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Town celebrates the opening of the new community center

Chris Patterson

At the opening of the Town of Emmitsburg's new community center Saturday words such as "great" and "wonderful" were uttered as smiling faces of every age wandered the halls with excitement.

The center is located on South Seton Avenue in the now refurbished Emmitsburg High School, which was closed 35 years ago.

Construction began on the center in October 2002 and cost about $4.4 million. It houses a library, the town hall, senior center, Head Start and Catoctin Community Agency School Services (CASS).

In the library, a puppet theater and a dozen puppets stood ready for small hands to play with and rainbow-colored kites floated over the bookshelves. But most of the little hands present were enthusiastically scouring through the aisles of children's books and rolling around on the cushions in a children's reading area next to a mural of fairy tale characters. Guests ­ both young and old - lingered in front of the mural, pointing and smiling as they recognized the characters by name.

Parent Travis Seitler sat on a bench by the mural while his flush-faced 10-month-old daughter Katie climbed around and wife Nicole hunted for children's books.

The Seitlers said they were "impressed" with the new library.

The Seitlers live in Taneytown and visit a library about every two weeks, they said. Because he was home-schooled as a child, Travis Seitler said he and his family make full use of every resource in the library and take home books each time they visit.

Eric Soter stood nearby chatting with fellow area resident Tim O'Donnell while their wives and kids hunted for books.

Soter's wife, Katie, hunted with Lucas and Savannah. They come to the library about once a week, he said, for children's books, but also for reference books. The library's regular story time programs are a big hit with the family, he said.

O'Donnell, a new community resident, agreed that story time is an important event for his family. His wife, Noreen, and children Caroline, Jude and Tara looked for books while Dad talked.

Frederick County Board of Commission president John L. "Lennie" Thompson Jr. (R), began his tour of the new facility in the gym, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Thompson also said he was impressed.

Relaxing for a moment against the coffee bar in the senior center, Arthur Damuth, a 1955 graduate of Emmitsburg High School, said he is pleased with the new community center.

Damuth, 67, said he wishes the building was still a high school, but understands there aren't enough children in town to support that.

As a worker for the Frederick Department of Aging, Damuth drives seniors around and delivers meals on wheels that will be made in the center's new kitchen.

Emmitsburg's former town hall occupied a small row house-size building on Main Street. Town hall meetings could only reasonably accommodate about 10 visitors.

Damuth said he also likes the idea that the town will be able to show public meetings on television, and he is also very proud of the new library.

"I think it's the best library in Frederick County," he said with a gleam in his eye.

Dave Glass, 71, a 1950 graduate of the high school, remembers playing basketball in the old gymnasium, now completely renovated.

Glass is impressed with the senior center, the town hall and library, particularly. He credits former town Mayor William "Doc" Carr for getting the center project moving.

Carr, who toured the building and chatted with town residents, smiled from ear to ear as he entered each new part of the building.

"It's what I hoped," he said. "It seems to be exactly what I hoped."

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