A Dream Castle Built on Hope

The 2012 Building on Hope community project



Before the renovation, the girls were asked to draw ideas for their ideal building.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

Like most days, the community room at Girls Inc. on Manchester's West Side was full of little girls. This morning the room, accustomed to non-stop chatter, giggles and the occasional shriek, grew quiet — well, quieter at least — as paper plates with daubs of paint were passed around to their tables. Soon the girls were intent on the task at hand with their imaginations focused like sunlight through a lens, burning their visions onto paper with brush strokes of tempera in bright primary colors.

Their assignment was to re-imagine their building — to paint their "dream version" of the Girls Inc. Manchester facility.

One brush full of blue paint put waves on a giant swimming pool that filled the entire building, another brush dripping green traced a slide that loop-de-looped through different rooms into a hot tub. Still another used careful strokes to reshape the building into a giant likeness of Gary the Snail from "Spongebob Squarepants." When the paintings were finally hung to admire, the most common vision of the new Girls Inc. building was one of a castle on a hill, with turrets and drawbridge — a symbol of strength and security, even if the walls were pink and the spires were purple.

Cathy Duffy Cullity, executive director of Girls Inc. NH, had slightly more conservative dreams. She just wanted the building to look more attractive from the road. The 27-year-old former church had a drab look that she thought was off-putting and didn't live up to the bright home-like environment they were trying to create inside with programs and individual attention given to the 100-or-so girls they hosted every day.

She had even written a grant application just to have a front porch and a trellis attached, "so it wouldn't look so institutional," says Cullity.

Last summer she went for a long shot. She had heard about a program called Building on Hope that rallies the building and remodeling community to restore and redesign spaces for non-profit groups like hers.

Even after her application was approved, though she was thrilled, her expectations were in check.

She knew that Building on Hope had redesigned a house on Mammoth Rd. for an Easter Seals NH home for boys just two years prior. Hundreds of companies and individuals had volunteered materials, time and money and it was likely that everyone was still a little tapped out. But she was hopeful.

Her hopes lifted more when the process began.

Early each Friday morning through the months of April and May, a group of builders and designers met in that common room where the girls had painted their dreams. The volunteers seemed so confident and capable, sipping coffee when gathered around the big, round, paint-splattered tables. They swapped war stories and held forth on the challenges before them, sounding like knights, lords and ladies of court preparing for a great quest. Cullity wondered if they really knew what they were getting into with an old building full of unknowns and with a construction window of just about two weeks before a public "reveal" and a big party.

"Suppose you don't finish on time?" she suggested, meekly, to the group. "Then WE pack up and go home," said one burly contractor. Then he laughed and the whole room laughed.

Then Cullity laughed too.

Laughter is a valuable resource at Girls Inc. The organization deals with so many issues that aren't laughing matters.

Cullity remembers one time they served the girls some Chinese food and one opened up her fortune cookie and exclaimed, "It says my life is going to get better!" This girl had been living in an abusive environment and spent time locked in a closet. "She really needed that message and we work to reinforce those messages," says Cullity.

Kelly Hurtado, Manchester regional director for Girls Inc., says they often get calls from police looking for runaways from such situations "... because the cops know that this is where the girls would go," she says.

And as much as the program is for the girls, it's not limited to them. "Moms come and process their problems with us," says Hurtado. Of course, many of the parents are young too. And sometimes the caregiver in need of some counsel is a single dad.

The weeks leading up to the reveal were full of twists and cliffhangers that were chronicled by notes e-blasted to all the volunteers: materials desperately needed, skilled laborers required for a tight deadline. Each crisis was met and averted. The night before the reveal the final message was blasted: an invitation to go out for some beers and celebrate.

The skies were blue and clear on the day of the party. Food, drink and the country-rock sounds of the Ryan Brooks Kelly band greeted families and volunteers as they arrived. The girls, in matching bright red Girls Inc. T-shirts, were escorted inside to see their new home away from home. Dashing from room to room, many with tears on their faces, their reaction was one of amazement. "It's like they took a new building from somewhere else and just dropped it here," said one.

Later the girls gathered in the newly landscaped rear of the building to stand together in a small brick amphitheater and sing a song written for the occasion.

