Habitat for Humanity pitches in at Music Haven in Schenectady

Volunteer organization creates concession stand for annual music series
Music Haven's new concession stand, made by Habitat for Humanity, is open for business on Aug. 11.
Music Haven's new concession stand, made by Habitat for Humanity, is open for business on Aug. 11.

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

It was a match made in Haven. 

The sweeping concession stand at Music Haven, which was unveiled Aug. 11, was created by Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County.  

The two nonprofits came together earlier this year to do what each does best. 

“I really love the idea of not-for-profits helping other not-for-profits,” said Madelyn Thorne. 

As executive director of Schenectady Habitat, she relies on a strong team of volunteers to build homes for people across the county. 

“One of the things we have that’s really a blessing is a very strong and dedicated volunteer team,” Thorne said, adding, “when you have so many people [who] want to give, let’s find a way to best utilize them.”

So a year or two ago, Thorne and the team of Habitat volunteers began asking, “What else can we do?”

They started with a Ramp Up program, building chair ramps for people whose homes weren’t accessible to them. 

But volunteers were up for more. Thorne volunteers at Music Haven, and as the season was being planned she spoke with Mona Golub, the producer behind Music Haven and the vice president of public relations and customer service for Price Chopper. 

“How can we cross-germinate so that Music Haven’s resources are better spent building that program and doing what they do best, and Habitat gets to do what Habitat does best, which is build a nice [stand] that’s going to house the beverages and some of the food product, and allow the funds that are raised to enhance Music Haven?” Thorne said. 

Working with the city of Schenectady, along with the county, they drew up plans to build on the concessions space that was already alongside the Music Haven stage in Schenectady’s Central Park. 

James Gekakis, construction manager at Habitat, designed the stand and, with input from volunteers, has been working on building it since earlier this summer. Gekakis worked with volunteer groups a few times a week to construct it. Some of the volunteers came from engineering or construction backgrounds, while others were new to the work. 

“James Gekakis, among his many gifts, he’s an excellent teacher. He is excellent at taking people who don’t have a lot of experience laying a flooring, putting up a wall, painting trim, and showing them how to do it and giving them the confidence,” Thorne said. 

Though the project was delayed by weather, the team of volunteers and Habitat for Humanity staff were able to unveil the project last Sunday. 

With its red-brick facade and dark, slanted roof, it echoes the Music Haven stage itself.

“It’s well-secured. We put in a heavy-duty door and locks on the windows. It’s built to withstand years,” Thorne said. 

It’s also built to serve up beer and all kinds of foods rooted in global recipes. Each week during the Music Haven series, organizers change the menu, offering culinary choices that reflect the culture of the performing bands. Most recently, during the Cimarrón performance, they offered homemade empanadas. During the first concert of the season, organizers traveled to India, serving up chicken tikka masala, chana palak and Indian samosas with chutney.  

The last show of the season will be Aug. 18, featuring Jupiter & Okwess. The group, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will perform Congolese pop. In step with the music, poulet a la moambe with rice and ginger beer will be served that evening.

Beer and cider from Wolf Hollow Brewing Company and Nine Pin Cider will also be available, as will food from Michele’s Charcoal Pit along with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The rain site is the Niskayuna High School auditorium. 

As far as what’s next for Habitat, the organization plans to build five houses this year, adding to its total of 54 houses to date. And Thorne says there’s still room for more. 

“Because we have such great support, now it’s just a matter of ‘What else can we do? How else can we make a difference?’ This is our county, let’s be as effective as we possibly can. The only limitations we have are the limits we put on ourselves,” Thorne said. 

For information on the upcoming Music Haven show, visit musichavenstage.org

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