February 10, 2010

Ocracoke Child Care earns five-star rating


The ladies of the Ocracoke United Methodist Women met in the church’s renovated Rec Hall in late December to fill bags with candy, fruit, and peanuts for the distribution on Christmas Eve. Despite the frigid temperatures outside, it was toasty warm in the Rec Hall because of recent repairs to the gas heating system.

The women were happy to talk about the changes to the Rec Hall while they worked their Christmas bag assembly line. The organization has raised money over the last two years to pay for a new roof and foundation for the building, along with some other improvements, inside and out.

From outside, the new porch, stairs, and ramp look very impressive. Inside, there’s a new floor, windows, toilet, and bathroom sink. Everything has a fresh coat of paint. The kitchen looks great. The refrigerator and commercial-sized sink are new, and the sink sports a hanging sprayer for washing pots.

“That was where we splurged,” said OUMW treasurer Kay Riddick. “We spent a lot on the sink and the new water heater.”

The women chose an energy-efficient, on-demand water heater, and they’re very happy with it.

“The water’s hot right away,” said Riddick.

The new windows are another welcome renovation.

“We can get them up and down!” said Martha O’Neal.

Riddick made the curtains that adorn them.

The women have put a lot of work into repairing the old building that had been, until recently, really showing its age. 

“Some people told us it would be better to tear it down,” said Riddick. “But we wanted to save it and fix it up. I think what we’ve done is we’re restored it, but not changed the feel of it. You know it’s still the Rec Hall when you come in the door.”

Originally part of the World War II Navy Base on Ocracoke, the Rec Hall was moved to the church property in the early 1950s.

Over the years it has served the church as a gathering place and social hall, and it has also served the island community in many ways. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts hold meetings there. The island’s Catholic community celebrates Mass there. Hyde County and NCCAT have used it, and one year, Ocracoke high school science teacher Jennifer Garrish taught her classes in the Rec Hall while the mold was being removed from her classroom. The Methodist Women have rented out the Rec Hall for uncountable birthday parties, wedding receptions, and baby showers.

As Martha O’Neal put it: “There’s not a single family on Ocracoke that hasn’t used our Rec Hall.”

“And they’ve been very generous in supporting us in this renovation,” said Riddick.

The renovations have cost about $60,000 and all but $17,000 (on loan from the church conference) came from fundraisers and donations. The women organized barbecue dinners, bake sales, and yard sales. They hosted regular Sunday dinner fundraisers last winter. They make some money every year serving lunch during the Ocrafolk Festival in June, and at their Fall Bazaar in November.

The Methodist Women also distribute two cookbooks to local shops – the “green one” and the “yellow one,” which provide a steady income. (The women like to point out that the green cookbook contains a recipe for an illegal food. Back when it was first published in 1960s, sea turtles were a favorite local delicacy, but now they are, of course, protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The Rec Hall is rentable again, but the women still plan some more improvements, including painting the exterior, and then they’ll turn their attention to the church parsonage on Howard Street. They’ve already had a new roof put on the parsonage this year, and they plan to update the kitchen, replace the bathroom floor, and install a new furnace by the time a new minister arrives in June. (The Reverend Joyce Reynolds is retiring in June and has, says Riddick, “endured the hardships of the parsonage.”)

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