Thedford Native Big Part In Raising Funds For 8,400 Sq. Ft. Sterling Community Center

The Johnson County Community of Sterling had a chance to show off their new eight-thousand-four hundred square-foot Community Center, at the 2021 Wine and Ale Festival Saturday night. What used to occupy a small downtown building, is now a community center on West Broadway with a full gym floor, stage area, kitchen, restrooms and a smaller community meeting room.

The project is the result of years of fundraising with help from a state convention and civic center grant program. Sterling Community Association Vice President Marissa Lempka (Sawyer) says a large group of dedicated donors, from long-time residents, families and businesses to those newer to the community, made it possible.

“Sterling always shows up, no matter if its for the school or the community association or for events like this. They always show up. It’s a tight knit community. We really care about each other and so I think it speaks volumes for the town.”

Lempka and Community Association Secretary Mandy Goracke are among the newer Sterling residents, and the idea of a community center has long been a goal. The pace of fundraising picked up speed in the past few years.

“When we moved here, they had talked about this, wanting to do this for years and years and years….and they had a little pot of money, I think, started with the community association before we moved here….probably twenty years ago. They said some day we’re going to build a community center and we need a community center. No one just really got the ball rolling on that. There was a lot of younger people that started moving back to Sterling in the last five to seven years…and I think everybody kind of just saw that need…and they had started that fundraising a long time ago…so what could we do to get the ball rolling.”

At least 125 separate donations have been received and eight businesses submitted project bids that included pledges of labor and materials.

“People see everyone else giving and what this could offer to our community and the neighboring towns….there’s nothing exactly like this. It fits a big need that we currently have…and so, as we got the word out with the blueprints and got some excitement about this is what we are building…everyone got right onboard.”

The new Community Center is completed, aside from some parking lot refinement and landscaping that is waiting out a snowy winter. As events and groups rent out the center, some equipment additions may be made, such as projectors and a sound system. Lempka says bookings for either the main area or the smaller meeting room have begun.

“We actually have one wedding for this fall that is already booked, and potentially one in 2022. We have a few birthday parties, graduations and things like that already booked for 2021.”

Booking information is available by contacting the Sterling Community Association on the Sterling community website. Seating capacity, the booking calendar and additional information will soon be on the site.

Association Secretary Goracke says Sterling has several events throughout the year. “We start, of course, with our Wine and Ale Festival every year. We have our bowling tournament, we do a basketball tournament…and then we go into the Sterling Picnic.” The list continues with an end-of-summer golf tournament and a Christmas Tree Lighting event.

The new gym floor area of the community center also provides basketball and volleyball alternative practice and event space, for Sterling Public Schools.