By Todd Travis
The Banta Community Center was originally an army barracks that was located at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. In the 1940s, it was moved down to Banta and placed on a small, donated lot next to the old Banta General Store. For years it was operated by the Ladies Auxiliary at the Banta Community Church.
“They operated it and used it for other things such as wedding receptions and graduation parties. They would hold smorgasbord dinners in the ’40s and ’50s. Anyone in the community could use it to hold their events or functions,” recalled Mike Kelly, one of the board members responsible for keeping the Banta Community Center running.
After some time, the building began to get run down and was in need of some updates. Some people worried that the building would get too far gone and become unusable. Luckily, an attorney who used to live in Banta named Tacket left some money upon his passing for the betterment of the community of Banta. Kelly and his wife, Shelly helped to organize a new board to renovate and reinvigorate this dearly held location.
Shelly had an especially sentimental tie to the building as she remembers her mother and grandmother serving community meals there when she was just a child. She also remembers aunts, uncles and many other family members being involved with the building and could not just see it deteriorate the way it had.
The board helped lead a complete overhaul of the community center which included new insulation, new plumbing, new electric, an updated kitchen and a new indoor restroom (the previous one was outdoor).
“It was all done by community volunteers. We had a plumbing company in the community that donated a lot of the plumbing and a local electrician who helped rewire the whole building. We just went through it and made a nice facility out of it with new air conditioning and lighting and everything. It’ll seat from about 90 to 100 people,” Mike Kelly shared.
With the new renovations, the building was brought back to life and started to be used again for all kinds of events and gatherings. They famously held fish fries and chili suppers that the community members enjoyed together.
Unfortunately, the board that was responsible for the revitalization of the building has begun to age and some members have even passed away. At this time, Mike and Shelly are looking for a new group to take the baton and help keep the center going for the next generation of people. As of yet, they have not found anyone who is ready to take on the responsibility, but they are hoping to find someone soon.
“What I’m trying to do is get the word out that we need some help because we just can’t continue to operate this on our own. What we don’t want to see is for it to just be sold off. We want to keep it around for the community to use,” Kelly said.
“It rents out for a couple hundred bucks a day and you just can’t find anything else like that around here,” he added.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the building, reach out to Mike Kelly at 317-504-5838.