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Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California.

Community centres or community halls are public locations where members of a community tend to gather for group activities, social support, public information, and other purposes. They may sometimes be open for the whole community or for a specialized group within the greater community. Community centres can be religious in nature, such as Christian, Islamic, or Jewish community centres, or can be secular, such as youth clubs.

Uses and activities

Community centre in Marburg an der Lahn, Germany.
Community centre in Klaukkala, Finland.

Community centres generally perform many of the following functions in their communities:

  • As the place for all-community celebrations at various occasions and traditions.
  • As the place for public meetings of the citizens on various issues.
  • As the place where politicians or other official leaders come to meet the citizens and ask for their opinions, support or votes ("election campaigning" in democracies, other kinds of requests in non-democracies).
  • As a place where community members meet each other socially.
  • As a place housing local clubs and volunteer activities.
  • As a place that community members (and sometimes others), can rent cheaply when a private family function or party is too big for their own home. For instance the non-religious parts of weddings, funerals, etc.
  • As a place that passes on and retells local history.
  • As a place where local non-government activities are organised.
  • As a community venue for entertainment.
  • As a place of relief in instances of community tragedies.

Organization and ownership

Protestant Community Centre in Dúbravka, Bratislava (Slovakia).

Around the world (and sometimes within single countries) there appear to be four common ways in which the operation of the kind of community centre are owned and organised. In the following description, "Government" may refer to the ordinary secular government or to a dominant religious organisation such as the Roman Catholic Church; and it may refer to the central, national, or international branch of a government/church or to the local subdivision of it.

  • Community owned: The centre is directly owned and run by the local community through an organization separate from the official (local) governmental institutions of the area, but with the full knowledge and sometimes even funding from (local) government institutions.[citation needed]
  • Government owned: The centre is a public (local) government facility, though it is mostly used for non-government community activities and may even have some kind of local leadership elected from its community.
  • Sponsored: A rich citizen or commercial corporation owns the centre and donates its use to the community for reasons of charity or public relations.[citation needed]
  • Commercial: The community centre is a purely commercial entity which aims to profit from renting its facilities to various community groups on terms suitable for such use.[citation needed]

Origins of individual community centres

The DRU Cultuurfabriek in the Netherlands is based on a former iron foundry. The main building was used once for the administration.

Each individual community centre typically has its own peculiar origin and history, though some variants seem to be common:

  • Built as such - Buildings have been erected specifically to function as community centres at least as far back as 1880,[1] perhaps even earlier.
  • A disused public building

    Community centres or community halls are public locations where members of a community tend to gather for group activities, social support, public information, and other purposes. They may sometimes be open for the whole community or for a specialized group within the greater community. Community centres can be religious in nature, such as Christian, Islamic, or Jewish community centres, or can be secular, such as youth clubs.