Nearly 40 years ago, residents of the Wexford Ridge neighborhood organized to create the Wexford Ridge Neighborhood Center (WRNC) in a vacant townhouse. Volunteers provided childcare, food assistance, and employment assistance for one another, while nearby community agencies contributed services. Over time, the WRNC built long-standing partnerships and expanded to operate as an independent nonprofit out of two converted apartments.

In the early 2000s, Wexford Ridge residents and neighborhood supporters came together to discuss building a “real” community center, and architect Doug Kozel was asked to lead the project. When asked to recall the process of planning and building this new community center, Doug remembered, “It was so nice to be brought into the fold. My work was not just technical, there was a real sense of community.” Doug wanted to create a space rooted in that community, where people could come and see themselves as part of it.

As we mark our building’s ten-year anniversary, we think of all this community has accomplished and the original values that still hold true. Everyone who comes into the Center with a need also comes in with something to provide, and neighbors take care of each other every day.

As Doug thinks about the Center’s anniversary, he hopes that Wexford Ridge residents will always feel a sense of ownership here. “Being able to establish an organization that lasts is really hard,” he says, “yet the Center has that kind of resilience, longevity, and purpose. The community continuously refines who they are and what they want to do, and just keeps going. That effort, that motivation — it’s a really admirable thing.”

This story is part of a special series celebrating 10 years of open doors at 55 South Gammon Road in Madison.