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New community center finally opens in Williams
A 21-year dream came true with the snip of ceremonial scissors on Saturday — and life was restored with full remembrance of the veterans who had once called the new Williams Community Center home.
"None of this would have been possible without the sacrifice of our veterans who have given so much to fight for the freedom that we all enjoy as American citizens," said Colusa County Supervisor Mark Marshall, who is widely credited with securing the $250,000 Community Development Block Grant funds that paid for the lion's share of the building rehabilitation.
The man of the hour, however, was Ron Simmons, who hatched, nurtured and at times resuscitated the ever evolving idea of a civic center.
"It actually started as a theater," said Simmons, who headed the Williams Unified music program for many years.
He played the national anthem on trumpet at the dedication, admitting afterward that was the first time he had ever done that.
Simmons, who co-chaired the event with Beth Nall, said the project went through a variety of changes over the years, and there were times it seemed all had been lost.
The journey included looking at a number of buildings in town, the hope of their own being built, and eventually returning to the former VFW hall, which had been explored several times.
Ethel Killian, a member of the Williams Community Center Association, quipped that many of the members hoped at times that Simmons would throw in the towel so they could quit, too.
But Simmons was quick to deflect so much of the credit, saying he was as much inspired by the dedication of others as they were by him.
And Mayor Pat Ash noted several people who were part of the effort, but who died before seeing the vision come to reality.
"A vision that embodied passion, commitment and achievement," Marshall said.
The 3,000-square-foot building located on C Street, has a larger main room than the old VFW hall, a room dedicated to Simmons.
The bathrooms that once greeted visitors are now in the back. The kitchen is larger and has been moved closer to the front, and there are two smaller rooms for other needs.
Although not all costs have been calculated, the project is estimated to be around $300,000.
The difference between the grant and the total was raised through the weekly bingo games and other fundraisers by the Williams Community Center Association.
The bingo board was proudly hung on the wall, but many of the other interior elements are still to be completed, including a plaque featuring the names of key contributors and a display that will honor the veterans.
Simmons said the association is looking for donations to that display.
The Colusa Veterans of Foreign Wars participated in the grand opening, as several members of the now defunct Williams chapter actually teared up when they entered the building.
Simmons, a veteran himself, said they will always have a place to come and call home.