The Empire Community Center was created as a legal entity in 1997, but the group began forming a few years earlier. In the early nineties local parents and volunteers decided to reinstate a Halloween party for the kids that had been a yearly event in past years. This party evolved into other fun community events for the children and adults. Leelanau County had a division called Leelanau County Family Coordinating Council. This division was looking for a community that was interested in receiving grant monies to promote community events. Empire jumped at the chance. An office, and a phone line was set up in the downstairs of the Masonic Temple Building. This building still exists today on the corner of Union and Front streets in Empire.
Not only did this division provide monies for events, but even way back then, we were helping individuals who had fallen upon hard times through Family Independence Agency (FIA). A person who had a financial emergency, but did not qualify through any other agency, could apply for help to pay for this emergency. During this period Sue Carpenter Deering volunteered 10-15 hours per week to man the office at the Masonic Temple and to coordinate between local folks and governmental agencies. Jan Sikorski joined the group and processed the paperwork between the Village and the Leelanau Agencies. Eventually the Leelanau County Family Coordinating Council funds ran out, but the seed had been planted in Empire. The Empire Area Community Center that we know today sprouted from this first introduction to fun community activities and the generous act of giving.
When the government program ended, donation canisters were set out and individuals just started donating funds to keep all the programs going. Local businesses started donating as well. The Masonic Temple was no longer an option for a meeting place so the then owner of Tiffany’s, Dick Owen, donated his building for meetings & community activities. The whole community came together either monetarily, or with goods or labor to continue the spirit of fun as a community within Empire.
This group of dedicated volunteers kept the center thriving by continuing the sponsorship of teen night at Tiffany’s, game night at the Town Hall, Winterfest Ball, Halloween Party, Christmas in Empire, weekly pot lucks, & even sponsored the first senior all-night party at Glen Lake. As time passed more and more volunteers moved on, primarily because their children grew up and their interest moved in a different direction. Jan Sikorski and volunteers continued to head up committees, keeping the Halloween Party and the Holiday Pot luck going, but by the end of 2011 it was obvious that the Empire Community Center could no longer exist without additional participation. On January 22nd 2012, Jan Sikorski made a public plea for membership and volunteers to continue this worthy organization. Thus the Empire Community Center (ECC) was reborn.
This re-energized group became organized, picked up speed and additional members. Jim Sills became president. Jan Sikorski remained as secretary. Beryl Skrocki was on the board of directors. Their goal was to apply and receive a 501 (C) 3 Public Charity status. The first requirement was having at least three board members. Attorney and local Empire resident, Lea Ann Sterling acting as their legal counsel, was invaluable in helping the group properly develop By-Laws, Vision Statement, Mission Statement, and legal applications. On March 2nd 2012 this group became incorporated. On April 1st 2012 Gerry Shiffman attended his first ECC meeting. On May 10th 2012 Gerry introduced Chris Skellenger, the founder of the humanitarian group called “Buckets of Rain” to the members of ECC. Chris asked the Empire Community Center if they would become the fiduciary for funds donated from free concerts held monthly, and form a committee to support and administer the program. ECC agreed to these terms and the Emergency Fund program was implemented.
On May 24th 2012, the Empire Community Center added “Area” to their name becoming as we know it today, the Empire Area Community Center (EACC). At the end of 2012, Jim Sills gave his resignation as president. Gerry Shiffman took the position of president. In Early January of 2013, Lanny Sterling took the position of treasurer. On February 13, 2013 Linda Payment joined the group and accepted the position as vice president. Jan Sikorski remained as secretary. A few months into 2013, Jan fell ill and had to relinquish her duties as secretary. Linda Payment resigned as vice president and took the secretaries position. Shirley Tanguay, a long time Village resident, took the position of vice president. On May 13th 2014 EACC finally reached their goal of obtaining the 501 (C) 3 Public Charity status. The years 2014 & 2015 continued with the above board. On January 20th 2015 Gerry Shiffman resigned from the EACC board as president after 3 years of dedicated service in this position.
Empire Area Community Center (EACC) opened a checking account with $495 on March 21st 2012, the day they became Incorporated. On December 31st 2015 the ending balance in that General Fund account was $6508.41. All of these General funds came from personal contributions or donations given at any of the non-Emergency Fund events sponsored by the Community Center. The Community Center uses these funds to pay for liability insurance premiums, bands performing at community parties or dances, postage, office supplies, post office box fees, nonprofit fees, bank fees, Halloween party supplies, annual holiday pot luck supplies, Shriners participation in Anchor Day parade, and any other expenses that may arise within this non-profit organization.
2016 brought a new president to EACC. On January 14th, Linda Payment was installed in this position. A great deal was accomplished by the development of a web site under the direction of Web Master David Geisler. Susan Deering joined the group as secretary on Feb 11th. Julie Avery brought invaluable skills as a communications coordinator in mid-summer. 2016 brought the Maple City/Empire/Glen Arbor Youth Baseball organization under the umbrella and sponsorship of EACC.
Private donations and donation from sponsored events added $2,998 to the General Fund in 2016, while expenses for 2016 were $1,947.91 resulting in a net gain for the year of the General Fund balance..