...to further Spiritual and Cultural Growth on Fripp Island

History of   Fripp Island Community Centre



Before the bridge to Fripp had been built and when plans for the new resort and residential community were in the initial stages, the Fripp Resort developed a preliminary layout that had a plot of land designated as a church conference center.  While this structure never materialized, the commitment to a religious presence on Fripp took hold.   Bill Turbeville, who built one of the first vacation homes on Fripp, coordinated in 1967 an Easter sunrise service. Subsequently A. J. Kilgore, the wife of Jack Kilgore the developer of the resort, spearheaded the effort to have regular church services.   During the summer of 1969, there were weekly mid-week vesper services at the island’s new inn, now the Beach Club, with ministers from churches in Beaufort conducting the services.  This stimulated a campaign to raise money for a chapel. Jack Kilgore promised to deed land for a chapel and the Home Owners Association formed a church committee. However, after this initial experiment with religious services and after raising a few thousand dollars, there was a lapse before a resurgence of interest in 1973.

          In 1973 the church committee under the chairmanship of resident Gini Reese discovered that despite previous promises there was no deed for land on which to build a chapel.  The committee thus appealed to the new owners of the resort, the Fripp Island Development Corporation. One of the first actions of Stan Smith when he became operating manager of the corporation was to donate land for the chapel.

           The church committee also made arrangements for vesper services each Wednesday with area ministers presiding. In 1975 the Home Owner’s Association pledged, “we will never cancel our vesper worship” and decided that there needed to be a special non-profit, incorporated organization to build and later manage a chapel. The next year the association endorsed the incorporation of a new organization, the Fripp Island Community Centre, to spearhead this effort.

         At this time the resort provided space for Wednesday vespers at the Beach Club. Occasionally the service was held in the bar. Long time resident Lou Cashdollar recalled that on one occasion a Navy chaplain was presiding at vespers when the lectern was situated with all the bottles and glasses directly behind him. The chaplain began the service by saying “I don’t know what my mother in Ireland would say about my preaching in a bar room.” During the winter attendance plummeted and once only two people attended. However, the residents were determined to stand by their 1975 decision for “continuous Wednesday services.” In November 1978 Gini Reese organized a choir to sing at vespers. There was a consensus that “the Wednesday evening vespers provide a pleasant, thoughtful and prayerful interlude for residents and visitors alike.”

          While the resort was firm in its commitment to allow the Beach Club to be used for Wednesday evening vespers, the use of a room earlier in the week for choir practice depended on availability. The experience of several weeks with no room for choir practice galvanized the community’s resolve to have their own place. Besides the need for a place for vespers, the community had created a plethora of organizations that needed space to meet.

         The big push for a chapel and community centre came in 1979 when property owners decided to undertake a building fund campaign co-chaired by Lou Cashdollar and Ron Yaw. The 250 residents who at this time called Fripp Island home agreed that all denominations and religions should be welcome and decided on the name “All Faiths Chapel” to express this vision of inclusiveness.  Cashdollar contacted non-resident property owners. Yaw, who daily drove his golf cart about the island, focused on the full time residents, who contributed the major portion of the money. Neighborhood captains solicited funds. Many a resident wrote a check for one thousand or more dollars. They were contributing to a building that they knew would become the hub of island activities and would help to bind the community together. These early residents on Fripp envisioned having their own building to hold religious services, house a library, and host various group activities.  Elrose Yaw wrote a poem that captured this longing:


                               Let’s build a special church today

                               Where island folks may come to pray.

                                Not too large nor yet too small

                                No fancy carvings there at all

                                But quiet peace you’ll find inside

                                Where warmth and fellowship abide.


           The building fund drive, which began in October 1979, had by March 1980 raised almost $50,000, well over half of the goal. The Fripp Island Community Centre Board, created to build and run the new facility, decided to begin construction. Following an Easter Sunday service with a choir of thirty-two people singing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” the assembled congregation proceeded from Tidal Hall at the Beach Club for almost a mile down Tarpon Boulevard to the building site for an official ground breaking ceremony.

         By the fall, the residents reached their goal of $75,000. Jim Rentz of Coastal Contractors offered to construct the chapel, at cost. Yet even with this saving, the original plans had to be trimmed to match the available funds. The board scaled back plans for the community centre wing and decided not to pave the parking lot. Construction began on September 15, 1980 and progressed at full speed on a building that included a chapel, small community room with a kitchen, restrooms, and an office. As Dick Anderson, one of the key supporters of the undertaking, predicted, the first service was held on Thanksgiving in 1980. The pews had not yet arrived and trim work remained unfinished but that did not dampen the spirits of the Fripp congregation assembled for praise and thanksgiving.

