Once Upon A Time ...




Every great storybook tale has a few traditional elements: a dangerous quest, a magical transformation, a brave hero and, of course, a happy ending. The story you are about to read has all of those plot lines, plus one amazing thing that you don't find in a fairy tale: It really happened. The house wasn't a castle, but it wasn't a bad place to live. The pipes didn't leak and the roof was good. It was a sturdy 1930s-era bungalow. It had seen better days, but the basement was dry. It was the kind of place you'd drive by and never notice.

But inside there was magic brewing. Within those unremarkable walls, five boys were undergoing a mysterious transformation: They were growing up and turning into men. And these were remarkable boys to begin with, each bearing a load of problems or setbacks, the kinds of things that can make you grow up too soon, or not at all.

Powerful forces of different origins had brought the boys together, but for each, the story was the same: They couldn’t live in their own homes. It wasn’t exactly like they were under an evil spell, but it sometimes seemed that way. Medical or psychological problems, neglect and even abuse were the kinds of life experiences they had grown up around. So it’s not really surprising they couldn’t quite fit in to “normal” home lives and that they needed help in dealing with the world outside.

Here in this cottage on Mammoth Rd. in Manchester, operated by Easter Seals NH and called “The White House” for its plain exterior, those five boys were having the imprisoning spell removed from their lives with a treatment rich in compassion and attention. It wasn’t storybook magic, but it was something just as powerful. They were receiving a daily dose of hope.

Last fall this humble abode became the focus of an organization that was hoping to perform a magic trick of its own. The goal was to see if a little hope could bring a whole community out of a slump. A committee of volunteers calling itself "Building on Hope" had come up with a plan to stage something like an old-fashioned Yankee barn-raising, i.e. get everyone together to do something none of them could do alone. The result would be a tribute to the power of community and, at the end, there would be a party where everyone was invited.

But without a barn to raise, they chose instead to find a New Hampshire group home that was doing important work for a community. They could fix it up and make it more functional and thereby help the charity and its clients for years to come. If the idea caught on, it might even give the economically suffering builders and remodelers of the state something to raise their spirits and to rally around. The project also would help raise awareness of the charity behind the home they had chosen. And lastly, and most importantly, it would remind people that when they join forces to make something good happen, mountains can actually move.

And this was a mountain of a project.

When committee members first selected and then toured the house they knew they had their hands full. It was designed for rugged durability and easy maintenance, not for aesthetics. The boys who lived there decorated the walls with their own art, the way boys do, and with the guidance of the Easter Seals staff they kept the place tidy, but this home had never been a show house.

Institutional materials were used to protect walls from the occasional outburst of frustration. One of the most common tasks for building superintendents with Easter Seals is repairing holes that had literally been punched in the walls, so these walls were plywood covered with a metallic surface, something like a service station bathroom. Furnishings were spartan for similar reasons. Clothes were stored in crates. Beds were mattresses on simple welded frames.

The committee got to work.

By using their connections and tapping into the generosity of the local building community, contractors began coming on board and volunteering time and materials. A building committee consisting of the most powerful knights of the construction industry was formed. After surveying the domain they reported that, indeed, the envelope of the house could be rebuilt and everything could be upgraded from lawn to windows to paint on the walls.

But the committee knew they couldn’t just make structural improvements and call it a day. The fairy godmother didn’t turn the pumpkin into a wagon. She sent Cinderella to the ball in a royal coach.

That was the kind of magic that was needed.

So a merry band of interior designers was summoned from the surrounding towns and villages and gathered at the house. With extraordinary vision, they peered through the ordinary surfaces of the house and saw its inner beauty. Yes, they said, we can bring that beauty out.

After just two months of preparation, the knights of construction and the band of designers were given two weeks to accomplish their miracle.

And miracles were in the air. By the time work was under way, nearly 200 businesses and organizations had signed on to assist and more were joining every day (see list at the end of the story).

The house was completely re-sided with new windows and insulation and brought up to high energy efficiency standards (Energy Star rating is currently in the works). A new porch was attached to enlarge the kitchen/dining room. A handicapped ramp was integrated into the landscaping and interior modifications made the home more compliant with ADA requirements. The yard that seemed small and bound in was completely redesigned with new plantings on a spacious tier, ornamental stones and granite steps leading to an inviting front entrance.

