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West Grove youth center is beneficiary of Lowe's Heroes project

08/15/2017 01:07PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Natalie Thomas, who works in the electrical department at the Lowe's in Avondale, surveyed the Garage Community & Youth Center in West Grove last week, and saw a place of connectivity, resources and education temporarily buried beneath a pile of sawdust, contracting tools and grand plans.
Flanked by a team of Lowe's employees and her husband Dan McGill, a contractor with 30 years' experience, Thomas was there as the project manager for the Lowe's Heroes volunteer program, which for the past ten years has selected -- and renovated -- local nonprofit organizations or K-12 schools in the United States, Canada and Mexico.  
Over the course of a week-and-a-half, the team built and framed walls for new offices; made repairs to the building's ceiling; built custom-made bench seating with cushions and a custom-made table; and created a new space that will be used as storage for the hundreds of young people who visit the center throughout the year.
The project also included the construction of a new office space, the conversion of former offices into a music studio for visiting musicians and a pumping room for young mothers; the construction of a new living room area which will include a projector screen; and upgraded the center's computer lab.
Thomas, who estimated the value of the renovations to be about $15,000, said the project was first conceived last October, in conversations with The Garage's Executive Director Kristin Proto, its Director of Operations Bill Rose, and Steve Edwards, the store manager for the Lowe's in Avondale.
"Lowe's Heroes had done a project at an orphanage last year, and we said, 'Hey, let's find another project in our community to do,'" she said. "I talked to a girlfriend of mine who grew up in the area, and she suggested The Garage."
"Over the past six years that we've been here, we've been adding things on top of things, in a band-aid type style," Rose said. "We knew what we needed, but didn't have the time or the resources to make anything beautiful. When Lowe's asked us, 'What's your dream?' we had so many ideas, and suggested that we create a good foundation, and not just have walls on wheels and non-permanent fixtures, because when it looks good, the kids treat it better."
The project also called upon Kennett Square architect Dennis Melton, who was involved in the original design of the center in 2009, to create architectural schematics for the renovations. Additional volunteer work was contributed by the Lowe's store in Wilmington.
Since the program's beginning, Lowe's Heroes have participated in more than 1,300 projects, and has contributed more than $1.3 million in materials. Each year, many Lowe's stores collaborate on similar group projects throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 2010, with the support of Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, Lowe's gave employees a chance to make even more of an impact in the communities where we work and live by contributing more than $1 million to support larger Heroes projects. Lowe's Heroes' grants, up to $50,000, brought together groups of Lowe's stores to benefit public schools and nonprofit organizations.
Helping others is not a new concept for Thomas. When she was in her 20s, she served as a volunteer contractor during renovations to a hospital in her native Barbados.
"I am driving my team crazy," Thomas said. "I am sending texts at two in the morning. I am not sleeping, but I am so excited to get this done. The lack of sleep and the lack of eating gets pushed away, because what we're providing for the kids is a place where they will feel safe."
"Lowe's has been here for a long time, and to walk beside each other, not just as Lowe's and not just as The Garage, but as members of a community is uplifting for everyone," Rose said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.
      


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