SARATOGA SPRINGS — The nonprofit Franklin Community Center recently opened to the public in a new building whose purchase was backed by a $1 million donation.
A center board member, Stacie Arpey and her husband Mike, made the seven-figure gift for the center to buy 95 Washington St. for $2.1 million in December 2020.
The 10,000-square-foot building recently opened to the public at its new physical community center.
The center, which now uses four buildings with its latest addition, was bursting at the seams at 10 Franklin St., where four of its 15 employees had shared office, said Executive Director Kari Cushing.
The center will continue to use the Franklin Street building for its food pantry and offices.
“We knew we wanted to give back to the community, and we spent time investigating each of the organizations in the area,” Stacie Arpey said.
Franklin Community Center fit all the Arpeys’ criteria.
“As lifelong, multigenerational Saratogians, we knew that we wanted to have the impact be in Saratoga,” she said. “Kari Cushing and the staff at Franklin Community Center are absolutely amazing, and it has been so much fun to be part of that, and being on the board. It was just a natural progression.”
The center launched a $2.5 million campaign to expand the 4,000-square-foot Franklin Street building before the pandemic started. Then the nearby Washington Street property went on the market, Cushing said.
The limited space amid a pandemic meant center programs had to be reduced.
“We couldn’t use our volunteers anymore,” Cushing said. “So we were all working in the food pantry and just making sure that our services could continue.”
The Washington Street building, across the street from 10 Franklin St., was “literally the only building in the city that would work for the purpose, and it enabled us to avoid the construction of an old building and all the fun that comes with that,” Cushing said.
The center had raised about $1 million of its $2.5 million goal for an expansion when the Washington Street property came onto the market.
“We came to look at it, even though we didn’t have the funds to buy it,” Cushing recalled. “We left there thinking this was so unfortunate because of the timing.”
Stacie Arpey toured the building with center officials and the next day she and her husband said they would give the $1 million.
The seller, building educational technology expert Elliott Masie and his wife Cathy, lowered the asking price significantly for center leadership, Cushing said.
The property’s building and land value is listed in city records as $2.3 million.
“Between those two generous gestures, we were able to make it a reality,” Cushing said.
The additional building allowed the center to double the size of its food pantry, which now has a loading dock and area for back stock, Cushing said.
The added space also accommodates more volunteers.
“We rely on an army of volunteers in order to provide our services, and the pandemic made it much more difficult,” Cushing said. “We didn’t even have volunteers in our building for about eight months, because we’re in such close quarters that there’s just no way to social distance.”
An after-school prevention program for elementary and middle school students called Project Lift and the food pantry are the center’s largest programs, Cushing said.
It also has a holiday assistance program that served 725 children last year, as well as a Halloween costume program and school supplies assistance program.
The center’s “Free Store” is a distribution center where it accepts donations of used clothing and household items for people to take what they need free of charge.
The center also has low-income housing, with 19 nearby apartment units.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.