By Nadine Cafaro
Walden’s brand new Anita L. Vandermark Community Center was jam-packed this past Thursday to support the grand opening of the long-awaited building.
The project, which Recreation Coordinator Michael Bliss has focused on for 12 years, couldn’t have been met with more support. Just two years ago, Senator James Skoufis presented the Village of Walden with a $370,000 grant for the building’s construction. Now the community center is officially open besides some final touches, including finishing a basic-use kitchen and preparing the offices. Besides Bliss’ department working out of there, the center will be used for all ages, including senior events and summer camp on rainy days.
Walden, Montgomery and even Maybrook residents gathered to see the center hold their ribbon cutting. Of course, they also lined up to meet Vandermark, who cut the orange ribbon with a giant smile.
The event consisted of many speakers, all of which had kind words for Vandermark. Bliss explained that the building was named after her for many reasons, but mostly because of her dedication to the community for years.
“I personally just want to say thank you for inspiring me on a daily basis. And thank you for inspiring our whole community. Look how many people are here for you, Anita. You are truly amazing,” said Bliss.
On top of this Bliss also thanked many people for their support and dedication to the project including Village Manager John Revella, Skoufis, Mayor John Ramos, village board members and more. “I just want to say I’m extremely excited for our community of Walden to have this center for youth, adults and seniors. Everybody will benefit from this building [and] I promise you that I’m gonna see it through,” said Bliss.
Orange County Chamber of Commerce vice chairman Jean Sexton also said a few words on behalf of their organization. “The Orange County Chamber, as always, is willing to be here and stand with everyone, whether it be your assemblymen, senators or the community, to say thank you for all you do. We are here with you,” said Sexton.
Senator Skoufis, who had a tremendous impact on the community center, held his daughter Ava as he spoke to the crowd. He mentioned how bittersweet it was for him since just 19 days before, redistricting caused him to no longer represent Walden and Montgomery. However he still stated his excitement for the community. “This community center is for all of Walden whether you’re young [or] whether you’re old. Seniors will be here, after school programs will be here, and the kids during the summer camp will be here for the rec program. The entire community will benefit from this facility here, so congratulations to everybody,” stated Skoufis.
Former Mayor and Assemblyman Brian Maher also shared a few words to honor and thank Vandermark. “Anita, people like you helped to raise me and make me a better man,” Maher stated. He continued by presenting her with a certificate of recognition on behalf of NYS Senator Rob Rolison.
Other speakers included Revella, Ramos and former mayor Sue Taylor, who all had only positive things to say about the new building, Walden and Vandermark. Sherry Zambrzycki, the RSVP Coordinator at The Orange County Office for the Aging also had a framed certificate to thank Vandermark for her involvement with the Office for the Aging. “If we wanted to make a list of all the things that are great because of Anita’s work with that program, it would be pages and pages long. So, we can’t say enough how thankful and appreciative [we are] for all that you do, that you’ve done, and that you continue to do for your community,” said Zambrzycki.
The last person to speak was Vandermark, who was met with a standing ovation and at one point, asked someone to pinch her. “Thank you for the honor and thanks to everyone that has had a hand in this. I’m thankful for having so many good friends. Walden is known for everyone being so friendly, helpful and getting things done,” said Vandermark, “ Thank you for having the confidence in me.”
After the speeches, attendees were welcome to stay for refreshments and conversation, which they did. People connected from all areas and were happy to celebrate both the community center and Vandermark.
“Look what we have here, Anita. This is all for you,” said Ramos.