As snow mixed with cold March rain last Thursday, about 30 Quaker Gap residents braved the elements to meet at the Quaker Gap Community Center. Their mission? To build blue bird houses and visit with their neighbors.
While the spotty weather may have discouraged other events, the group assembled in the Quaker Gap Community Center would not have missed it for the world.
Before constructing the bird houses, the community members learned how much their cherished building had been used in the last month, five times, discussed the successful completion of a re-roofing project and debated options for spending community money to light the building’s parking lot.
It was a scene that, years ago, could have been seen in many communities through out Stokes County, but today the Quaker Gap community claims to be the only community group that holds such monthly meetings. They meet every first Thursday of the month, and always have some form of educational program at the meeting.
“We enjoy getting together,” said Peggy Tedder, who has been a member of the group since its inception in 1956. “Like a lot of communities, if you need us we will be there, but we don’t do a lot of visiting, so this is a good fellowship time. We are the only community in Stokes that still has regular monthly meetings. There were probably 10 communities doing it when we started out.”
“It gives people a chance to get together,” agreed Quaker Gap Community Association Co-Chair Sharon Coulter. “We are all very spaced out and it is very remote.”
Tedder said the Quaker Gap community started out meeting in a local church fellowship hall, but decided to join together to build a community center in 1956.
“People in the community cut the logs and other lumber was donated, and the community built the building,” she said.
Since then the building has been used for community meetings, birthday parties, and receptions. The space is offered for community use on a donation basis. As Thursday’s meeting started, one person read a card from a mother who had used the building for her daughter’s birthday party last month, noting that her family could not have afforded any other venue (she gave a $30 donation) and saying that they were truly blessed to have such a space.
Membership in the Quaker Gap Community Association is free, with members doing a variety of fundraisers over the years to pay for the power bill and insurance for the building.
“We used to grow crops as a fundraiser,” said Tedder. “We have done corn, peppers and cucumbers. We have even had molasses, where we planted the cane and made the molasses. But as the older members got older and we realized that if you had a bad year then you did not make anything then we started looking for other fundraisers.”
Today they pay their bills with a big barbecue chicken sale each spring.
“We sell 750 tickets and normally sell out,” said Coulter. “We make our own slaw and potato salad. We barbecue all the chicken and they even have their own secret sauce. We get a lot of our young people to come in and help.”
The chicken barbecue sale will be held on April 23 this year.
But on Thursday, the focus was on building bird houses.
“It was something the group did many years ago and someone brought it up that they would like to do it again,” said Coulter. “We had built one for our house so my husband, Randy, cut out all of the pieces.”
Members Ann and Gareath Meadows helped with the project, finding a good discount for the wood from Hedgecock Builders Supply.
“Ann and Gareath came over and we decided we would put one together and discovered it was not easy to get the back on,” said Coulter, “so Randy did some pre-construction to make it easier for tonight.”
The room was soon filled the sounds of hammering and drilling as members, ranging in age from early 30s to mid 90s, easily finished the construction of the houses.
“It seems like the number of blue birds are increasing in the community,” said Coulter. “Our box is pretty much filled every year.”
As the last nails were being hammered in, the group got on with the most important part of the evening meeting — sharing in the delicious home-cooked food spread out on two tables.
Coulter noted that the Quaker Gap Community Association had a number of great cooks who loved sharing their food, both at meetings and at larger community events like the St. Patrick’s Salad Supper planned for March 19 at 6 p.m. or the Big Black Pot Chicken Stew held every November.
She added that anyone is welcome to come to the meetings, even if they do not live in the Quaker Gap community.
“If people want to come, just show up,” she said. “We have a sign out front with information about what we are doing each month.”
They plan to have a Easter egg hunt from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on March 26, a talk on canning and pressure cooking on April 7, a clean up on May 5, a talk from Wildlife Officer D.J. Woods on June 2, games and picnic at the community park on July 4, an ice cream supper featuring homemade ice cream on Aug. 4, a Quaker Gap archaeological review on Sept. 1, a community history/scrap booking meeting on Oct. 6, and a Christmas party on Dec. 3.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.