History of the Empire Area Community Center

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.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2016

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.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2017
In 2017, we lost our beloved and lifetime member, Lanny Sterling.  June 4th. was a very sad day for all of us, Lanny’s passing left a big hole in our organization and in our hearts. March Dye, an Empire Village resident took over as Treasurer on Sept 14.  Michele Homa joined as Vice President to take responsibility for sending our donation acknowledgment and thank you letters.  On Dec 22, 2017, Linda Payment resigned as President to focus on taking care of personal health issues, but we expect her back some day in the future.  
At the 2017 Annual Meeting, Sue Deering was voted in as President and Linda Payment returned as Secretary.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2018

2018 was another successful but very sad year for EACC. We lost another one of our beloved members. Cindy Blakeslee passed away on April 11, 2018. Cindy was a very active member of this group. As well as helping with all scheduled events, she led the Emergency Fund as chairperson and co-chaired the Halloween Party. Also in 2018 Michelle Homa moved out of the Village of Empire therefore leaving the Vice President’s position vacant. David Geisler resigned as Web Master, but agreed to stay on as Web
Consultant for training purposes. JoAnne Beare accepted the position as Vice President in October and Peter Woessner accepted the position as Web Master. In addition to all regularly scheduled events,  EACC also served community dinners at the Empire Town Hall during the fall and winter months. We also took over the responsibility of the Artisan Marketplace in November. At the annual meeting in February, March Dye was reinstated as treasurer for another two years  The ending balance for the 2018 year was $11,978.76

Empire Area Community Center History for 2019
In 2019, Sue Deering and Linda Payment retained their positions as president and vice president. There were no other personal changes. 2019 was a very successful year for three new fund raising events. In June we hosted Grandma's Trunk bringing in $1,552.40. On Labor Day we hosted the Glen Lake Bridge Walk bringing in $952.00. And in November we hosted the Artisan Marketplace bringing in $1,010. We also sponsored our Annual Halloween party bringing in $110 and our Annual Holiday Potluck bringing in $346. We had $2,608.23 in expenses to support these events and Emergency Fund expenses.
Supporters and Amazon Smile were very generous in 2019 giving us $4928.16 in donations over and above our fund raisers. Our ending balance is $18,278.09 including a portion specifically earmarked for the Lanny Sterling Memorial Fund.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2020

In February, Linda Payment returned to the position of president as Sue Deering took the position of secretary.  2020 was the year of the Covid-19. Our general meetings were canceled. We did have one meeting via zoom. We had no EACC sponsored activities at all. Our income was only $145.64 and our expenses amounted to $1287.78, but despite this fact, we were still able to pay it forward to Little Traverse Inn and The Empire Village Inn by giving them each a donation for their charity events to assist front line workers and people in need of a meal during this trying time. There were no administration changes in this year. We look forward to returning to normal in 2021.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2021

2021 was another year of Covid-19, but CDC regulations did start to relax slightly allowing us to have five in-person meetings. We asked everyone to wear masks and tried to follow recommended CDC guidelines. We did sponsor the Bridge Walk on Labor Day, but we limited it to walk only, no food and no tee shirts. We did collect $41 in donations during this walk. Joanne Beare was the Coordinator of this walk. In October, a decision was made to have a Trunk and Treat for the area children instead of our annual Halloween Party at the Empire Town Hall.  Everyone agreed that an open air trick or treating would be much safer. March Dye coordinated the event and it was a resounding success.  Twenty Eight cars participated along with the Fire Department and a Haunted Bus from Glen Lake Schools.  On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, EACC sponsored The Artisan Marketplace that was held at the Empire Town Hall. CDC guidelines were followed as much as possible. Hand sanitizer and masks were at the door. Food was served, but carry out only. Linda Payment chaired the event and reported that 20 vendors participated bringing in $900 to the General Fund.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2022

2022 brought new energy to the EACC team. The Covid had finally released it's grip on society. In February Meg Walton joined the group and immediately accepted the position as Secretary. March Dye chaired the Halloween Trunk and Treat. It was such a big success having it outside the previous year because of Covid, it was decided to continue with the outside celebration. The Artisan Marketplace was sponsored by EACC and chaired by Linda Payment. It was a great fundraiser bringing in $1140.00. JoAnne Beare chaired the Labor Day Bridge Walk and we also brought back the Christmas Pot Luck after two years. We opened a saving account with the Memorial money that was given in memory of Lanny Sterling in the amount of $4013.25. This was done at the request of LeaAnn Sterling.

Empire Area Community Center History for 2023

2023 was a very good record year of increased membership adding Holly Lang, WendyPeplinski, Jeanette Stepanek, May Stier, and Bill Lustig to active membership. Linda Payment turned in her resignation letter effective on July 16 th . 2023 as president. Linda began her active membership as Vice President in 2013, becoming president in 2016.  Linda is looking forward to continued active membership, but with fewer responsibilities.  The EACC organization was delighted to welcome Gerry Shiffman back to his original position as president. Gerry was one of the original founding fathers of the reorganization and revitalization of the Community Center in 2012. He served as president from 2012 through 2015. It was a unanimous decision to elect Gerry as president at the July 13 th . 2023 meeting, effective on July 16 th .  The Community Center sponsored many successful events such as the Artisan Marketplace, Labor Day Bridge Walk, Anchor Day Parade, Street Dance, Halloween Trunk and Treat, and Christmas Pot luck. EACC also collaborated with the Methodist Church sponsoring an Easter Egg Hunt.

If you missed our Annual Mtg, you can find the latest Annual reports here ->