Windsor’s popular Furth Center
By HOWARD SENZELL / Towns Correspondent
Where’s the most popular meeting place in Windsor?
Here’s a clue. It’s got a main thoroughfare address but is invisible from the street. To find it, turn into the driveway at 8400 Old Redwood Highway and drive around the back.
Only then will you see the Mary Agatha Furth Center, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s parish hall, which hosts the county’s largest parties.
No matter if it’s day or night, chances are good there will be people going in and out of the building.
In an average year, the Furth Center welcomes more than 50,000 visitors, including Bingo players, wedding parties, prom couples and gala participants.
It’s no accident that the Furth Center has a diverse clientele, said Mark Morrisette, director of the facility.
“We’re here to serve the people of Windsor and Sonoma County,” he said. “We keep our rental rates low so groups think of us when planning a big venue for a large special event or celebration in a banquet hall.”
Twelve years later, the only days it’s empty are Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
“Other than those two holidays, our six smaller rooms are busy days and evenings,” Morrisette said. “We average 60 room usages a week. The hall is booked nearly every Saturday and usually a few afternoons or nights during the week.”
Christmas is no exception. Leading up to the big day, the facility will be used for the Junior League reception and home tour, a posada (a dramatization of Mary and Joseph searching for lodging), a Vietnamese Christmas banquet and songfest, the Multi-Contact Xmas party and an annual church gathering put on by the Knights of Columbus and The Madonna Society.
Money to build the center was donated by Fred Furth, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe. A San Francisco attorney and one-time owner of Chalk Hill Winery, he named it for his mother, who came there for Mass every day until she passed away.
Furth donated several million dollars to build the facility, and parishioners also contributed. The center was dedicated Dec. 12, 2000.
Lots of groups use the classrooms that seat 30 to 60, including Catechism classes (Wednesday in Spanish, Thursday in English), several 12 step programs, Weight Watchers, youth and community groups and local clubs.
The main hall can hold 850 people, 450 for banquets, with a 900-square-foot dance floor and a stage. It has state-of-the-art video and sound systems, and new carpeting was installed last year.
For performances and conventions, there’s theatrical lighting, a large movie screen with projector and high speed wireless internet.
“We also have a large (750 square feet) complete commercial kitchen licensed with the County of Sonoma,” Morrisette said. “People can bring in their own caterer or prepare the food themselves.”
There is also a courtyard that can be rented.
“The popular dates are generally booked a year in advance,” Morrisette advised. “However, many people call about Fridays and Sundays and can get a real deal, if they can find an open date.”
The cost for Saturdays and holiday weekends is $3,232, a decrease of nearly $600 from 2011. To rent the hall on any other night of the week is $1,000 less.
“We lowered the cost to help people because of the economy,” Morrisette said. “Price the wineries or other banquet halls and you’ll see we’re the least expensive.”
Cost for the smaller rooms ranges from $20 to $30 per hour.
The money brought in by the Furth Center goes to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was built in 1993 and uses the funds for upkeep and to help the poor.
The Furth Center will also work with organizations, especially nonprofits.
“If a nonprofit group comes to us and can’t afford our prices, we try to help them,” Morrisette said. “We’ll negotiate a lower fee, especially if it’s not on a Saturday night.”