This week has been one of transformation for the Central Kansas Dream Center.
A the teen youth group and their leaders from Sterling Methodist Church arrived Sunday. Their week-long mission: to help with a number of remodeling projects at the Center located inside the former Roosevelt Junior High building at the intersection of Broadway and Williams St. in Great Bend.
Randy Parr, Work Skills Coordinator, met with the Tribune Friday as the Sterling team put the finishing touches on the exterior of The Anchor, the Dream Center’s coffee shop and meeting space adjacent to the Hungry Hearts Soup Kitchen. An adult leader and a teen hung the sign over the door which had been lost against the background of dark brick prior to this week, but which now is highly visible against the freshly painted cream colored wall.
“There’s been an amazing amount of work that has happened here this week,” he said. From Sunday through Friday, Sterling First United Methodist Church’s teens have stayed on site, the girls on the second floor women’s apartment, the boys in the staff apartment on the first floor. They’ve helped outside with landscaping, weeding and painting the exterior of the auxiliary building. Inside, they’ve moved mountains of desks, books and more, cleaned and sorted donated furniture and fixtures kept in the former auditorium.
When the Central Kansas Dream Center took possession of the building, Parr said, classrooms were piled high with what was left behind by the school district when it closed the school in the 1980s.
There were also discarded items belonging to owners of the building previous to them; clothes, books, and more. Before cleanup efforts began, there was a fear that if a fire started in the building, it could burn for days. Little by little , the junk has been removed by the dumpster full. Desks have been disassembled and the metal sold for scrap. Parr and CKDC Director Kimberly Becker have worked with the city to ensure the building is brought into line with fire and building codes.
“Before this week, you could hardly get in here for the piles of construction materials and furniture and stuff in here,” Parr said. By Friday morning, the auditorium floor was lined with neat rows of furnishings and stacks of doors, windows and chalkboards. Parr said the Center gives these items to graduates of their programs who return to the community often with nothing.
“They can come in here and get the things they need to outfit their home with and get a good start,” he said. Other times, the Center has given furnishings and clothing from the Kingdom Kloset, another project at the Center, to families that have lost all in fires.
Space to dream
A group of five teens spent the week removing items from the classrooms on the third floor of the building. They were joined Tuesday and Wednesday by a group of eight adults and 33 children from Sterling who came for the day. They pitched in and also helped bring new insulation up to be installed later. The building does not have an elevator, so many got a workout climbing.
By Friday, a few more rooms had been cleared, though there is still plenty left to do before remodeling can begin.
To visit the third floor is to gain an appreciation for what has happened on the second floor. In the past four years, the building has been remodeled from the ground up, with the second floor east side becoming space for women going through the CKDC’s residential programs, and the west side currently being remodeled to accommodate men. When that phase of the project is complete, there will be room for 24 adult men and 12 older teens aging out of the foster care system. There will also be a staff apartment. Lockers have been removed from the hallways, and the classrooms rewired, walls refinished with new drywall and paint. Hammeke electric donated all the electrical work, including parts and labor, and recently offered to pick up the cost of lighting fixtures too, Parr said.
“It was a tremendous gift,” he said. “Remodeling costs so much.”
Recently, the CKDC had a fire escape installed on the north side of the building, providing access for the second and the third floor. This was a requirement to ensure the building met fire code.
“We knew we would be expanding there, so we felt it was the most efficient to do the whole thing all at once.”
The addition required openings in the walls and secure doors installed. Then the steel escape was set and bolted to the wall. That alone cost over $30,000. In a few months, it will be treated and painted, Parr said
The community has been generous with its support. Half of the money for the new fire escape was raised at one recent fundraising event, he said.
Because of the number of people that will be staying on that floor, residents will be required to use the Hungry Hearts Soup Kitchen, rather than having individual kitchens available.
“That’s good for us, actually, because we will not have as many appliances to maintain,” he said. But there will be a space for a fridge, a microwave and a sink.
When the third floor is completely cleared, work on nine apartments will begin. They will be used to house married couples going through training, as well as travelling missionaries who wish to stay on site while they work, Parr said. Groups like the one from Sterling.
Friday, Becker learned that the CKDC was awarded a $200,000 Kansas State Tax Credit grant to complete work on the third floor. Fundraising will be allowed from July 1, 2016 through Dec. 31 of 2017. She and two other board members will attend training for the grant in mid-August. They will be able to sell $400,000 in tax credits, and CKDC will receive 50 percent.