Norfolk nonprofit launches fresh start with new name

Lisa Atkin, co-president, and Libby Borden, president of The Norfolk Hub.

Jennifer Almquist

Norfolk nonprofit launches fresh start with new name

NORFOLK — Thanks to the vision and energy of a few committed residents originally calling themselves The Norfolk Foundation, the town has renewed vitality.

To more accurately reflect the mission of this nonprofit group to enhance the resources of the community, support local business, and create cultural programs in the arts and literature, the name of the organization has been distilled to The Norfolk Hub — a fresh start, with a new logo design, for a group that has already been improving life in Norfolk, reviving the town center, and focusing on the future by serving the technological demands of life in the 21st century.

“Over the last seven years the Hub has become a centerpiece and a place that everyone in town feels positively about. It seemed like the right time to simplify our identity,” said Lisa Atkin, co-president of the Norfolk Hub.

“We are a hub — a center of activity and connectivity for the town,” said Libby Borden, The Norfolk Hub founder and co-president. “We aim to serve everyone in the community by partnering with other nonprofit groups to help them advance their missions, and we contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the community through programs in the arts and nature — programs that reflect who we are, how we’ve evolved over time, and that will continue to shape Norfolk’s future.”

It is rare to have such a nexus of activity in a small New England town. Back in 2015, Libby Borden got together with friends Pete Anderson and Steve Melville and planted the first seeds of the now essential 501(c)(3) private operating foundation. Borden envisioned a general store to spark the commercial center of town. The Norfolk Foundation encouraged Ryan Craig to move his Cornwall-based sandwich shop, and 6 Station Place, now known as the Berkshire Country Store, was born.

Two Station Place, the brick-and-mortar space across from The Royal Arcanum Building, known as The Hub, provides community gathering and workspaces for individuals, and member and nonmember organizations.

New additions to the Norfolk Hub staff include Christal Preszler, former deputy director of economic and community development for Newtown, Connecticut. She has joined the Hub as special projects and grants manager, and Dianna Hofer, former owner of The Healing Nest and certified art teacher, came on board to support operations and event planning.

“The Norfolk Hub is unique in our community,” explained Atkin. “Because we are fortunate to have the resources to support other local nonprofits, we function as a utility player, helping by providing support staff, office space and other resources, as needed. In other words, we can serve as an extension of their organizations.”

Norfolk Hub’s new logo.

Founder Steve Melville wanted a greater emphasis on the arts, and the Haystack Book Festival was established. Norfolk Hub board member Michael Selleck organized another successful Haystack Book Festival in September as well as readings earlier in the summer.

As reported in Norfolk Now, the event has grown, “From a small conversation six years ago with a biographer of the poet John Ashbery, into a multiday exploration that remains true to its roots in literature but now ranges into criticism, religion, history, foreign affairs, journalism, domestic politics and usually quite a bit more.”

The Norfolk Hub also sponsored the Yale Summer School public art lecture series Freedom to Form. “We sponsored several lectures at the Yale Art School with an eye towards establishing a rapport with the Stoeckel Estate and the Yale campus, recalled Atkin.” Plans to collaborate with the Yale program in the future are being considered.

In addition to owning the Hub and 6 Station Place (the Berkshire Country Store), with the support of the William and Mary Greve Foundation, the organization acquired The Royal Arcanum building with the purpose of ensuring that the historic structure is preserved and occupied. The Arcanum rents out office space, is the home of the Norfolk Pub, and is currently renovating five apartments on the second floor for affordable housing, thanks to a $500,000 Connecticut state grant received earlier this year. The apartments will be subleased to the Foundation for Norfolk Living, a provider of affordable housing in Norfolk. A vacant space in The Arcanum Building is now dedicated to attracting entrepreneurs with ideas for pop-up stores such as the artisans, bakers, woodworkers scheduled over the coming months.

In June, the CT-Asia Cultural Center, The Norfolk Library and the Hub celebrated the traditional Chinese holiday Dragon Boat Festival with crafts, a sample dragon boat, food and a parade.

In November, Norfolk’s Billy Gridley, president of Aton Forest Inc., moderated a panel discussion on “Forever Wild: Rewilding New England: A Vital Solution to Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Threats to Human Health.”

In partnership with Mission Impact, the Norfolk Church of Christ UCC youth group and the Rev. Erick Olsen and Norfolk Hub board member Vishal Grover organized the first annual Haystack Pet Parade, which was a big hit.

Atkin concluded: “I’ve felt engaged, inspired and dedicated to the Foundation since joining because there is an essential spirit of getting things done. Being on the board has provided me the opportunity to meet many members of the community it might have taken me decades to meet. In a town like Norfolk, in today’s political and cultural reality, it’s easy to point to the things that are not working, but my feeling about our work has always been that we aren’t afraid to take on a project if that project had the possibility to improve the lives of this community. While there is a lot more to be done, I feel like the Norfolk Hub has stimulated some momentum towards an evolution of this wonderful small town.”

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