Accompanied by local folksinger Mari Winings, to the tune of "Home on the Range," the girls sang:

Though life can be great in the old Granite State,
even here sometimes lives fall apart.
But people who care
can be found everywhere,
they're just looking
for someplace to start.
Start Building on Hope
And call up a neighbor or two.
Just come up with a plan
And then ask for a hand
And you'll find out
How much you can do.

After the party one parent said, "I didn't know how bad this place looked until I saw the reveal." Another said, "We were praying all the time the building was taking place." Some reported their daughters were so excited that they couldn't sleep. Neighbors were pleased as well. Not just because of the attractive new grounds but because Building on Hope chose a project on the city's West Side. They didn't think anyone cared.

The next weeks were full of similar reports as the scope of the project dawned on everyone.

The community room now has a suspended TV projector and sound system that can fill the wall with video images and the whole room with music. "The kids came in here and just started screaming," says Hurtado. "They just love to dance."

On the far wall is a chalkboard with a place for the girls to write their dreams. Among the first dreams chalked up were: "to be a unicorn," "to be a ballerina" and "to fly." The large, shabby plastic table rounds where the contractors met have been replaced with modular folding desk tables and little plush cubicles to provide some personal space.

A cramped bathroom has been transformed into a well-lit space with ornamental tile, more than enough sinks and toilets and — most thrilling of all to the girls — giant mirrors for everyone.

The heart of the facility had always been the kitchen and dining area where the girls were served meals, often with their parents. They also learned cooking skills here, and Girls Inc. generates some revenue by catering for other organizations, but it had always felt cramped and, some said, claustrophobic. With the addition of bright café tiles and by opening up the kitchen to the dining room, the place now has the feel of a small bistro with counter seating where the girls can chat with kitchen staff.
Hurtado says, "The girls sit at their new tables like little families. There's less drama and they sit and talk longer. The open kitchen helps the kids with their cooking classes. Parents come by and join the girls for dinner and then stay to dance."

Even the small things were treated with special care. The coat room area, which could have been a mere afterthought, was given a multi-color décor with lots of designer touches. What could be a place to dump boots and bags is now a destination.

"I'm coat hook number 39!" declared one girl upon her first visit.

The new library is Cullity's favorite space. It opens out onto an airy wooden front porch with a high trellis. She laughs to recall this was all she was really expecting to get when she began to dream about improvements.

That porch now leads to the new playground with a climbing wall, slide and plenty of room for the younger girls to play. "The girls couldn't believe it was possible," she says, "but they jumped right in. Now they want us to add some monkey bars."

The older girls have claimed their own outdoor turf: the little amphitheater that the landscapers incorporated.

"It's all beautiful," says Cullity, but she notes that the stuff you can't see was the most expensive in terms of time and materials donated: the roof, air conditioning, wiring and improvements in the kitchen.

While looking back over the process and the results, Cullity is asked, "Any surprises?" She replies with her huge trademark smile, "The whole thing was a surprise. I couldn't even imagine it looking like this. I didn't have the creative vision."

But her creative vision is quite substantial. Although she swears this project is the greatest thing to ever happen to Girls Inc. in her 15 years of service, she has her eye on purchasing some property in Nashua where they are currently leasing space. The transient Girls Inc. in Concord needs a real permanent home, she says. And the property on Varney Street right next door to the newly remodeled facility is up for sale and would be a great place for offices and more programs.

She sees the whole organization in need of a "Building on Hope-style" upgrade. "Once you put in something nice, you have to fix up the whole house," she says. Hurtado puts it more simply: "Cathy wants to buy everything for the girls."

Cullity says she took cards and contact information from everyone who worked on the West Side facility. Her plan is to promote them to other non-profits needing work and to hire them to come and help rebuild the Nashua site once they complete a $2 million campaign for the necessary funds. "I want to get the gang back together," she says.

Meanwhile, the Girls Inc. facility on Varney Street stands as a testament to what can be done when caring people unite to aid a good cause. The sound of happy girls playing, learning, creating and becoming, as the Girls Inc. motto declares, "Strong, Smart and Bold," can be heard from the streets.

And if you look at the new building from just a short distance and use just a sprinkling of imagination, it actually looks like a dream castle on a hill.

