For over a decade, Building on Hope has organized massive community efforts to provide local nonprofits with critical physical updates to their buildings. These huge undertakings, which take months to plan, typically take place over two intense weeks during the summer “Extreme Home Makeover”-style. Volunteers from all backgrounds — contractors, painters, plumbers, interior designers, artists and many, many more — donate their time and expertise to bring new life to places such as Girls Inc. in Manchester, the Crisis Center of Central NH in Concord, the Manchester Police Athletic League and more. In total, more than 2,000 people and companies were involved over the years, and an estimated $6.2 million was raised in donated labor and materials. This year, though, co-chairs Jonathan Halle and Karen Van Der Beken — along with the committee members and volunteers — faced their biggest challenge yet: a pandemic.
In December 2020, Building on Hope finished the makeover of the Nashua Police Athletic League’s (Nashua PAL) 100-year-old facility, months after the initially planned two-week build. Due to safety concerns and restrictions, tasks that were usually accomplished concurrently with a swarm of volunteers had to be done one by one. It was a long, difficult process. But no one gave up.
Nashua PAL is a safe haven for local youth, where about 600 at-risk kids from the ages of 7 to 18 can find support, help with school work, mentoring, access to athletics and more. No one involved wanted to leave them without the space they promised. Today, from the exterior murals created by Positive Street Art to the brand-new Creative Learning Center, the once-shabby building was transformed into a welcoming home.
“At every turn, it exceeds all our expectations,” Shaun Nelson, executive director of Nashua PAL, recently told our sister publication New Hampshire Home Magazine. “I see the building as a tool for our organization to use to access, strengthen and educate our young community members. We’ve been doing this for a lot of years … and did a good job before, but with this new building, now we can do it even better. In every room you can feel love. … We’re going to change kids’ lives in this building.” You can read more about Building on Hope and the Nashua PAL project in Karen A. Jamrog’s recent story at nhhomemagazine.com.