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MARLBORO — Even during the height of the pandemic, the volunteers of the Marlboro Community Center have found ways to serve hundreds of people in their community.

“COVID is still a wild card,” said Andra Horton, co-chairwoman of the Community Center and chairwoman of the library board. “What we offer, it fluctuates with the health needs of the community.”

Like many small, nonprofit organizations faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Center had to reshape the way it delivered its services.

“We weren’t entirely closed during that time,” said Horton. “People could come in one at a time to use the library. We would set up an outside cafe on Saturday mornings where people could get coffee and baked goods. For a while, we didn’t even have people using the library. We only had curbside checkout.”

The Meeting House was also the pickup point for Everyone Eats, which was funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Restaurants were paid $10 a meal, which were distributed to Vermonters at no cost.

“The meals were put outside in a cooler, and people would come pick them up,” said Horton.

The food shelf has also proven indispensable, said Horton.

“In any town,” said Horton, “there are hollows of poverty in need.”

The Marlboro Community Center hosts weekly Saturday morning Zooms. Previously, people have heard from their neighbors, their legislators, and people of interest, like Chris Serkin and Philip Mandeval from the Marlboro Music Festival, and Mike Clough of the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.

On Thursdays, co-chairwoman Lauren Poster drops by to cook up a soup.

“She also does an awesome dinner for pickup on Thursdays that you can preorder,” said Horton.

Comfort foods like lasagna and beef stew are available to take home for a suggested $10 donation.

Also on Thursdays, in the morning Joe Mazur hosts Joe’s Wicked Cafe, serving lattes and cappuccinos.

The Community Center is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Regular coffee is available any day the building is open.

Bakers, including Starfire Bakery, provide baked goods. The Community Center gets 10 percent of every sale.

The Community Center got its start on election day in November 2018, taking over the Meeting House after the Marlboro preschool program moved out and into the elementary school, said Horton.

“We’d been dreaming about it for years,” she said.

They first had their sights set on the old Sweetie’s Market and Deli on Route 9, a property they came close to buying but the deal fell apart.

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In the process of considering the building, they received some very generous donations. Most people who donated said keep the money and find another place.

Some of that money went to replace the stone steps in front of the Marlboro Town House, but when the preschool moved it, the Community Center signed a lease on the space.

“We have been living off of that initial money but we are in the process of becoming financially self sufficient,” said Horton.

The Marlboro Community Center is under the umbrella of the Marlboro Alliance, an all-volunteer, community-focused charitable organization that was incorporated in 2005. The alliance raises money for emergency assistance, disaster relief, educational scholarships, educational enrichment programs and community events. It also serves as the umbrella organization for the Marlboro Library, The Marlboro Fair and Marlboro Cares.

“One really important thing that allowed us to reopen was that we applied for and received a federal grant that allowed us to put in a state-of-the-art, double filtered HVAC system,” said Horton. “Once the system was installed, we hired somebody to run a study hall for the junior high kids.”

Trey Wentworth was recently hired as the Community Center’s new coordinator, replacing Lynn Lundsted, the previous coordinator, and Jamie Schelling, who was responsible for, among other things, sending out a weekly email newsletter about all the goings on at the center.

“She created our beautiful website, too,” said Poster.

Wentworth will be at the center on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and most Saturdays.

The Community Center has also been a place for neighbors to reconnect and commiserate over the loss of Marlboro College, which closed it doors in 2020.

“It was devastating,” said Poster, made worse by the pandemic. “Nobody could really communicate with each other during that time, which made it worse with people taking to their corners and misunderstanding each other over Facebook. It was painful.”

But hosting the Saturday morning chats, having outdoor coffee hours and giving people a place to check in helped mitigate the anger and sadness.

“We try to be neutral,” said Poster, “though I’m not neutral personally. But we tried to keep this a space for everybody.”

“We have a responsibility to serve the community,” Horton chimed in. “We’re always asking people to come join the board or ask what they want to see us doing. We try really hard to listen.”

The Community Center “gave people a lot of hope, that we do still care about each other,” she said.

The second Garden Tour is scheduled for June 18, and The Second Annual Chicken Barbecue in support of the fire company is July 10.

Art by Tinky Taylor will be on display from May 18 through June 29.

Those who have an event they’d like to schedule at the Community Center or want more info about ongoing activities can contact Trey at marlborocommunitycenter@gmail.com.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.