Edna Wade hopes the new community center in Varnell will have activities that interest her so she won’t have to drive to Dalton.
“I love going to Dalton, but this is a lot closer,” said Wade, who lives in northern Whitfield County, during an opening for the Varnell community center on Sunday. “It’s great. It’s wonderful to be this close. It’s nice to see this.”
During the last year and a half, the historic Varnell House has been renovated to be used as a community and senior center. City officials hosted an open house and ribbon cutting on Sunday. They also held a ground-breaking ceremony for the new City Hall, which will be next to the center.
The Varnell House was built in 1847. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital for both Confederate and Union soldiers. It was occupied as a residence as recently as 2004.
“You may be standing here saying ‘What is this going to be for?’” Varnell Mayor Dan Peeples said. “Varnell has never had a meeting area like this ... We hope you have family reunions here, anniversary celebrations, wedding showers, baby showers. We hope in a couple of months to have a monthly community bingo night here. We talked about having a Christmas (event). Boy Scouts are going to use this facility. The Girl Scouts are going to use this facility, the Varnell Community Club and anyone else that wants to. We want this to be your home for years to come.”
The center is a multipurpose building, which will host many functions geared toward senior citizens. Eventually city officials hope to hire staff who will run activities for seniors. Until the funding is there, Peeples said he is looking for volunteers who are willing to organize some activities, such as an aerobics or sewing class, for seniors.
“We’ve been watching the progress over a year,” said Dick Baron, a Varnell resident who was there with his wife Toot. “We hope to gather up people to have coffee with. It’s something for us to do.”
Lynn Wade, Edna Wade’s daughter, said she would love to see drawing or computer classes offered there.
City officials are collecting photos and memorabilia from Varnell to display in the center.
“It would be good for people just to drop in and see the history,” Lynn Wade said.
Local Civil War enthusiast Marvin Sowder said he is glad to see something done to prevent the building from deteriorating.
“Thank goodness,” he said. “The City of Varnell did a wonderful thing preserving this.”
The center was paid for using a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, which was given to the city three years ago to pay for the work on a senior center.
“It’s amazing three years later we stand here with a building completed,” Peeples said. “I am so thankful to God ... you’re sitting here looking at a building the city is debt free on.”
Inmates with the state Department of Corrections renovated the building.
“Every time they came here, they took so much pride in their work,” Peeples said. “They worked so diligently. There’s not one square inch off, not one piece of paint out of place. I wish them the best of luck. We are so pleased with them. They are now building a new City Hall next door. We are so excited.”
Varnell city officials are looking for volunteers to organize events for senior citizens, and they are looking for photos or other memorabilia from Varnell to be displayed in the new community center. Also, the center can be rented out for functions, such as showers or reunions. To volunteer, donate relics or to rent the facility, call City Hall at (706) 694-8800.