Avondale Firehouse to become new home for Garage Community & Youth Center10/12/2021 01:14PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw The historic Avondale Fire House is soon to become the newest home for the Garage Community & Youth Center, replacing its current location in West Grove and joining the Garage’s original home in Kennett Square.
By Richard L.
Since its’ founding 20 years ago, The Garage Community & Youth Center has served as an after-school and youth development center for thousands of middle school and high school students in Kennett Square and West Grove.
Early on the morning of Oct. 2, a group of nearly one dozen hearty souls volunteering for The Garage entered the former Avondale Firehouse intending to tear down a few of its interior walls and begin the next chapter of the organization’s history.
For the next several hours, Garage Executive Director Kristin Proto and volunteer project manager Alex Kotler placed tools into the hands of volunteers – including Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell – with the intention of transforming the historic building from a former firehouse to what will soon become the newest home for The Garage, following the organization’s purchase of the building on Sept. 17.
The building, which has a projected opening date of this coming winter, will replace The Garage’s current Avondale-West Grove center on Rosehill Avenue in West Grove.
Negotiations to purchase the building began this past winter, during discussions between members of The Garage and Christine Trumbull, the wife of the late David Hughes, who was the long-time owner of a local Servpro franchise, and whose company occupied the location for several years.
“Christine reached out to us and told us that the building was for sale, and that David loved this building – that it was his pride and joy that he got to work in this space,” Proto said. “Christine then told us that she really wanted the future of this space serve the community, and go to those who would take great care of it.
“She told us many times that every time she would drive by the building it looked to her like it would be a perfect home for The Garage.”
A recent tour of the two-story, 11,000 square-foot building provides clear evidence that the first phase of its extensive renovations will better serve the needs of young people in the West Grove-Avondale community. One room will be repurposed as a performance space and stage, with portable audience seating that can be adjusted to serve other purposes. The first floor’s projects will also include upgrades to bathrooms and the conversion of space that will be used as a creative space, a small café.
The second floor will be retrofitted to include The Garage’s administration offices, as well as provide possible office space for local non-profit and legal aid organizations and agencies who partner with the agency to use.
Phase two of renovations will see the building’s kitchen enlarged and its laundry room will be converted into a meal preparation area.
The advantages of moving the West Grove-Avondale branch of The Garage from its current location in the West Grove Borough to its new location are many, Proto said.
“Once we took that first tour, we realized that there is so much potential here,” she said. “It is the location to so many families that we serve in Avondale and so many more young people that could utilize our services. Because of the square footage of this new space, we knew that we could grow in services, either by ourselves, or by partnering with other organizations we already have collaborations with.”
Although Kotler now serves as the principal contractor for the renovation of the former firehouse, he is by no means a stranger to The Garage. When he was a student at the Willowdale Chapel, he would often participate in Garage programs, and later volunteered as a mentor to students. His wife Kristin is also a former staff member at The Garage.
The Garage is about to kick off a $900,000 capital campaign that will be spearheaded by Proto, development director Kate Martin and The Garage’s board. The funds raised during the campaign will help pay for the purchase of the building, as well as renovations. Once the campaign has reached its goal, Proto said that The Garage will then be able to devote more funding to student programming, hire additional staff and lower the cost of expenses. She called the capital campaign “a long-term investment in the Avondale community.”
“We feel confident that we have such a great foundation of funders who are so generous and so invested in the work that we do, that we feel very confident that we will reach our goal,” she said. “The Garage has been in Avon Grove for the last ten years, and the investment that will be made in our capital campaign, that will translate to the next 30 to 40 years of The Garage and its commitment to thousands and thousands of youth in this area, for generations to come.”
For additional information about The Garage’s new Avondale home, visit www.garageyouthcenter.org/avondale.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]