Concord, NH – Building on Hope, an organization of New Hampshire volunteers including designers, architects, suppliers and builders who provide renovations to deserving non-profit group facilities, recently completed 10-plus days of around-the-clock work on a $500,000 community-funded extreme renovation of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire (CCCNH) in Concord. More than 400 volunteers and 280 businesses came together to transform the house that serves as an emergency shelter. The transformation of CCCNH, which is the only agency exclusively dedicated to working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Merrimack County, was Building on Hope’s fifth project, and drew the largest number of supporters the all-volunteer group has rallied in the past nine years.
“Building on Hope was formed by a group of friends with the dream of renovating a small group home. A decade later, we’re still together and we couldn’t be more proud of how we’ve continued to grow with five amazing projects now under our belt,” said Jonathan Halle, co-chair of Building on Hope. “As tough as it is to make these volunteer and donation asks, project after project we reach out to colleagues, friends and local communities. This project was one of the easiest asks we’ve ever had to make. The people and businesses of New Hampshire, extending to the rest of New England and even as far as California, know how important change and support is when it comes to issues of domestic and sexual violence, and the outpour of support we received for this renovation was truly overwhelming.”
Originally established in 1978 as The Rape and Domestic Violence Crisis Center, CCCNH provides services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking and child abuse. CCCNH’s mission is to empower individuals to make positive changes in their lives and become independent members of their community through services, including a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, court advocacy, hospital advocacy, forensic interview support, community education, legal referrals and support groups. CCCNH served 1,184 people, answered 4,950 hotline calls and provided 2,991 bed nights in 2017 alone, but the demand for shelter is high, and CCCNH was forced to turn away 319 women and children last year due to capacity limitations.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault is an ugly, all-too-common part of our society’s social fabric, but one of the most important things you can say to a survivor is ‘I believe you,’” said Tara Reardon, Chair of CCCNH. “By selecting us as the 2018 project, Building on Hope told us they believed in us and that the work we do is deserving of this amazing effort, so for that we are eternally grateful.”
CCCNH’s building is nearly 120 years old, and had outdated systems and an inefficient floor plan suited for a family of four instead of an emergency shelter that regularly houses 13 women and children with office space for all of CCCNH’s staff members. Upon completion of Building on Hope’s renovation, which ended up being a gut of most of the building, the shelter’s capacity has nearly doubled from four bedrooms with 13 beds to seven bedrooms with 23 beds. A total of 17 rooms were renovated and the house was equipped with a brand new security monitoring system, mechanical system with heat and air conditioning, windows, exterior siding, interior flooring, and is now wheelchair accessible with a lift on the porch and an ADA-compliant kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Most of the rooms in the house are bedrooms for survivors furnished with serene colors, new bedding, custom shelving, desks and storage space.
Examples of the room transformations include:
Living Room and Dining Room – Originally two separate rooms, the walls between the rooms were removed for an open-concept area between the kitchen and living room, which allows mothers to keep an eye on their children while preparing meals in the kitchen. All furniture throughout the living and dining space is new, including the TV, DVD player, WiFi-enabled printer and custom designed six-phone charging station. The open floor plan allowed for increased and separate eating spaces for residents, a food pantry area with family storage units and a small, shared working station.
Common Areas – Prior to the renovation, common areas were cramped and unorganized or used for meetings. Now, the house has two areas solely dedicated to two different groups. The room designated as the playroom was more of a catchall for random furniture, since it’s also a pass through area to the upper floor. Given the foot traffic coming through, keeping toys collected, stored and organized was a priority; resulting in the installation of a series of custom built-in shelves, along with a homework and drawing station, to keep items off the floor. Now kids staying in the shelter have a play room stocked with toys and ample storage and shelf space where they can play, get creative and relax in a space meant just for them. For women in the shelter, in addition to the “boho retreat” balcony space just off the playroom, there is now a room furnished with plush couches, a speaker system and chic decorations to escape and relax outside of the bedrooms they share with their kids.
