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The October 19, 1957 issue of the American Agriculturist, included an article titled They Did it Themselves! by Louise Ranney. The following paragraphs from Ms. Ranney's article provide an overview of the early days of the VCA:
One spring evening at a PTA meeting, the women [of Varna] discussed the need for a local organization of a sort to interest their husbands and children, a center of activities for the entire family. With this in view, a public meeting was held and those attending...were enthusiastic about the project. In a short time the charter and bylaws were drawn up, and [at the first meeting June 23, 1950] twelve newly elected board members found themselves faced with the task of organizing a program and raising money.
Their biggest money-making scheme...was the production of the Talent Scout Shows. With a promise from Ted Mack to put the winners on his TV program, the Varna Association persuaded 13 schools...to hold talent shows. Then the finals were run off at Cornell's Bailey Hall;
proceeds were shared with a sponsoring group from the University; and so good was the talent that Ted Mack took seven out of 29 acts that first year. Best of all, Varna cleared $800 and continued to make such profits for the following four years.
In order to own property they incorporated [in 1951] and bought an acre of land on which stood an ace of land on which stood an old barn and a trolley car that had been converted into a diner. All ages joined in the work bees to clean up the diner. Public dinners were held [and also] carnivals, talent shows, and every money-making scheme the group could think up [including] selling sandwiches at the sheep sale in Cornell's judging pavilion.
When fire destroyed the diner in 1953, the Association decided to take on greater debt and build a new center. With...volunteer labor and the generosity of local merchants...the project [got under way.] Everyone seemed willing to lend a hand. Equipment for grading the property and digging the foundation was cheerfully loaded. An architect drew some sketches. A mason 14 miles away came to show them how to set the concrete blocks. When they needed a concrete mixer, the local radio station announced their need, and in no time at all someone nearby loaned them one. ... By December 1954 the project was completed. The building represent[ed] over 4500 hours of volunteer labor supplied by more than 120 individuals.
After the fire that destroyed the diner in1953, residents of the area saw the need for their own fire company and, as a result, started the Volunteer Firemen's Association...[with] members from...Varna and...Ellis Hollow. But the headquarters, with the three engines they now own, are in the community building at Varna. When space is needed for a dance or a dinner, the engines are moved outside....
There are parties for Hallowe'en, Christmas and Valentine's Day as well as clambakes for the firemen after the field day. The building is also loaned to many different local organizations for their meetings. Under sponsorship of the Community Association the Varna Boy Scout Troop has grown to 30 members....Six of its members have become Eagle Scouts....The play school this past summer had an attendance of 34 children aged 3-7 years.
Public dinners that the women put on in the early days grew in popularity. Not many groups were serving chicken barbecue then and it was in great demand. But requests began to come in for dinners served elsewhere. And out of this grew Varna's catering service....Portable, collapsible barbecue pits handle as many as 400 chickens at a time. Salad, potatoes, buttered rolls and barbecue sauce are all prepared ahead by different individuals in their homes. Ice cream is packed in dry ice. The catering service has served as many as 600 in 40 minutes and could probably handle up to a thousand at one dinner. They have gone as far away as...10 or12 miles and served...County Agents, Homemaking Teachers, high schools, cattle sales, college reunions, fraternities, blood banks, Agricultural Engineers, Finger Lakes Trailer association, etc....
Because the people of Varna are cooperative, because they have the desire to act, to do things for themselves, they are able to accomplish what may seem impossible to others. The Community Center, itself, is an example of how people from many different backgrounds with different vocations and trades, can get together to improve their locality.... As one member said, 'When you first come to Varna you realize that if you want to have fun, to keep in touch with people and stay in the swing, you join the Varna Community Association. There just isn't any [better] way to become a [part] of this community.'
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