.
At the RVCC’s inception, a small group of Ruritan members and home-schooling parents approached Tommy Harvey about the idea of using the building for the community. Initially, Mary Hamilton served the role as president, and Peter Purdue as vice president, with David Cunningham as treasurer. Ellen Neal soon stepped in as president with her entire family serving in vital roles. The center quickly became a non-profit membership-driven organization, governed by an elected board of directors. The tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status was filed for the newly incorporated organization with the board of directors including Tammy Zirkle, president, Peter L. Purdue, vice president, Susan Miller, secretary, and Joyce Marino, treasurer. The State Corporation Commission record shows the board included Roy White, Reverend Jim Ailor, Ann Strober, Gifford Childs, Tommy Harvey and Steven Patrick. Early organizational development was a challenging endeavor and dedicated community leadership was vital. Volunteer leadership included Bill Howard in the role of treasurer, with other founders, and key organizers, including Amy Childs, Marian Pierce, David McBee, Linda Baker, Naomi Annable, Trina Murphy and Rowena Olwell.
The building and property were leased from Nelson County by the RVCC for the first ten years. In the inaugural year, the county paid for utilities, but the historic building (circa 1938) was in urgent need of top-to-bottom repairs. All costs were paid through membership support at public events, pancake breakfasts, silent auctions, and Treasure Chest thrift store sales. At the ten-year anniversary, under the leadership of Sarah Jane Stewart as president, the deed for the building and the 10.1-acre property was transferred from the county. The purchase was made in March 2010 with the county holding a $16,548 mortgage.
Stu Mills, executive director, and Sara Taylor, center manager were hired in 2012 to add professional skills and the qualifications required to obtain grants and provide spaces for lease. Over the years, membership has grown, now exceeding 500 members.
The final payment on the mortgage will be made in February 2020. The RVCC birthday on March 1 will be recognized in Leap Year 2020 on February 29. Plans for a twentieth anniversary celebration are in the making. This party will be open to the public with free admission.
The Nelson County community and beyond is invited. Live music performed by the Eric Knutson Band and family friendly kids-activities are planned. In recognition of the early celebrations, a shared meal is planned as an invitation to the many great chefs and home-style cooks to bring their best and share with community. There are memories to share and a mortgage to burn so this free event is expected to be joyful.