NEW HAVEN — At a time when the Town of New Haven could not afford to pay one, a husband and wife team stepped up as volunteers to fill the unofficial title of recreation director.
Fast forward 15 years, and Juddy and Bernita Allen have retired from the many years of serving Bend Area children. They were recently honored by town officials with a plaque and “key to the city.”
“They have been dedicated to the roller skating, swimming pool, Back-to-School Bash, Halloween party, and other events,” said Mayor Greg Kaylor. “We are grateful for their many years, all volunteer, and a lot of time using their own money.”
The Allens’ unofficial job began when a new person was being sought by the town to look after, and rent out, the community building.
“We initially started taking care of the building because the town needed to find a new caretaker,” Bernita said. “We volunteered to take over scheduling for the building. As we gradually got into the operation of the building, we discovered there were some skates available. Since I grew up going skating at the old community building on Saturday nights, and Juddy grew up in Raleigh County going to the skating rink in Crab Orchard, we decided to purchase more skates.”
The Allens did purchase additional skates, finding a good deal from the owners of the former skating rink in Chester, Ohio. Once enough skates were on hand, Friday night skating began from the middle of January until mid-March. The couple used their own music and sound system, and the skating became more popular each year. A small fee is collected from the skaters to help with the building utilities.
Around 2008, Bernita said talk began of reopening the swimming pool, which had been closed.
“After a lot of work by the pool committee and mayor, and expenses met with money from grants and generous donations from town people and former residents, the pool was reopened,” she said. “It remains the only city pool open in the county and surrounding areas. In the last two years, thanks to generous donations, the pool charges no admission fee.”
But with the pool reopening and the fact that it adjoins the community center, the duties the Allens took on expanded.
Town Recorder Roberta Hysell said the couple made sure the lifeguards had the proper training, made trips to purchase concessions in bulk, made certain the pool was in compliance with regulations, and that the right mixture of chemicals were added each day.
At the end of last year, the Allens decided it was time to retire. It was at the recent Back-to-School Bash, in front of the hundreds of children (some now adults) they served, that the town honored them with the plaque presentation.
Bernita said her husband went to the presentation under protest, saying they didn’t do the job all those years for recognition.
“Our daughters live in Raleigh and Fayette counties, and our grandsons are getting to the age where they participate in many sporting activities,” Bernita said. “We like to travel and love to camp, so we have been on the road a lot this spring and summer. It was nice of the town to recognize us, but we have had so many people volunteer to help us over the years, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Councilman Matt Shell has now taken over the responsibilities of recreation director for the town.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.