Smithfield Herald

Archer Lodge is throwing a party for center’s 50th birthday

It all began in 1963, when a group of parents at White Oak Baptist Church wanted a safe place for their children to play.

Up for sale were the grounds of the old Archer Lodge School, a prime tract with acres of open land, a baseball field and playground. The group of parents purchased the land at the intersection of Buffalo and Archer Lodge roads and established an organization that has given generations of residents a place to gather and play.

On Sept. 14, residents will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of the Archer Lodge Community Center. Events for all ages will celebrate what has become the cornerstone of the community.

“The persistence and determination of those original, dedicated volunteers changed the future of our community by having the foresight to pursue this dream of a place for our children to come and play,” said Lisa Barnes, a lifelong resident who serves as the center’s secretary.

The festivities start at 5 p.m. Saturday with homemade Brunswick stew and barbecue plates for sale. A silent auction will allow attendees to bid on handmade items. During an anniversary ceremony at 7 p.m., the community will dedicate its restored water tower. The evening will end with free music by The Fifty/50 band.

“The Archer Lodge Community Center was the birthplace for the town,” said Mayor Mike Gordon. “The center has a longstanding reputation throughout this county and state for its excellence in volunteerism and community support.”

Over the last half-century, the community center has gone through several changes. An amphitheater debuted in 1982, and in 2001, the community dedicated a 4,400-square-foot building with a kitchen, two meeting spaces, restrooms and storage space.

Run strictly as a nonprofit, the community center owes its success to the countless volunteers who have served over the years, residents say.

“I am the third generation in my family to dedicate my time to this cause,” said Jenna Payton, the center’s vice president. “I have seen firsthand the impact of growing up in this great community and learning the importance of volunteerism. I continue today so that my children and grandchildren can have the same experience at the community center.”

Today, the Archer Lodge Community Center has grown to offer youth sports leagues, including soccer and baseball; a playground; walking track, picnic shelter and meeting space. The center hosts yearly events, including a reverse raffle, the July Fourth Family Fun Day and a Christmas celebration and parade.