The Roudenbush Community Center
The Beginning 1897
The building at 65 Main Street was built in the fall of 1897 and served as Westford Academy, a private academy, through 1928. The architect for the building was H. M. Frances (1836-1908) of Fitchburg and the contractor was William C. Edwards.
Westford School Department 1928
The Town of Westford purchased the building at 65 Main Street and the Westford School Department took over to run it as the public high school. The name “Westford Academy” was retained so that graduates would remain eligible to receive scholarships from the Westford Academy Trustees’ sizeable trust funds.
Younger Grades 1955
The next Westford Academy building (now the Abbot School) opened its doors in 1955 and the old building at 65 Main Street was used for younger grades.
William C. Roudenbush 1957
The building at 65 Main Street was renamed the William C. Roudenbush School to honor the man who served as principal in the building for 25 years (1912-1937).
When the current Westford Academy opened on Patten Road in 1973, the School Committee closed the Roudenbush School. That summer, a group of residents approached the Selectmen about turning the building into a community center. Not getting a favorable response, the residents approached the Lowell YWCA and arranged for the YWCA to lease the building as a Westford branch until 1976.
Roudenbush Community Center Committee 1975
A group of residents devised a plan to turn the Roudenbush into a community center, one building in town where human services and activities could be centralized. The YWCA informed the Town that they wished to end the lease a year early. By this time, the Town had obtained a US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to renovate the building as a community center and acquired funds through the federally funded Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program to hire a director, clerk, and maintenance staff. It was the fall of 1975 and the Roudenbush Community Center was a reality. The Town formed the Roudenbush Community Center Committee (RCCC) in order to oversee the community center.
Roudenbush Community Center Associates, Inc. 1976
In October of 1976, incorporation papers were filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the Roudenbush Community Center Associates, Inc. (RCCA), a non-profit corporation. It was necessary to form a separate organization as town committees are prohibited from raising money by Massachusetts State Law. The seven original board members of RCCA were Joseph J. Lapiana, Ellen S. Harde, Jean M. Schaub, David Matheson, Daniel Hanley, Lois J. Otterson, and Douglas R Johnston.
Expanded Roll of RCCA 1978
The intent of the RCCC was to offset expenses with the fees charged for programing, however, state law prohibits a Town department from spending the money that it takes in. Any income generated from the community center would need to go to the Town’s general fund and any expenses would need to be paid out of the money appropriated by Town Meeting. An agreement was signed between the Town of Westford and RCCA which allowed all program income to go into RCCA’s account, out of which instructors and program expenses could be paid. Any surplus at the end of the year would then be turned over to the Town.
The Roudenbush Children’s Center preschool was originally a single class operated by the Lowell YWCA, which rented space from RCCC. In the spring of 1978, the RCCC informed the YWCA that Roudenbush would be starting its own preschool that fall. The license was held by RCCA in order to pay the teachers from the program fees.
The agreement between RCCA and RCCC was amended to allow the community center to hold any operating surplus in reserve for operating and capital expenses in the following fiscal year.
The Roudenbush Community Center has grown to over 40 staff members and had an operating budget of close to $1 million legally in RCCA’s name in which RCCC had control of. At this point, RCCA, Inc. asked RCCC to end the agreement and find another way to handle the Roudenbush budget.
When Frost became vacant at the end of the 1992 school year, Town Meeting turned the building over to RCCC. The daycare moved to the building and became Roudenbush at Frost on August 31, 1994.
The Roudenbush Community Center, Inc. 1994
RCCC came up with the creation of a new non-profit organization with the members also serving as the Board of Directors. Papers were filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and The Roudenbush Community Center, Inc. (TRCCI) was born. The original board members of TRCCI were Tim Butler, Stella Snyder, Peggy Blanchard, Cho Chau Li, Peggy Baranowski, Barbara Meader, Charlote Scott, and Jack Viera. TRCCI would take the financial and policy responsibility of the community center while RCCA would continue to raise money through the Auction and the Westford Directory.
Old Nab 1994
With preschool waitlists getting longer and no more room to expand community education classes, RCCC asked Town Meeting to again give the old Nabnassett building to Roudenbush in May of 1994. Roudenbush at Nabnasset (Old Nab) opened in September of 1994.
End of RCCA 2000
At their annual meeting in June of 2000, the board of directors voted to disband RCCA due to the lack of volunteers for the board and a sense that with a $1.8 million annual operating budget of TRCCI, the fundraising efforts were no longer critical to the operation of the Community Center.
Financial Independence 2004
With RCCC’s decision to become financially self-sufficient by 2000, each year, they have offset a larger portion of the Town’s appropriation with monies from the program account surplus. In 2004, the TRCCI reimburses the Director’s salary in full, making Roudenbush self-sufficient.
Independent Organization 2009
The Roudenbush Community Center, Inc. is no longer a Town Department and is financially self-sufficient. It is the independent non-profit organization that you know of today that operates the community center in the Town of Westford and also leases the three buildings that it occupies from the Town.
Renovation of 65 Main Street 2017
In 2016, the Town of Westford informs TRCCI of their intention to renovate the building at 65 Main Street, which would require the organization to vacate the building for 12-18 months. TRCCI faces uncertainty with just over a year to remain on the current lease when the organization is to return. With overwhelming support of the residents in town, TRCCI and the Town are able to come to an agreement on a new lease that extends through June of 2025.