City helps sisters restore 122-year-old building

April 26, 2010 by

Listening to a discussion about the renovations being done on the downtown building by employees of the Sisters of St. Joseph are, from left, Sister Ramona Medina of Neighbor to Neighbor and review committee members Corinna Hood and Kirk Lowell.


The new Neighbor to Neighbor center has received a $5,000 grant from the city of Concordia to help cover the costs of renovating its two-story brick building on East Sixth Street.

The Sisters of St. Joseph had applied for the money — part of the 2009 Downtown Concordia Improvement Grant Program — to help pay for updating the outside of the 122-year-old building at 103 E. Sixth St.

The renovations covered by the grant proposal include removing facades added decades after the structure was built in 1888, replacing all the windows and doors, building a wheelchair-accessible ramp at the main entrance and repairing and rebuilding the concrete pad and basement stairs at the rear of the building.

The grant from the city went toward nearly $16,500 paid to local contractors for that work.

But that amount does not include the extensive interior renovation or any of the labor provided by employees of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The Concordia congregation purchased the building a year ago. Since then, the former home of Conn’s Appliance and TV has been completely redesigned, with new sheetrock, flooring, bathroom fixtures and plumbing, lighting, cabinets and doors, appliances, an interior staircase and paint. Greg Gallagher, the sisters’ facility administrator, has served as project manager, while employees Gene Ganstrom, Curtis Mansfield, Brad Snyder, Jim Helton and Renn Allsman have done most of the interior renovations.

Last month members of the Improvement Grant Review Committee — city engineer Eric Johnson and downtown property owners Corinna Hood and Kirk Lowell — toured the building with Gallagher and several sisters.

Sister Pat McLennon explains some of the programs that will be offered at Neighbor to Neighbor to grant review committee member Kirk Lowell.

On hand were the three women who will operate Neighbor to Neighbor — Sisters Pat McLennon, Jean Befort and Ramona Medina — as well as president of the congregation, Sister Marcia Allen.

The three committee members were impressed with the work both inside and outside of the old building. As Johnson walked through the first floor and then upstairs to the still-to-be-finished second floor, he asked questions about construction techniques and the craftsmanship shown in the renovations.

“These are people who take pride in their work,” he said of the sisters’ employees.

The sisters applied for the city grant last November, and the review was to verify the work had been completed in compliance with grant rules. The grants are designed to help property owners return their building exteriors to their original construction condition while encouraging revitalization and economic growth in downtown Concordia.

Neighbor to Neighbor is now scheduled to open in early May. It will provide a wide array of services for women and for women with young children and be a resource center to help them find other services they need, said Sister Pat.

Services offered will likely include nutrition and parenting classes, workshops on healthy living, personal counseling and information on what help is available through other agencies. The center will also have small facilities to meet what Sister Pat described as “basic needs” — showers, a washer and dryer and a kitchen.

Sister Ramona noted that services and volunteer opportunities will be added and developed as the need for them is identified.

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