In 1960 groups of people met to pursue their common interests in the houses of the group members. Later, halls were hired for these meetings, and it was realised that a more permanent arrangement should be made. A Committee was formed and, in 1966, a short lease was negotiated in the Council’s Office building situated, at that time, in Station Road. This enabled more activities and the Membership grew.
The need for us to have our own building became increasingly obvious and our Council proceeded to organise ways in which we could raise the necessary money. Financial assistance was given by the Ratepayers Association and several other organisations which became “affiliated members” and after a few years, with the help of Hampshire County Council and the Lymington Borough Council, we obtained the land on which the Centre now stands.
By 1972 it was obvious that inflation was increasing nearly as fast as our bank balance, so the decision was made to start on the building of the new Centre. Many economies were made, such as having bare brick inside walls, to keep within our budget. But in 1974 we at last moved into our new single storey building. The cost of this being £28,000.
Within six months, however, it was realised that we needed to expand onto a second floor and the fund raising activities were increased. Fortune looked kindly upon us and we were given a grant by Hants County Council and the New Forest District Council. In addition, some Members kindly gave interest-free loans to assist in raising the £62,000 required for the upper extension.
Our two-storey building was completed in 1977, but further funds were required for furniture and equipment and our Members worked hard to raise the necessary capital. This was an early example of the wonderful voluntary spirit which still exists today.
During all of the time it has been in existence the Association has only employed Caretakers. We have been very fortunate in our choice of these and they have all, in turn, greatly assisted the smooth running of the Centre. But the real secret of our success has been the devotion given by the volunteers who have worked in Catering and Reception and on the Executive Committee. The day-to-day running has been monitored and controlled by the efforts of this Executive Committee which meets monthly to consider finances, building maintenance, Sections’ problems, and ways in which the general appearance and well being of the Association can be maintained and improved.
We registered as a Charity on 3rd November 1965 but this only gives us certain tax advantages. We do not receive any money!! Unlike other Community Associations we are completely self-financing and have no assistance from the local Council or anyone else - apart from occasional bequests by deceased Members. But it is true to say that the friendly spirit which exists, and the beautiful building which we own, are often commented upon by visitors and are the envy of other such organisations. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the people who, in some way, have contributed to the growth of this Association over the years (currently nearly 2000 members) and hope that our successors will continue to react favourably to the motto seen each month on the front cover of our Newsletter:- 'Friendship Through Service'
In 1969 one of our Members compiled from the Association records a booklet giving the background to the formation of the New Milton & District Community Association. Its title was, suitably, “Acorn to Sapling”.
It was thought that an attempt should be made to update and publish a record of events leading up to our fiftieth anniversary. The resulting booklet - “Acorn to Noble Oak” - details, not only the origins of the Association, but also depicts the growth from those “acorn” days. It gives an insight into the work that has contributed to the success of the New Milton & District Community Association and the Community Centre.
Copies of the booklet are available from the Reception Office at the Centre in Osborne Road. Free (while stocks last) it makes very interesting reading.