A humble start quickly blossomed into what has been a 20-year success story for the Jewish Community Center of Sherman.

When Ruth and Bernard Hoberman responded to a notice about forming a Jewish community center in Sherman, they were amazed at the turnout.

"About 100 people showed up," recalled Ruth Hoberman. "The notice said to meet at St. John the Apostle Church on Route 39 north. It was an old house."

That was the fall of 1994.

Today, the center is some 100 members strong. Open to all Sherman area residents, the JCC hosts cultural, educational and social events.

Concerts by Juilliard School faculty and students, a Great Discussions group hosted by the Foreign Policy Association, and a Friday night film series are just a few of the center's offerings.

"There never would have been a JCC if not for Barbara Ackerman," said Bernard Hoberman, a former board president. "She put a tremendous amount of time into starting it and had significant influence in the area that she brought with her."

Originally, the group met at the church. After several years, enough money had been raised to purchase a site on Route 39 South and build the present center.

With much fanfare and many VIPs on hand for the occasion, groundbreaking took place April 27, 1997.

The JCC sits on eight acres, nestled in the surrounding woods.

The building offers an acoustically enhanced hall with complete audiovisual setup, a stage with concert piano and doors opening to a patio.

"The piano was played by Liberace at the home of the couple who donated it," Ruth Hoberman said. "Much of the cabinets, and furnishings were built by or donated by members."

Board of directors President Russell Whitman said from the start JCC programing was entirely staffed by volunteers.

However, over time, some paid staff has been added.

"We've recently hired an executive director, Anne Marie Stockmeyer," Whitman said. "We think we need a little catalyst to reinvigorate us."

Stockmeyer moved from Washington, D.C. with her husband and 7-year-old child. She has two grown children. Her background is philanthropic organizations.

The JCC takes an egalitarian approach to its membership

Some members summer or weekend in the surrounding Candlewood Lake area. Many have moved from New York City and Westchester County to Sherman or New Fairfield.

"This is a community with weekenders who have very little means of meeting people," Ruth Hoberman said. "The community center has become a meeting place."

"Our objective is to make good, dear friends," Bernard Hoberman added, "friends you can call on when you need help and they're there."

The center has partnered with the Sherman Historical Society, Naromi Land Trust and Sherman's Parent Teacher Organization to co-sponsor programs.

A movie about bullying was shown with the mother of a child in the documentary in attendance as a guest speaker.

"We're trying to do things to help our community," said Mona Joy Roth, a member of the Executive Committee. "We try to identify unmet needs and meet them."

To learn more about the Jewish Community Center or to rent the facility, visit www.jccinsherman.org or call 860-355-8050.

For more photos, visit www.newmilfordspectrum.com.