Laurie Michaels-Cerrone removed her work gloves and stood in front of a newly installed window on the second level of the Mont Pleasant Boys & Girls Club on Friday, overlooking the refurbished basketball court.
As workers scrambled to finish last-minute touch-ups on the building for the reveal that evening, Michaels-Cerrone and Darlene Zeh took a brief moment to reflect on why they took on this extreme makeover project in the first place: for the kids.
“This is like their window to the future,” Michaels-Cerrone said, looking out. “This is their window of opportunity.”
“It is all about giving,” Zeh said, embracing Michaels-Cerrone.
Zeh and Michaels-Cerrone are interior designers with a passion for giving back. After Zeh led last year’s Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club extreme remodel, she asked Michaels-Cerrone to join her on her next endeavor: the remodeling of the facility on Webster Street in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood.
After an arduous two weeks of renovations and remodeling, the club was revealed Friday to the community.
“It has been a very trying process. It has been a lot of work,” Zeh said. “But a lot of great people have stepped up to the plate.”
Two weeks ago, the grounds of the Mont Pleasant site included fallen trees, a cracked sidewalk and broken stairs with wooden boards misplaced, but on Friday it was a different sight: brand new sidewalks, concrete stairs with shiny black railings. And inside: a tile floor in the entryway with newly installed cubbies and hangers for backpacks, an entirely new staircase leading to the second level, which is doubled in size and has a new carpet installed, learning posters over the freshly painted walls, a basketball court with a new floor, a homework room doubled in size, a teen center with state-of-the-art equipment and a four square court. These are just some of the improvements to the facility.
“Our kids deserve the best,” said Shane Bargy, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady.
“I would just like to say that the kids are so lucky that there are this many amazing people in our community that care about them,” he said. “The doubling of the education space is going to mean so much to them educationally. The teen center, when it is completed, is going to give the teens an exciting place to be at night. And because it is updated, it is just a very clean, beautiful, safe place for all children and youth to be.”
“I am very excited,” Michaels-Cerrone said. “Excited is an understatement. I had no idea what an impact it would have. I am so excited for these kids. It gets them off the streets. It keeps them safe. ”
The Mont Pleasant Boys & Girls Club has more than 350 members, and 80 to 85 children visit its facility each day. Michaels-Cerrone said that every day for the past two weeks, one of the boys, about 7 years old, has stopped by to see her and the progress.
“He has come every day,” she said. “He is so excited.”
A committee called Giving 4Ward was created for the extreme remodel project. The Giving 4Ward committee was able to raise more than $18,000 with help from sponsors like Trustco Bank, Hunt Real Estate and Price Chopper. The project was also made possible with a $49,500 grant through the Lowe’s Charitable and Education Fund, called Lowe’s Making Dreams. Synthesis Architects came up with the concept and the vision for the building and Zeh, Michaels-Cerrone and many other volunteers executed it.
But, at an estimated cost of about $200,000, there are still funds to be raised. While about 85 percent of the project is complete, the Teen Center within the building and other mini-projects still need to be finished and money needs to be raised.
Zeh said they ran into some bumps along the way. There were few, if any, renovations to the building since it was acquired by the Boys & Girls Club nearly 40 years ago. Some costs that were not originally estimated included: the hiring of a electrician due to complicated electricity needs and the hiring of a mason — along with extra costs to make the facility handicap-accessible and to install fire alarms.
Michaels-Cerrone said despite the bumps in the road, it has been a rewarding and worthwhile project.
“I have just been overwhelmed by the generosity,” she said.
“All this hard work and determination is going to pay off,” she said. “It has been a really challenging project, but it is all coming together.”