But an equally spectacular transformation took place inside. The designers had divided up the bedrooms and spent time with each of the boys to learn their likes and characters. The design for each room was a reflection of one of those conversations.

Common bathrooms and kitchen were given a contemporary look with dark wood tones and natural materials. Window treatments blended boyish fun with the masculine color scheme. To finish off each room, an inspirational quotation was lettered on a wall where it could become a theme and a refrain for anyone living there.

A fairy tale often has a powerful magical object that must be protected. This house had a colorful stained glass window at the top of its stairs. This bit of fragile beauty had been a part of the house for as long as anyone with the Easter Seals NH program could remember. And in spite of years of wear and tear and occasional outbursts by residents, that window had never been threatened.

When asked why, a long-time case manager explained that she thought it was protected by the boys, because they had seen enough ugliness in their lives and they could appreciate a thing of beauty and know it deserved protection.

The boys were eager to assist with the remodeling. For their task, they chose to assist with stripping the old carpet and stain from that staircase to prepare it for refinishing and restoration.

A story like this is not complete without a happy ending. On May 16, beneath a sunny sky of piercing blue, the house was opened and all who had labored on it were invited in to see what they had helped accomplish. The boys who had been spirited away to nearby lodging were returned, not by a coach and horses, but by a stretch limo. There was music and food and joy as the Mayor and Governor climbed the stairs to mark the day as one to be remembered.

The transformation was nearly complete, but not quite. A house that was brand-new deserved a new name. But here is where another darker element of the art of storytelling must come to play.

Every great story has a moment of crisis, a tragedy to overcome. The tragedy of this tale happened early. Ted Krol, one of the founding committee members and the director of facilities for Easter Seals NH, had been instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Building on Hope project. Only a few short weeks into the project Ted suffered a heart attack and died. Family and friends mourned, but just as Ted would have wanted, the organization regrouped and carried on.

His last gift to the house will be the most enduring — his name. With the permission of his family, the White House Intensive Treatment Facility of Easter Seals NH became “The Krol House.”

Among the ornamental boulders in the landscaping around the house is one special one, placed by the entrance and etched by a local artisan with the words, “I’m here to serve.”

That was Ted’s well-known response to the many calls to action and decision that fell his way in a typical work day. It was always delivered with a sprinkle of dry humor, but backed up by an intrepid spirit and an obvious love for the work he was given to do.

So, if a story must have a hero, let the hero of this one be Ted. Or else let it be everyone who helped at every point in the saga of Building on Hope, whether directing traffic, serving a lunch, ripping off siding or laying turf.

The moral of the story, and the motto of Building on Hope, can pretty much be summed up in Ted’s short sweet phrase.

“We’re here to serve.”

ParticipantsParticipants in the Building on Hope reconstruction of the Krol House numbered in the many hundreds. Below is the most accurate list of donors and sponsors we could come up with. Some of those named below gave a little, some gave a lot, but all gave life and hope to the project and deserve to be named and remembered.

A & E Flooring Inc.

A & M Irrigation Corp.

A & M Signs

Accompany Video Production

Advantage Signs

All Pro Movers

Alternative Designs

AMS Seamless Gutters

Applebee’s

Applicators Sales

Architectural Stone

Architex

Associated Concrete Coatings

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church

Aubin Hardware

Bartlett Tree Experts

The Bean Bag Chair Outlet

Beckett Glass & Aluminum

Bell Window Cleaning

Benson Lumber

Best Buy

Bethany Covenant Church

Bill’s Pet & Aquarium

BK Systems

Blackwater Design Ltd.

Blueridge Commercial Carpet

Bob Gehling

Boston Sink Co.

Brady Sullivan Properties

Bri-Weld

Brutus Auto Repair & Service

BTM Painting

Burnett Designs LLC

C.A. Hoitt Furniture

Cafe Services Inc.

Calley Metal Roofing

Cancun Mexican Restaurant

Casella Waste Systems

Chalifour’s

The Church of Christ

Chance Anderson

Charron Inc.

Chris Courage Designs

CLP Resources

The Cleaning Guy LLC

Colvin Custom Carpentry

Company C

Continental Paving

Contoocook Auto Clinic

Contract Source

Corewood Custom Cabinets

Courtyard by Marriott & Grappone Confrence Ctr.

