A series of less than successful fund-raisers has left the group trying to renovate the obsolete space hundreds of thousands of dollars short of its goal., VALLEY DISPATCH PHOTO

BY CHRISTINE PHELAN, Valley Dispatch Staff

PELHAM — The Sherburne Hall Committee — a group that began with promise but has after two years shrunk to a handful of now discouraged members — is rapidly losing steam.

Several lackluster fund-raisers, including last year’s Texas Hold ‘Em Poker tourney, plus fire-code snags, and selectmen’s recent moratorium on hall use due to safety issues has the dwindling committee shaking their heads in consternation at the campaign’s lack of progress. The group has raised just a quarter of what it needs to begin even the most basic work on the hall, which is in dire need of updates and basics like rewiring, a new stage curtain and several coats of fresh paint.

Such plodding progress gives committee Chairwoman Charlene Takasian a heavy heart.

“Someone made a comment once that everything in Pelham is sports — and they’re right,” lamented Takasian. “There’s no culture in Pelham. You have to go out of town, and jeepers, wouldn’t it be nice to have some events going on here?”

And even if citizens agree with the assertion that a cultural space in Pelham is desirable, no one has stepped forward to provide the much-needed cornerstone for fund-raising. And given that the turn-of-the-century hall can’t be used for any events due to safety considerations, a missing sprinkler system and ancient wiring, a space that might have captured the residents’ imagination no longer even registers.

“How can we raise awareness of Sherburne if we can’t use it?” asked Takasian.

Pelham’s 2001 Master Plan called for a central community space for everything from municipal meetings to theater performances, concerts and readings. Sherburne Hall, an annex at the rear of Sherburne Memorial School, was identified as an upgradable space, and estimates for its overhaul — including the installation of an HVAC system, a vaulted ceiling and new flooring, among other items — began at $335,000. At the outset, the group believed the goal was attainable.

So far, however, just $41,000 has been raised, mostly in trickled donations of from $25 to $100. In order to begin work on the site, however — even in piecemeal fashion — they need more than double that amount.

And while everyone knows there’s money to be had, the committee’s unsure where to find it.

“People are developing, developing Pelham like crazy, but I haven’t seen anyone come forward,” Takasian said. “And when you call the businesses to ask them to help, even they can’t afford to keep giving everything that they give. Yes, they’re supportive, but we’re breaking them (financially) now. There are a lot of new houses in Pelham, and lot of new people; we just don’t know how to reach out to them. I feel I’m out here all by myself.”

The Sherburne Hall Committee, however, has hardly given up. Their latest effort hopes to round up support for a five-prize raffle, including a $4,000 wood pellet stove from North End Coal Sales, a handmade quilt sewn by town resident Glennie Edwards, a LCD television and $100 in cash. Tickets are available on the group’s Web site (http://www.sherburnehall.org/) for $10 apiece (or three for $25, or 15 for $100).

And if that doesn’t work? The group’s working on a book of Sherburne School memories. They’re looking into possibilities for hall naming rights in exchange for donations.

Takasian said she’s even considered copying the Townsend Garden Club’s calendar in which elder members posed in the buff — while being strategically covered by everything from plants to watering cans — which sold smashingly.

That raised some eyebrows, she laughed.

“The committee talked about it, and my husband and I would certainly do it,” Takasian said. “But Pelham can be a weird sort of town. What we really need is someone to say we have $40,000, and we’re running out of steam.”

The Sherburne Hall Committee raffle is offering the following prizes for a Nov. 15 raffle:

First Prize — A $4,000 Harman wood pellet stove, installed, including a supply of wood pellets (Courtesy of the Croteau family)

Second Prize — A handmade blue and white quilt lovingly stitched by resident Glennie Edwards

Third Prize — A week stay at the Pollard Brook Resort, in Lincoln, N.H. (courtesy of Bill Scanzani)

Fourth Prize — A 15-inch LCD high definition television with surround sound (courtesy of Citizen’s Bank)

Fifth Prize — $100 cash (Courtesy of a friend of Sherburne Hall).

Tickets — $10 each, three for $25 or 15 for $100 — may be downloaded and printed from the Sherburne Hall Committee’s Web site, www.sherburnehall.org. Mail the filled out form, with your check, to The Sherburne Hall Fund, PO Box 710, Pelham, NH 03076.

For more information, contact Town Hall: 603-635-8233.

Have a story idea? E-mail Christine Phelan at cphelan@thevalleydispatch.com.