Soon the new Penacook community center of the Concord Boys & Girls Club

CONCORD, NH — As with many things in Concord, the merger of Penacook Community Center and Concord Boys & Girls Club of Central NH and the unveiling of a new facility on Monday began with an email.

In November 2021, Cathy Furlong, the president of the Penacook Community Center, realized that the organization was going to struggle to continue providing childcare and other services to village residents. The coronavirus had made things difficult, there were fewer in-person activities and functions, and his building had become dilapidated and needed repairs or overhauls. While the organization had been around for more than 70 years, helping people in the village, they didn’t see the way forward – the organization would be bankrupt by Christmas, Furlong said.

“It just wasn’t going to happen,” she said.

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After speaking with employees and board members and trying to figure out what to do, Furlong emailed Concord Boys & Girls Club CEO Chris Emond urgently requesting a meeting the next day.

Emond, who was going through emails that evening before reading Furlong’s, likened it to being transported to the principal’s office. At the time, the organization was considering another project in another part of town and thought it might be related to this.

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“Golf was over at that time of year,” he joked, “so I had time.”

However, when Furlong and Emond met the next day and he overheard her, his first instinct was that while there would be trouble, a merger was doable. He was surprised by the idea, however, but given previous mergers, Emond knew it could be done. Although it was a little rough at first, including with the staff members. But he praised them for “hanging on” and “having faith in an organization they knew nothing about”.

After audits, finance, payroll, discussions with staff and board and planning for a future, which has not always been easy, it has brought both organizations to the point where they are were Monday – innovating on a new state-of-the-art facility on Community Drive in Penacook.

The project will cost nearly $5.4 million to $5.7 million, with almost all funds lined up. Emond said the organizations will also go to city council to ask for some money on Monday.

While it was going to be sad to see the buildings demolished, in the end it was worth it, Furlong.

“They really need to come down,” she said.

The building will be energy efficient, have its own playground and, as Furlong said, it will be “accessible to everyone”. She said the center had always evolved to be everything the public needed. So that, in many ways, was just another change in his 75 years.

Furlong also praised the Boys & Girls Club staff for helping the center through the process and bringing everyone together.

“I know it’s going to be okay,” she said. “It was well worth it.”

Along the way, Emond said, he was amazed at how many people didn’t say “no” when asked to help. While he’d been lucky with previous projects, including the new facility on Bradley Street, that wasn’t always the situation at Concord, although many people were quite generous. But finding nearly $6 million was no easy task.

Emond said it helps, when setting up fundraising campaigns, that “someone has to come first.” And that’s when Rachel and Marshall Rowe became those people — committing $1 million to the effort, which helped tremendously.

“I think I started crying when they told me what they were going to do,” he said. “And I’m not that emotional, as many of you know. It meant a lot to me, and we mean a lot to them.

Emond said the donation gave the community of Penacook the chance to understand that the project would come to fruition.

Rachel Rowe said Penacook residents would know childcare would be affordable and parents would know their children would be safe, learning and enjoying outdoor activities. She said it empowered parents, especially moms, who wanted to expand their work opportunities. Marshall Rowe said they also appreciate the partnerships each has built together for the community.

The Community Development Finance Authority also helped with a block grant of $500,000. In August, through the New Hampshire Development Finance Authority and Merrimack County Savings Bank, $50,000 in tax credits were lined up.

Capital campaign donors also included the Boucher Family Fund; Cleveland Waters and Bass; Cold Springs motorhome; Grappone Automotive Group; Hannaford Foundation; Irish Electric Corp. ; Lois Roy Dickerman Foundation; Mariner Foundation; Nathan Wechsler & Co Pro Assoc. ; Rotary Club of Concord; Sanel NAPA; Shay and Don Welch; Strive for indoor cycling; the Rowley Agency; and numerous anonymous donations.

Others thanked include Frank Lemay of Milestone Construction, Erin Lambert of Wilcox and Barton, Romy Mauer of Terrain Planning and John Turner of My Team Engineering.

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Jill E. Washington