With the help of community volunteers, an empty building in Kenai is being reborn.
A crew of 12 volunteers from ConocoPhillips brought their hammers and hard hats Tuesday and began interior demolition of the former Red Cross building on Frontage Road. The building will be the new site of the ABC Pregnancy Care Center.
ConocoPhillips LNG Cook Inlet Plant Manager Keith Ferris pledged labor for a crew for the entire week for their annual day of caring in partnership with the Kenai Peninsula United Way. The volunteers tore down drywall, insulation and removed everything out of the 6,700-square-foot space, including the kitchen sink.
Greg Beiser, who works at ConocoPhillips, said they decided to extend their day of caring to however long it takes to help get the building down to the “bare bones” so an architect can come in and construct a suitable facility for the pregnancy care center.
“We donated our labor to get to the point where it’s a clean slate down to the studs,” he said. “(The center) does so much for the community and we wanted to share our time and help any way we could.”
Since 1985, the ABC Pregnancy Care Center has operated on the second floor at 508 South Willow Street with a space of roughly 1,500 square feet. Downstairs they share the building with the United Way office.
The owner of the building on Willow Street, former Kenai mayor John Williams, provided the space for an affordable cost but has recently decided to sell the building, said Colleen Ward, executive director of the Pregnancy Care Center. She said the center had already started looking for a more suitable space in 2011 that is handicap accessible and identified the white building on Frontage Road.
The construction cost was estimated at $750,000. Ward said as a non-profit, their budget has never reached $100,000 in a year.
“It was a tall order,” she said. “We operate under a low overhead but make a big impact to lives and families.”
Ward said the center applied for a M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust matching grant in 2012 and asked for 37 percent, or $265,000, of the building cost. That left the center in need of raising $457,000. Thanks to local donations from churches and businesses, by April 2013, the center had raised all but $95,000, she said.
Today the center is within $47,000 of their target. The demolition labor from the volunteers has helped reduce the construction cost, she said.
“I am so grateful for the help from a group of skilled workers who have lent a hand,” Ward said. “I’m amazed that the community is willing to come together and help.”
After the crew has finished, contractor Jason Bucho from Bucho Building and Investments will take over the building remodel. Ward said the goal is to get all the exterior work done and have the space heated before the snow arrives so workers can continue the interior layout in the winter. The plan is to have the building ready to move into by May 2015, she said.
Ward said one of the greatest challenges in running a non-profit is to make it sustainable. The back portion of the building will be leased out, which will cover the utilities, insurance and income and property taxes they would be subjected in ownership of the building.
“We invest in the lives of children being born,” she said. “The building will pay for itself.”
The pregnancy care center has seen client visits double each of the last two years and had outgrown their space, Ward said. The center is a medical clinic with a limited scope that provides counseling, parenting classes and ultrasound services.
They also offer clients information concerning their choices and provide maternity and baby items at a low cost for mothers in need. She said clients could expect three things from the center: a safe place, receive care and hear the truth.
Volunteer Bruce Steiner said they were instructed to keep the interior walls and strip out everything else. A crew of two removed nails from boards so they can reuse the lumber, he said.
United Way Executive Director Lisa Roberts said it is exciting to see the building be transformed for a suitable space for the care center.
While the United Way and the pregnancy care center share the same building, which is going to be put on the market, Roberts said the board has not come to a decision on weather they will look for a new office location, but it is something they might consider.
Roberts said volunteer projects like this don’t happen without a caring public.
“It’s always overwhelming to see people come together to make good happen,” she said. “The community is in for big growth and with big growth comes big need and that’s when the United Way comes in.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.