SCHENECTADY -- The City Mission of Schenectady unveiled its new Schenectady Works headquarters on Wednesday, a building located on Union Street that will allow the City Mission to expand its workforce-development initiative.
City Mission officials, investors and employees gathered at the new site to celebrate its opening and to tour the new facility, which includes a training center, a computer resource room, a room for community events, a kitchen and administrative office space.
At 7,600 square feet, the new headquarters is more than twice the size of the organization's previous 3,000-square-foot facility on Yates Street.
"It takes a lot of people to make a dream and a vision a reality," Mike Saccocio, executive director of the City Mission of Schenectady, said on Wednesday about the new headquarters.
Schenectady Works, which is a program of City Mission of Schenectady, is a city-wide work force development program that was formed in 2012.
The Downtown Ambassadors, Empower Health, and Employer Resource Network (ERN) are all under the umbrella of Schenectady Works, which serves almost 3,000 people each year. The program partners with local businesses to provide job training, assistance with job searches, and job retention services for people in the city affected by poverty.
The new headquarters for the organization was originally a convent for St. John's Evangelist Church until the early 1980s. Then, it became a Catholic Charities building and after that, functioned as office space for the church.
The building had been vacant for several years when the City Mission purchased the building from St. John's last May, immediately embarking on the $900,000 renovation project. The City Mission had been looking for new space for the headquarters for about two years, Saccocio said. The new headquarters also has a bus stop right outside, which will allow people who are normally restricted due to transportation hurdles to get to the building easily.
Helping people in underprivileged communities find and retain careers has a ripple effect in their own communities, and those people usually become "transformational" local leaders, Saccocio added.
Fenimore Asset Management and the Wright Family Foundation each contributed $300,000 to the project, resulting in the headquarter's new official name, the Fenimore-Wright Building.
"This is really worth going all in for," Saccocio said.
Eddie Polanco, the outreach operations supervisor at Schenectady Works, credited Schenectady Works with helping him pull himself out of his life of homelessness, addiction and incarceration. Schenectady Works gave him access to resources that helped him not only get a job, but retain a job longterm, he said.
Polanco has worked with Schenectady Works for about five years, and said the new, larger building will bring in more people and give them the opportunities he had, and will help him and other Schenectady Works employees build more relationships with people all around the city who need help.
"I never thought I'd break the cycle of drugs and poverty in my personal life. I never thought I'd own a vehicle, or even have a license to drive one. To pay my debts, to have a bank account, I never thought I'd be allowed to have a credit card. To have a family that I love so much, and am blessed to come home to every night. A family that can rely on me, that can count on me, and believe in me. Schenectady Works has been there through the challenges, through the successes. They definitely invested in me so much, they believe in me especially in a time that no one else did. They gave me an opportunity," Polanco said.
The City Mission also plans the construction of eight new transitional apartments on Lafayette Street in addition to the 24 transitional apartments already created by the organization. Both the apartments and Schenectady Works headquarters are part of a larger effort called the Cornerstone Campaign meant to further curb poverty in the city. Saccocio added, "Renovating an old building into a hub that will help achieve that goal is something to be proud of.
"That's our mission: to take back that which has been, in a sense, cast aside, and help bring it back, so that it's back contributing, and a part of community life," he said.