A new home for The Garage Community & Youth Center05/03/2022 03:17PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
On May 2 in the Borough of Avondale, Hope, Imagination and Promise threw open their doors and let the community in.
Before nearly 200 students, friends, volunteers, board members and elected officials, The Garage Community & Youth Center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new location at 121 Pennsylvania Avenue – the former office of a ServPro and known to many as the Avondale Fire House.
Following the organization’s purchase of the building on Sept. 17, 2021, the Garage staff, its board of directors and several volunteers worked with contractors to refurbish the interior of the building that will provide nearly four times more space for student activities then its former location on Rosehill Avenue in West Grove.
Currently in the first of two renovation phases, the two-story, 11,000 square-foot facility will include a multi-purpose room with a stage, two ADA-compliant bathrooms, an interior gymnasium, creative spaces, a full-service commercial kitchen, a meal preparation and distribution area, administrative offices and space for local non-profit and legal aid organizations who partner with The Garage.
“For the youth in our community, in southern Chester County and in the Avon Grove School District, this is a milestone event,” said Garage Executive Director Kristin Proto, who was joined by the agency’s staff and board during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Having this space and being able to expand our services and programs for more students is a turning point not only for our organization but for the entire community.”
Proto said that The Garage’s $900,000 capital campaign, begun earlier this year, has already raised more than $750,000 and will be used to complete the purchase of the building and fund additional renovations. She said she anticipates that the campaign will reach its goal by the end of the summer and that renovations will be completed by 2023.
Rep. Christina Sappey praised The Garage’s decision to transfer its West Grove-Avondale location to an existing structure. She compared it to the decision several years ago that retrofitted the Wegmans in Downingtown in the former site of a Hechinger’s.
“They didn’t take over a field or buy a farm,” she said. “This is how we should be thinking about real estate and communities and repurposing. It’s not always feasible, but whenever it can happen it is a good thing, and we should all be investing in existing infrastructure.”
Board Director Sean Deminski praised the vision of Proto and The Garage staff to imagine converting a former fire house to a new home for the organization.
“When I first saw the building, it was very clear to me that this would work not only for The Garage but for the community,” he said. “Being in the center of town, it gives The Garage the feeling that we are making roots and creating a foundation here for the foreseeable future.”
Jim Mercante, a co-chair of the Digital Equity Coalition in Southern Chester County, has been an avid supporter of The Garage through the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network.
“For some of these children who come to The Garage, their parents work two and three jobs, and their older siblings often need to take care of them,” he said. “If there wasn’t a place like The Garage for them to engage in learning and socialization, what would happen to these kids who otherwise might be forgotten and sink into a sense of hopelessness?
“Each of these youngsters has the talent and potential to make a significant contribution to their family, their community and to America in general, and The Garage helps make that happen.”
To learn more about the Avondale Garage’s capital campaign, visit www.garageyouthcenter.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].