The Lyons Community Center opened in 1944 in a home that Myron Taylor donated at 51 Broad St., Lyons, NY. He also left an endowment, the Taylor Trust, which continues to help sustain the center, now on Manhattan Street.
The desire, back in Myron’s time, is the same as it is today: people in Lyons, especially the children, should have a place to gather and enjoy recreational and other programming.
But these days, in the time of Covid, the center is shut down for traditional activities, like youth sports and tournaments, wrestling competitions and after school programming. The summer activities for youth, organized by Brandon Bentley, did not happen in 2020 either, said Board President Keith Bridger.
“Right now, our only full-time employee is the director, Cesar Ortiz,” he said. There is a part-timer who does the financials and other clerical duties, but the half-dozen people who regularly run other programming and act in other needed capacities have been laid off.
One of them, Gino Tercarico, a developmentally disabled man, has worked there for more than a decade. He has taken on every role, from mopping the floor, to keeping the stats at athletic events.
“He is really missed, but we can’t risk him getting sick,” Ortiz said. “We are looking forward to bringing him back.”
The center, which is also getting some help from Wayne County Workforce Development, is not completely shuttered.
On January 30, Kinney Drugs held its first round of Covid-19 vaccinations there, which drew more than 500 people from as far away as Syracuse, Bridger said.
“I was there the whole day and I was amazed at how well it ran; I was impressed that everyone did a great job,” he said. “They’re coming back on February 20 for the second round.”
Because of the center’s size and the ability to maintain social distancing, it was the perfect place for the clinic. Bridger said it was offered gratis; for such an important community activity; it did not feel right to charge a rental fee.
The Wayne County Republican Committee also recently rented out the center for its caucus because it too was seeking out a place big enough to hold a gathering that was anticipated to attract a large number of people.
Since March, the Lyons Town Board has been holding its meetings at the center because the town hall on Phelps Street is just too small, in the time of Covid, for public meetings. The town’s contribution, $20,000 a year, is enough to cover the facility’s liability insurance.
“It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not when you consider how much it costs to maintain the building,” Bridger said. “Covid hit, and we’ve lost thousands of dollars in income from youth sports and events. And we can’t do our fundraisers.”
He said the board members and the limited staff are doing maintenance on the building themselves to keep costs down.
The community center had become the place for all of the town’s youth sports that are not school-related, and that’s quite a number of diverse activities that draw in a huge number of kids, Ortiz said. There’s soccer, basketball, softball, wrestling and travel teams. Tournaments were good income generators.
One program that has remained open is Silver Sneakers. The senior exercise program, done mostly from chairs, can function because there is enough room in the gym for participants to spread out.
And until the weather changed, Foodlink was doing food distribution at the center. The program continues on, but now it is inside at the Lyons Transportation Center down the street. The center had hoped to partner with Wayne County Action Program to host an afterschool program, but the funding for that fell through and it didn’t happen.
For right now, the Taylor Trust, which also funds several churches in Lyons, is helping to pay the bills. The center is also getting private donations, from residents and others in the community.
Bridger said he is confident that the community center, like many non-profits, will survive post-Covid. He said this is not the first time it has run into financial difficulties and it has managed to keep going. He said it is even close to paying off its mortgage.
“It’s been tough times, but I think we’ll be fine,” Bridger said.
by Louise Hoffman Broach