CONWAY — They say it takes a community to make a community center, and that has never been more evident than with the Conway Parks and Recreation Department’s pending move to the Kennett Middle School.
It started when town and school officials came together to agree to a long-term lease, and it continues as demostrated by the work Saturday of 17 members of the White Mountains Moose Lodge 2705 who rolled up their collective sleeves and spent the day painting 15,000 square feet of the new facility for free.
“Thanks to Moose we were able to get the entire new rec painted and ready to move in by the end of this week,” Conway Parks and Rec Director John Eastman said Tuesday. “The generosity of their community service to the rec is second to none.”
Kerry Holland, governor the local chapter of the Moose Lodge, was glad the Moose could help out with the project.
“The members of the White Mountains Moose Lodge 2705 are honored to be able to volunteer our time and talents to assist in the completion of the painting in order to assure this wonderful rec center will be ready to open on schedule,” he said. “It is our pleasure to join with our sisters (Women of the Moose Auxillary) to do our part in seeing and participating in this wonderful project that will be of great benefit to the children of our communities.”
The Moose Lodge, according to its Facebook page, is an international organization of men and women “dedicated to caring for young and old. Bringing communities closer together.”
Last year, voters approved moving the center from the aging Conway Community Building and approved $700,000, with $350,000 pledged by local philanthropists Margaret L. and Charles S. “Sut” Marshall, to cover the renovations needed to turn the mothballed portion of the middle school building into a fully functioning recreation center, including restoring an old gym built in the 1930s.
At a $1 per year lease, the department was set to take over roughly 22,000 square feet of space, or 13 percent of the 173,722-square-foot middle school building, in a section that was mothballed after Kennett High School separated from the middle school and moved to a new building in 12 years ago.
The rec department’s current home, the Conway Community Building, lacks potable water and has had heating, electrical and ventilation issues for the past three years. “We’ve got water fountains here, it’s pretty amazing,” Eastman said from the new facility. “I couldn’t be happier. It’s really a big deal for us.”
Eastman said along with Moose, the department received other help in the facelift.
“The building was primed by Parker Haynes, and Lucy Lumber and Hardware, Nat Lucy and Dave DiMatteo, were wonderful to us,” he said. “They donated 30 gallons of paint and 15 gallons of primer and three gallons of trim. That’s no small venture for them.”
Eastman said the facility “is looking really good” after the Moose worked from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Big Dave’s Bagels donated pastries and bagels, while Flatbreads donated pizzas for the volunteers.
Eastman and staff have been slowly relocating equipment from the Center Conway building to their new digs. He hoped to have staff in place in the new building on Monday, gearing up for the summer program which starts Monday, June 24.
“I’m excited about how far we’ve come,” Eastman said. “I think it actually looks better than the vision I initially had for this space. It’s really starting to come together. We still need to have security cameras put in and the internet added, but every day we’re making progress.”
He added: “We can’t thank the community enough, it’s really been a community effort, from the selectmen and school board members working together to make this happen to Margaret and Sut being so incredibly generous and supportive of what we do, to the public, who voted to make this all possible.”
Eastman said the crown jewel in the new facility will be the gymnasium. The floor is currently being worked on with the wood sanded, and then it will be polyurethaned. It should be good to play on in eight or nine days.
“We’re going to have a soft opening this summer and then a grand opening celebration on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m.,” Eastman said. “We want to reach out to all the donors, whether it be financial or donated services, and contractors and recognize them.”
Eastman also confirmed he and the Moose will partner again.
“We look forward to working with them on a future children’s program in the late fall,” he said.