Vision to reality: Community push continues for Smith Mountain Lake Center

The Smith Mountain Lake Center has 70% of the funds they need to purchase the building for the center

The Smith Mountain Lake Center has 70% of the funds they need to purchase the building for the center

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Smith Mountain Lake gains a ton of attraction during the warmer months, but area leaders would like to see that business all year-round. Their solution? A community center.

WSLS 10 reported on the push for a community center in the Smith Mountain Lake area back in 2019 – a center that, at that time, was known as Vicki’s Vision.

The center was originally named after Vicki Gardner, the only survivor of the shooting at the lake that took the lives of journalists Adam Ward and Alison Parker.

Gardner said a board met the night before the day of the shooting to discuss adding a community center to the area.

“We met this one evening and we laid it all out, who has what roles, and then the very next day was the shooting,” Gardner said.

Gardner was shot in the back the next morning during a live broadcast, then she was rushed to the hospital.

Now, after seven years that have been filled with surgeries, which are still ongoing, Gardner’s push for the center has only gained more traction.

It was actually in the hospital where Gardner recovered that she received thousands of dollars in donations, and rather than spending it on herself, she wanted it all to go towards the community center.

It was at that time that people called the community center ‘Vicki’s Vision.’

“That really got people in our community together in saying, this is what we need, this is the best time to do it, let’s pull together and let’s buy the Grand Home Furnishings building,” Gardner said.

Now, the center is called the Smith Mountain Lake Center, and it would have an auditorium, a multipurpose room along with several classrooms.

Gardner said the possibilities are just endless.

Community center layout in the former Grand Home Furnishings building. (Smith Mountain Lake Center)

Smith Mountain Lake Center has raised 70% of the money needed to purchase the building. They’re still about $600,000-$700,000 shy of the goal.

Gardner said the community wants this, and they need it.

“Now they’re really with us saying … oh lord this is great. We’re going to have a place that we can go into and utilize for our particular needs,” Gardner said.

Years after the horrific morning of August 26, 2015, Gardner has not given up on her vision.

“I made a promise. I made a promise through Vicky’s Vision that I’m going to do everything I can to make this a reality,” Gardner said.

Want to donate? You can visit the site or reach out to one of the board members for the Smith Mountain Lake Center.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.