            The chapel blended into the wooded setting and exemplified a heightened sense of the cohesion of community. Working with a limited budget, the residents managed with voluntary contributions to equip and furnish the chapel and facility. Captain John Zoller, a chaplain at Parris Island and later the assistant pastor at Beaufort’s Carteret Methodist Church, had several years earlier secured for Fripp the cross, candle holders, and hymnals that were being phased out on the base. The owners of a Columbia music store, Nick and Jane Peck, donated an organ. Harold Olsen, a retired window designer from a large department store in West Virginia, built the communion table and lectern. Jim Chapman, a retiree from Long Island, designed a stained glass window free of religious symbols and thus in keeping with the ecumenical spirit of All Faiths Chapel. Visiting ministers were duly impressed with the new facility and several wryly noted it was the first time they had preached in a building with no mortgage. Members of the Community Centre Board, who had initiated the building program, said that what had been accomplished “formed a foundation, upon which could rest limitless possibilities.”

The Fripp Island Community Centre did indeed play a key role in caring for the spirit of the island by offering opportunities for worship, play, and education.  In fact, the centre was so successful that it soon needed to expand to meet the needs for the community. In 1990 property owners undertook a major expansion of the ten-year-old centre, the residents’ central gathering place. The board of the centre was optimistic about raising needed money because a survey revealed strong support for the project and attendance at chapel was high. There was widespread agreement that while the chapel had adequate space, the kitchen and meeting rooms were too small. A fund-raising letter, with follow-up telephone calls, secured pledges for the required $130,000 to build a 30-by-50-foot addition. Construction began in January 1991.

         The following year the Community Centre built a columbarium. Following extensive research and numerous meetings, the centre’s board determined that because of the increased use of cremation a memorial garden and columbarium would be a meaningful addition. The board voted $30,000 to build the facility. In a tranquil natural setting on the south side of the chapel, the columbarium has an attractive brick wall that encloses an area designed to eventually have 512 niches for holding urns with the ashes of deceased persons for whom Fripp was a special place. The Fripp Island Garden Club assisted with the landscaping. On May 12, 1993 as part of the regular Wednesday night vesper service, the Fripp community gathered to dedicate the new memorial park. A month later 81of the first 96 niches had been reserved.

          The centre continued to be at the core of the island’s shared life as established activities grew and new ones were added. One of the first uses of the new space was for the 1991 white elephant sale, now called a Treasure Sale, a traditional Community Centre fund-raiser held in conjunction with the July 4th festivities. The sale raised $6,500 that was used to furnish the new addition. The expanded space soon became the venue for even bigger and better community-wide covered-dish dinners, wedding receptions, and numerous private parties. Friends of Music, which now had a venue for wine and cheese receptions following their concerts, contributed to the community centre a fine, new $17,000 concert grand piano, which they dedicated to Gini Reese, a founding member of both the chapel choir and Friends of Music. The long-established yoga group had room to grow and became so popular that by 1996 leader Mary Delle Thomas had to request that interested persons put their names on a waiting list. The Fripp Island Women’s Club, founded in the 1970s, met regularly at the centre for educational programs and socializing.

        More than ever in its history, the hub of island life rested at the community centre where in 2006 there was once again talk of the need to expand the building. Turnout for Wednesday night vespers, which had begun on a regular basis in 1975, was reaching new highs. The dynamic 25-voice choir enhanced vesper services and in February 2006 gave a special concert for an overflowing and enthusiastic audience. On Easter Sunday in 2006, all parts of the Fripp community jointed together to plan and publicize a sunrise service.  Since the chapel had been in recent years unable to accommodate the crowd, the resort made the large ocean front tent available. The community centre planned the service and the FIPOA helped to alert people of the time and place. Resident Jerry Hammet, a retired Presbyterian minister, preached.  The chapel choir sang and the sun rose gloriously over the ocean midway through the service with over four hundred people present.

            In 2007 the Board of the community centre adopted new bylaws that recognized the growth of the organization and provided a more efficient mode of operation. A building fund campaign titled “Because We Care,” raised $350,000 for the expansion of the centre and the renovation of the worship space and the community room.   The chapel choir again gave a special concert, this time as a fundraiser for the building fund.  And the new tradition of a sunrise service at the tent on Easter was repeated in 2007 to an overflowing crowd.

The Community Centre broke ground in 2007 for the new addition. On May 25, 2008 with the completion of the building and remodeling, the community filled the expanded facility for the dedication service of the lovely and bigger chapel, a most attractive and much larger fellowship hall, and a library that almost doubled in size. Due to a most successful Treasure Sale in July, the Board voted to also remodel the kitchen. This was accomplished by dedicated volunteers.

        On November 24, 2010, the Fripp Island Community Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary.  There was reminiscing about the early days, stirring music, appreciation expressed to all the volunteers over the years that helped to make the Centre the hub of Fripp life, and thanksgiving for this special community.