The official opening of the new Margaret Spencer Shackelford Toms Pavilion at Spencer-Penn Centre was celebrated on Oct. 15 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Three and a half years ago, a dear friend of Spencer-Penn passed away and left a generous gift to the Spencer-Penn family and centre, something that would serve the community for what we know will be many years to come, and something that would open the door for partnerships and opportunities that the centre had yet to develop and embrace even more,” Susan Sabin, executive director of the centre, said of Toms.
While the project had many setbacks, including COVID, Sabin said the hard work and perseverance of all of its sponsors and friends helped propel the project to fruition. People like Harrison Toms, Margaret Toms’ son, who was among those to champion the pavilion project, Sabin said.
Harrison Toms described his mother’s appreciation and connections to the area, saying that it was “the roots of some of her fondest memories.” He recalled her excitement surrounding events that were held at the centre and how she always wanted to know all about the happenings there.
“My mother, in her later years, found it hard to get around. She always looked forward to Mary Jordan’s frequent visits to give her updates on the community centre and the next big challenge on Mary’s horizon with regards of transition from school to community centre,” he said.
Jordan was a longtime director of the facility.
Margaret Toms, her son said, also relished in the centre. In fact, “there was no other contribution that” his mother “enjoyed giving to as much as this centre. When Mary hadn’t visited in a while, she would always inquire to me, ‘What has happened to her? Where is she?’ and I’d have to find where is Mary.”
Harrison Toms said he believed his mother would be thrilled with the new pavilion and all of the possibilities it opens up for the centre and for the community.
“I know she would be absolutely astonished at this amazing pavilion that Susan Sabin and all the others at the centre helped to build in her memory. Our family truly hopes this pavilion will serve this area and the community centre well in the years to come,” he said.
Sabin then introduced Jordan, who also was friends with Margaret Toms.
“From the very beginning she was a champion of the centre, of the programs, and she was really the brainstormer behind this project. We are so excited to have her with us today,” Sabin said, adding that Jordan is the reason the centre is what it is currently.
Jordan described Harrison Toms’ compliments to his mother as “modest,” and noted that Margaret Toms was “a lovely, generous woman. We could not have gotten along as well as we did on this project without her.”
Jordan recalled, “I just couldn’t go and just say hello to Mrs. Toms and just sit and talk. She’d say, ‘What do you need? What does Spencer-Penn need?’ and I’d say, ‘Look, I’m just coming to talk with you today,’ But she was truly a very special, special lady.”
Jordan hopes the pavilion will serve the centre as Margaret Toms did.
“This has turned into a great project, and I hope many, many days yet to come that this pavilion will add to the original project. I thank Susan, and of course Harrison and the entire family for getting this done,” she said.
Sidney McClure, president of the Spencer-Penn Centre Board, and Sabin honored those who dedicated picnic tables and memorial bricks that helped fund the pavilion project. Sabin also extended her thanks to several other individuals and organizations who helped make the project a reality.
“It takes a lot of hands and a lot of work to make these things happen. We’ve had some very generous partners who have worked tirelessly,” she said.
Those interested in using the pavilion may contact the Spencer Penn Center Office at (276) 957-5757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.