Penacook Community Center to merge with Boys and Girls Club

  • Four-year-old Everly Rogers talks with her fellow student in the basement gymnasium that is being used for a classroom at the Penacook Community Center on Tuesday.

  • Cathy Furlong, president of the Penacook Community Center board of directors, (right) talks with students in the gym area, December 21, 2021. The Concord Boys and Girls Club will be taking over the organization soon and the students will be moved out of the current building for renovations. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Cathy Furlong, president of the Penacook Community Center board of directors, enters the building on Tuesday. The Boys and Girls Club will be taking over the organization.

Monitor staff
Published: 12/31/2021 8:00:36 PM
Modified: 12/31/2021 8:00:06 PM

The Penacook Community Center will dissolve and become a division of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire early this year.

The afterschool and before school programs for Penacook Elementary School and Washington Street Elementary School will transfer to the Boys and Girls Club location at 55 Bradley Street beginning on Jan. 3. The Penacook infant program will also move to Bradley Street, while toddlers and preschoolers will go to Eastman Early Learning Center on 15 Shawmut Street.

At some point after the merger is finalized, the plan is to return the center’s childcare programs to Penacook.

Rates for the center’s early childcare programs will increase by $10 a week, while afterschool program fees will stay the same. Boys and Girls Club CEO Christopher Emond said that a $25,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation kept fees from going up more for parents. 

“I wanted to make sure that the transition was as painless as possible,” Emond said. “We’ve made the commitment that the fee will not exceed that increase for the year.”

Elderly adults who participated in the senior program at Penacook Community Center can enroll in the free program at Goodlife Programs and Activities at 254 N. State St in Concord. Participants had their annual $45 membership fee from Penacook Community Center refunded. 

The initial financial hit of the pandemic, the prospect of expensive building repairs and difficulty hiring a new executive director all led to the decision to dissolve Penacook Community Center, said Cathy Furlong, president of the organization’s board of directors.

“The easiest way to say it: COVID was the final straw for us,” Furlong said. Halting programs in March 2020 led to a loss in revenue. Even when the center was allowed to open months later, required staffing ratios meant the organization could accept only half its regular capacity for children while at the same time, it needed to pay all its staff.

Although federal grants, donations and Paycheck Protection Program money helped keep the organization afloat, Furlong said the community center was still playing catch-up from last year’s losses. 

The tired condition of the center’s four buildings made the financial outlook even worse. One building has significant structural issues, while others are more than 100 years old and need upgrades to their electrical, plumbing and heating systems.

Team Engineering of Bedford has evaluated all the buildings and will be working with the Boys and Girls Club and the Penacook Community Center board to establish the full extent of the renovations required.

Faced with looming new expenses and unable to hire a new executive director, the board had to consider other options to avoid closing its doors completely. 

“Our top priority was childcare for the families and jobs for our staff,” Furlong said. “We came to the decision that it was probably going to be difficult to get the money to do the repairs we needed, so we made the decision to look into merging with someone else.”

Opened in 1954, the center has served many purposes throughout the years, hosting dances, sports games, summer camps and exercise classes.

 “It's always been evolving, it never stayed the same,” Furlong said.“It’s always looking at, what does the community need, and then it’s building from there.”

The center’s gym, one of the buildings that needs repairs, was built by the labor of Penacook volunteers during nights and weekends.   

“It’s really Penacook,” said Ward 1 Councilor Brent Todd. “The community really built that organization from the ground up.”

Emond said that the Boys and Girls Club has experience merging with other childcare organizations while allowing them to run their own operations and retain their titles, like it did with Lakes Region Child Care.

“What’s important to us as an organization is that they not lose their identity,” Emond said. “It'll continue to operate as the Penacook Community Center.”

Over the next few months, the two organizations will nail down the details of the merger, hire and onboard staff and determine the extent of the construction needed on the center’s old buildings. 

 “The goal is definitely to have a presence in Penacook, we’re just not sure what that’s going to look like right now,” Furlong said. The timeline for returning the childcare programs to Penacook could depend on building repairs and how quickly staff can be hired.

“There’s a sadness because we know a part of PCC is ending,” Furlong said. “It's a transition for everybody but I feel that it’s going to be wonderful. When the dust settles, it’s going to be great for everybody.”

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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