Donors pay for 1,302 square feet — so far

February 1, 2011 by

The idea when the fundraising drive began to expand Neighbor to Neighbor was that people like to have a sense of what their money will pay for. Eight weeks later, donors have paid to renovate 1,302¼  square feet of the center’s upper floor at 103 E. Sixth St.

At $24.33 a square foot, that works out to $31,684 donated so far — or about 63 percent of the total needed to double the space available for the center in downtown Concordia.

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At the same time, workers from the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse have been working in the upstairs portion of the building since Dec. 1.

When Greg Gallagher, facilities manager for the Sisters of St. Joseph, began planning work on the two-story building nearly two years ago, he knew that the project would be more resurrection than renovation — particularly on the second floor, which had not been used for anything other than storage for decades.

So when the first floor was cleaned out and the lath and plaster removed from the walls, that work was done on the second floor, too. The only other work upstairs was to remove the boards that had filled the three large windows facing Sixth Street and replace them with new vinyl windows.

Then the work upstairs stopped.

Downstairs, on the main floor, Nazareth Motherhouse employees completely refinished the 122-year-old structure, adding new plumbing, lighting, a heating and cooling system, interior walls, a complete kitchen, bathroom facilities, a laundry room, flooring and all the finishings.

When Neighbor to Neighbor opened in May 2010, it seemed to offer ample space for the women and their young children who would be welcomed there by Sisters Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina, the Sisters of St. Joseph who conceived of the center and now staff it every day.

From Monday through Friday, the sisters and volunteers offer classes and services that range from one-on-one tutoring for GED exams and book studies to providing a place to do laundry or take showers and classes in sewing, baking, lacemaking and household budgeting. Individual counseling services are also available as needed, as is help in navigating the social services maze. And, for some moms, the center has become a place to go with their young children, to give the kids a chance to play and the moms a chance to befriend other moms.

There is never any cost to the women taking part; all the programs are offered free, with funding coming from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, a handful of grants and individual donations.

“This is about one neighbor helping another,” as Sister Ramona explains it.

And the neighbors throughout Cloud County have responded — the center is often packed throughout the day.

So Gallagher and the sisters last fall began working on a plan to bring the upstairs back to life, in much the same way as was done downstairs.

Second-floor plans call for an art room, a private counseling or small meeting room, two more bathrooms, lots of storage space and a kitchenette that will look out over a large play area for children.

Sister Jean emphasizes the word “large” in that description of the coming work: “With more and more children, they really need a bigger space,” she explains, “and this is the only way we can provide that.”

Again, Motherhouse employees are doing the bulk of the work, which keeps the labor costs for the project low.

As February begins, workers have framed new walls upstairs and are stringing electrical wiring throughout the second floor. At the same time new ductwork for the heating and cooling system is being custom cut and fit. Employees doing the bulk of the work are Gene Gangstrom, Curtis Mansfield, Jim Helton, T.J. Hayne, Brad Snyder, Bob Kearn and Renn Allsman.

Gallagher expects the work will be completed this spring.

The center remains open during the upstairs construction. The sounds of work on the second level sometimes competes with conversation on the main floor, but not enough to deter women from continuing to come to Neighbor to Neighbor.

The fund drive is continuing as well. At $24.33 per square foot, donors may pay for the renovation of one foot, or 10 — or 100.  As of Jan. 31, there are 754¾ square feet not yet covered by donations.

If you’d like to help support Neighbor to Neighbor or any of the sisters’ other ministries, you can make a donation through a secure server with Amazon Simple Pay, simply fill in the amount of your donation and then click on the Donate button:



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