AP NEWS

The civic center you know well, but can’t name

September 30, 2018

“Meet me tomorrow at the OGRCC.”

Where?

“You know, that building in Old Greenwich where the kids play basketball, and they have all those artist and antique shows.”

Where I buy the beach passes?

“That’s right, the OGRCC.”

Sound familiar? Every day hundreds of people go to play in the gym, attend a meeting, get some medical screening or do one of a dozen other things going on in the building they think is called “the OGRCC.” In reality, that building is called the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center (EGCC), and the OGRCC ... the Old Greenwich-Riverside Community Center, the topic of today’s column, is simply the building’s largest tenant.

But first, for historical purposes and just for fun, the EGCC was constructed in the mid-1900s by the Electrolux Company and was known as the Ekman Center. With an auditorium, food service and recreation facilities it was a place where Electrolux employees and their families could unwind after work. After Electrolux departed, the Town of Greenwich purchased the property and rechristened it the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, which it has been every since.

So why then do so many people mix up the OGRCC and the EGCC? Well, that’s a good question and frankly, one with no great answer. Type either one into Google Maps and you get the same location. Building name dyslexia and modern GPS coordinates aside, as I said today’s topic is about the Old Greenwich-Riverside Community Center and specifically, its current 75-year anniversary.

It’s wartime 1943 and on the home front, sacrifices and shortages meant people couldn’t afford to waste gas shuttling teenagers around town for recreation. But like today, parents wanted their kids out of the house, so with the help of the First Congregational Church, residents in Old Greenwich and Riverside established a modest program that offered movies, dances and some sports on an ad hoc basis right smack in the community that kids could walk or bike to. Folks with long memories will recall that the original organization operated under the names Club Shangri-La and Binney Bruins.

Most club activities were originally held in the June Binney Memorial Parish House, but with the war ending but the organization’s popularity booming, the OGRCC name was formally adopted and the group was admitted as a member of the Greenwich Community Chest. The Chest, which would become Greenwich United Way years later, was a driving force and fundraising stalwart behind the OGRCC until 1958 when the organization struck out on its own for good.

And boy has it grown. In 1947 the OGRCC managed three athletic programs with about 150 participants. Today, thousands of children and adults play multiple sports and participate in dozens of other programs annually. OGRCC activities, participants and members can now be found from Banksville to Tods Point, so yes, a 75th anniversary is a good time to celebrate with a new program.

“We thought it only fitting to mark this milestone at our most popular and celebrated community event,” says OGRCC Board president Kirk Schubert. “We intend for Set Sail to become our new, annual event, combining our sailboat regatta with a showcase of OGRCC programs and community fun.” So what is Set Sail? Essentially, it’s the next evolution of the immediately popular, family friendly Model Sailboat Regatta launched by the OGRCC in 1962.

This year, Set Sail is to be held Oct. 14 at the newly cleaned-up Binney Park Pond in Old Greenwich and will feature not just the boat regatta, but the OGRCCs annual Halloween Poster Painting program, other kids activities, beer, food trucks, and the opportunity to lounge around, meet your neighbors, and reconnect with what makes Greenwich such a great place live. It’s a ticketed event, with options to just participate in the Regatta, all the way through to all-inclusive packages, so go to the OGRCC website (www. myogrcc.org/setsail) for more information.

Just as importantly, let’s take a moment to recognize that it’s these seemingly small things, these echoes of our past that connect us as a community. Congratulations OGRCC, 75 years is a long time. But also congratulations to the generations of Greenwichites who built and nurtured the OGRCC, which has served our town and our children so wonderfully.

David Rafferty is a Greenwich resident.

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