Craig’s Installation Service

Creative Materials Corp.

Dave’s Septic Service Inc.

David Walton’s Interior Demolition

DeFrancesco So. NH Quality Roofing

Demers Garden Center

Deventry Construction

Dieter Woodworking

Do-It-Yourself Cornice Kits

Domino’s Pizza

Doodlin’ Di

Dunkin’ Donuts

E.A. Hayes Builders

Eagle Associates

Eaton’s Cake Supply

Eckman Construction

Energy Improvements Inc.

EnviroVantage

Evan Karatzas

Executive Sedan & Limousine

Faith Baptist Church

F. W. Webb Company #54

Forbo Flooring

Friendly’s #0302

G.N. David & Son LLC

Gaspari Inc.

Geodecke Decorating Center

George’s Apparel Inc.

Gill’s Drywall Co. Inc

Gimas Electrical Corp

GOOD

Granite State Cabinetry

Great American Art

Great Northern Signs

Hampshire Fire Protection

Hancock Lumber

Hannaford - Goffstown

Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant

Helen Daigle

Helen Principio Interior Design

Holly Nagle

Home Depot

Ignite Bar & Grille

Imagination Village

Independent Marble and Granite

Indian Head Athletics

InterfaceFLOR

J&R Langley

JamAntics

James and Katherine Bartels

Jaymil Ergo & Office Solutions

The Jeffrey Thomas Kace NBD Foundation

John Hession Photography

Joseph St. Pierre Photography

JRL Studio

Kamco Supply Corp.

KI Furniture

KJ Designs

Kohl’s

Koroseal Interior Products

L. Newman Associates

Landmark Window Fashions

Larchmont Engineering & Irrigation

Lauren Shakra

LaValley Building Supply Inc.

Lavender Day Spa

Leisters Furniture

Lisa Teague Studios

LKM Design

Logo Loc Ltd.

Longchamps Electric Company Inc.

Lowes of Manchester

LTD Company Inc.

M.L. Halle Oil

Mariposa Interior Design

Mast Rd. Grain & Building Materials

MDC Wallcoverings

Milestone Engineering & Construction Inc.

Millican Nurseries Inc.

Montagne Communications

N.H. Blacktop Sealers Inc.

Nathan Barnes

New Hampshire Tile

New Hampshire Tile II

New Hampshire Tool Outlet

New Hampshire Magazine

NH Reupholstery

Nick Shakra Real Estate

North Coast Seafoods

Office Interiors Limited

The Palace Theatre

Panera Bread

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating Inc.

Paradigm Windows

Pepsi Cola Bottling Group

Pepsico Foundation

Photography by Eric Ouellette

Preczewski’s Polished Interiors

Preference Styling Salon

Pro Con Inc.

PRO Landscape Supply

Public Service of New Hampshire

Quality Tile

Quick William

Quiznos

R. Deluca LLC

Radisson Hotel at the Center of New Hampshire

Reed Desrosiers

RepSource

Richard D. Bartlett & Associates, LLC

Ripano Stoneworks Ltd.

RJH Builders

RJ’s Furniture Restoration and Spray Finishing

Roland Roberge

S.L. Chasse Welding and Fabricating

SAM Mechanical Services LLC

The Scott Lawson Group Ltd.

Shaw’s Supermarket

Sherwin Williams

Signature Digital Imaging

SilverTech Inc.

Single Digits

Solid Creations

Special Events of New England

Stella Interiors

Storage Solutions

Sullivan Construction Inc.

Sunbelt Rentals

Surplus Office Equipment

Susan Lenaghan Design

Sweet Larissa’s

Swenson Granite Company LLC

T-BONES & Cactus Jack’s

The TJX Companies Inc.

Thomas and Joanne Barrett

Three Season Landscaping Inc.

Tri State Curb

Tri State Iron

Tuckahoe Turf Farms

The Ultimate Bath

Unilock

Union Leader Corp

United Rentals

USI New England

V.P.S. Drywall

Valspar

Van Berkum Nursery

Viens and Son Construction

W.B. Mason

W.S. Dennison, Inc

Warrenstreet Architects

Wilsonart International

WMUR-TV

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