The Smile Says It All

The Gathering Place offers comfort and joy in Carlin

By Dianna Troyer

Carlin residents including Reece Fladland have miles of smiles during events at The Gathering Place. Photos courtesy of Carlin Friends of the Library

Carlin’s unused post office sat empty for years until a group of library patrons envisioned a vibrant future for it.

“It was the perfect size for community events,” says Ellen Meshefski, a member of Carlin Friends of the Library, a 5 member board that plans social events for residents. “Our activities outgrew a room we used at the library.”

By word-of-mouth, local JoAnn Eklund heard the building was for sale, bought it and donated it to the friends to run as a community center for the town of 2,000.

To honor JoAnn’s generosity and another beloved legendary community supporter, it was named the Lew and Jo Eklund and Jon Gift Community Center, The Gathering Place.

“So many people came together to make it happen,” Ellen says. “The owners, former residents, Bruce and Nancy Kerr, were willing to sell it at a reduced price. We’re so blessed and grateful to have this building. The Eklund family continues to be a big supporter.”

Volunteers painted the interior. Wells Rural Electric Company installed new energy-efficient lighting.

“The timing couldn’t have been better because it sold during June 2019,” Ellen says. “By the time we renovated it, COVID struck. We used The Gathering Place as a way to stay connected during the shutdown.”

Local residents Anna Bragg and Ginnifer Devoe meet at The Gathering Place.

Carlin residents dropped in to pick up family craft projects. Fun food, such as ice cream, was given away. Blood drives were scheduled. The prom and homecoming were hosted there.

“These smiles say it all,” Ellen often writes on The Gathering Place’s Facebook page when she posts photos of people of all ages at events.

Diverse events include radio-controlled car races along a track with hills and dirt, virtual reality night, dances, lip syncs, movies, Monday Night Football with a potluck, family craft nights, a concealed weapons class, Christmas and graduation parties, weddings, funerals and family reunions.

Events focus on children and teens, too. An annual Easter egg hunt is based there. Santa stops in to hear wish lists during Three Nites of Santa. Teens pick out their elegant attire from the Carlin Prom Closet. At the Carlin Kids Business Bazaar, young entrepreneurs sell their handiwork: jewelry, food ranging from cotton candy to chocolate covered pretzels, crafts and art.

Ellen proposes many of the programs, says Brent Jacobson, 61, a maintenance planner for Nevada Gold Mines LLC. He volunteers at the center in his spare time.

A carpenter, he builds whatever is needed, including wagons and a decorative train. He also runs the video equipment.

“Ellen is the lifeblood of the center,” Brent says. “She makes things happen and sees the good in everyone.”

Ellen disagrees.

Volunteer Mike Neptune cooks pancakes for visitors during an event.

“I’m just a bossy old cow,” Ellen, 58, says with a laugh. “I happen to hang out with some pretty special people who care about Carlin and brighten our town.”

No rental fees are charged for using The Gathering Place. Instead, those who use it make a donation.

“It’s enough to pay for utilities, internet and maintenance,” Brent says.

The center is reserved two or three times a week by different groups. Sometimes fundraisers are scheduled.

“The community support for the center and events has been amazing,” Brent says. “Carlin is what America once was. People respond well and help each other when there’s a need.”

Ellen says 6,000 plastic eggs were donated for the Easter egg hunt.

“People here are wonderful,” Ellen says. “All the eggs had prizes inside, and we hid them at the Chinese Gardens Nature Study Area.”

To banish winter doldrums every February, center volunteers have a two-week Bumble Hunt—a daily search for a small stuffed figure that resembles a Yeti.

Families fill the community center to watch young remote controlled car racers.

“We post a photo of him somewhere in town,” Ellen says. “If you’re the first one to find him, you win a prize. People who aren’t the first one can still find his footprint where he was at and submit a photo of it with their name for a drawing at the end of the two weeks.”

During summer, the library friends coordinate with Carlin’s Parks and Recreation Department to organize programs for Friday nights at the park. They host movies, skate nights, obstacle courses and Nerf gun contests.

When summer storms dampen park events, Ellen embodies the motto of learning to dance in the rain instead of whining about getting wet.

“Rained out? Nope, not us. A few might say we are crazy, OK, well most might say that,” she wrote on Facebook. “But we had a lot of crazies join us last night. So many laughs and great memories!”

At skate night, people with scooters, skates and skateboards converge at the town’s skate park.

“It started on the basketball courts more than 30 years ago and has continued to be a great time on our wonderful skate park,” Ellen says. “We have seen so many grow up and now bring their little ones to enjoy Friday nights here.”

Brent Jacobson drives a train he built for community events at The Gathering Place. Photo courtesy of Carlin Friends of the Library

To support ongoing programs, the library board appreciates donations from Nevada Gold Mines’ Heritage Fund—a program that matches money from local fundraisers.

“The fund helps us to continue our many events and programs and keep them affordable for all,” Ellen says.

She says board members are also grateful for the generosity of local residents who made the purchase of the post office possible. The Gathering Place became a reality due to Realtors Sandy Wakefield and Jody Hensley; John Sorensen of Stewart Title Co., which waived closing fees; Teri Feasel, a retired judge and donor; and Newmont Corp.

“We’re blessed to have these great people as family and friends here in C Town,” Ellen says of her hometown. “I love Carlin and the people here.”