Kitchen – The kitchen was one of the most drastically upgraded changes in the house. Prior to renovation, the kitchen had an outdated, four-burner stove, minimal cabinet and refrigerator space and no seating. The new kitchen has been equipped with an eight-burner Thermador stove with a commercial-grade ventilation hood, island counter with bar stool seating, three commercial-grade refrigerators, ample storage areas and open shelving for easy access.
With the exception of one small office dedicated to an on-site staff member, all space in the house is designated for survivor use. CCCNH staff offices have been moved to a new building that will eventually become The Center for Survivor Support. This center will provide a space for all survivors served by CCCNH, not just those staying at the shelter, to receive services in one location. The space will be used for support groups, prevention presentations, counseling, appointments with attorneys, intakes with social service agencies and more.
“The ability to not only transform the emergency shelter into this beautifully unrecognizable house, but to move our staff into another location exclusively dedicated to survivor support services is beyond words,” said Paula Kelley-Wall, CCCNH’s Executive Director. “We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the hundreds of volunteers and donors that have helped us change the course of history for survivors in our community who can begin to rebuild their lives right here.”
On Sunday, May 20, more than 100 volunteers, community members, local elected officials, including Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, CCCNH staff and board members participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to reopen the emergency shelter. Planning for the renovation has been underway for more than a year, and with more than 400 volunteers involved, more than 3,000 hours of volunteer time was logged for this project before Build Week in May even began.
“We had crews working on the house around the clock during the renovation; one of our contractors logged 100 hours during Build Week alone, but we’re also incredibly grateful for the volunteers that put in work behind the scenes,” said Karen Van Der Beken, Building on Hope Co-chair. “Building on Hope’s hospitality team provides food for the crew and planned the reveal day celebration; we have a communications team that helps spread our message around the state and keeps our website running year-round; our volunteer coordinator tracks information and makes sure our schedule runs smoothly; we have photographers and a videographer involved. Every single individual involved with Building on Hope plays such a key role in the success of our projects and we’re always looking for more passionate individuals to join us.”
Every two years, Building on Hope selects a local nonprofit to receive improvements and repairs to its facility, which are completed over the course of one week through all-volunteer and donated goods and labor. Past projects include:
- 2010: Easter Seals NH – Building on Hope’s inaugural project was a $350,000 renovation of an Easter Seals NH Intensive Residential Treatment Facility for boys. Located in Manchester, the Krol House for Boys is home to boys who, for any number of reasons, cannot live with their families. Residents may suffer from behavioral problems, learning disabilities and other setbacks. Many have had severely traumatic life experiences along the way, but they come to the Krol House because they are working through those problems and have plans for a better future. Building on Hope generated national attention from Parade Magazine and PepsiCo for the remodeling, landscape, redesign and refurnishing work.
- 2012: Girls Inc. – The Manchester Girls Inc. headquarters was in need of major renovations to better serve the hundreds of girls and their families participating in its programs. The $600,000 project involved a new roof, an air conditioning system, playground, extensive program enhancements and a completely new kitchen and dining area.
- 2014: Opportunity Networks – At its core, Opportunity Networks in Amherst is committed to providing genuine vocational opportunities and activities that promote life-enhancing skills for adults with developmental and acquired disabilities in the Greater Nashua/Souhegan Valley community. The $850,000 project centered around the dreams that the Opportunity Network Board and staff had to provide additional services and value to their clients. Building on Hope provided a fully interactive theatre, library, art space, commercial kitchen, movement room, computer lab, renovated offices and a ‘snoozelen room.’
- 2016: Manchester Police Athletic League (MPAL) – MPAL’s Michael Briggs Community Center in Manchester encourages positive relationships between law enforcement and young people through fitness and after-school programming. The $1.8 million renovation of the 16,000-square-foot, 105-year-old facility was Building on Hope’s largest undertaking. A total of 17 rooms, including a state-of-the-art kitchen, homework room, game room, workout areas, offices and more, were transformed to create an open, light space complete with new furnishings and positive and inspirational messages throughout the facility.
With its fifth project finished, Building on Hope will soon set its sights on the next project that will help improve the lives of people living in New Hampshire. Visit www.BuildingonHope.com for updates and more information.
To view footage from reveal day, Build Week and throughout the project, visit Building on Hope’s YouTube page.