The Building

Building on hope

A 27-year-old former church with a bad roof, no air conditioning and sorely in need of major repair, renovation and cosmetic work is now a modern home-away-from-home for 100 girls.

The Entry

Building on hope

An uninspiring welcome to the building has been transformed into a playful space that lifts spirits.

Office

Building on hope

A storage closet with unfinished concrete and exposed pipes is now a sunny and efficient workspace.

Library

Building on hope

A comfy space designed to encourage curiosity, imagination and resourcefulness.

Reception and Stairway

Building on hope

With original art, bright colors and a skylight, a dank space has been transformed into an uplifting experience.

Community Room

Building on hope

"Institutional" was a polite description for the former state of this room, now filled with versatile seating and partitions, brand new A/V setup and lots of personal touches.

Kitchen and Café

Building on hope
Building on hope

Low-ceilinged and a bit claustrophobic, the kitchen and café space was a major challenge. By opening the kitchen to a cheerily decorated and furnished dining area, both are made more inviting.

Media Room

Building on hope

Designed to be conducive to high-tech learning, this room practically vibrates with youthful energy and enthusiasm.

Bathrooms

Building on hope

Most welcome was the brand-new first-floor bathroom and a complete transformation of the second-floor "girls' room" with new windows, accent tile, flooring and giant mirrors.

Coat Room

Building on hope

What could have been just an afterthought, the coat room is now vibrant, fun and functional and offers a touch of home to each girl.

The Grounds

Building on hope

A deteriorating front walk and retaining walls with a play area confined to raw pavement has blossomed into a playground and amphitheater amidst lovely landscaping.
 

“You hear all the time about dreams coming true, but you never really believe it could happen to you. We have imagined many times what it would be like to have the resources to improve our facility on Varney Street and make it worthy of the 100 girls who burst through our doors each day. Thanks to Building on Hope, it will soon look like the inviting, warm, and friendly place that it is!” -Cathy Duffy Cullity, CEO of Girls Inc. of New Hampshire


Below is a list of the designers and principle building partners on the building, grounds and individual rooms of the Manchester Girls Inc. facility.

The Building

Designed by: Warrenstreet Architects

Building Partners

A&M Roofing

Academy Roofing Corp.

Alternative Designs, Inc.

American Generations Plumbing & Heating

API of NH

The Cogswell Trust

Connolly Electric
(603) 622-4786

D A Boisvert Electrical

Design Day Mechanical
(603) 778-6453

Distinctive Theater Installations
(603) 785-7312

Door Trades Installers
(603) 753-4899

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Association

EnviroVantage

Gill's Drywall Co.

Gemini Electric

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction Corp.

Home Depot

Jacques Surpenant

John C. Pratt Co.
(603) 332-0246

Joseph Labrie Plumbing & Heating
(603) 886-7342

Jules and Jules

K&L Insulation Co.

L&B Construction and Management

Lavallee Brensinger Architects

Levasseur Electrical
(603) 472-3583

Liberty Hill Construction

Lord Acoustical

LSJ Electrical Contractors

Milestone Engineering & Construction

McPhail Roofing
(603) 234-2386

MJA Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Nash Construction
(603) 882-2702

Naughton & Son Recycling, Inc.
(603) 938-2282

Norton Phelps Electrical
(603) 973-1469

NPR Construction
(603) 231-0578

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Paradigm Windows

Pike Industries

Pinard Waste Systems

Progressive Mechanical, Inc.

Rancourt Enterprises
(603) 883-3769

Redlon & Johnson

Rescon Basement Solutions

Ridgeview Construction

RPF Environmental

SAM Mechanical Services, LLC

SingleDigits

Sullivan Construction

Team Engineering

Total Air Supply, Inc.

Universal Drywall, LLC


The Grounds

Designed by: TF Moran, Inc.

Keim Landscape Consulting

Pichette Brothers Construction
(603) 625-6756

Pollock Land Planning, LLC

Building Partners:

Bartlett Tree Experts

Belgard Hardscapes

Bickford's Landscape & Design
(603) 279-8700

Blue Ribbon Fence

Blue Ribbon Recreational Services

Boisvert Brothers Tree Service

Bryan Fournier Landscaping

Crown Point Excavation

Dave's Septic Service, Inc.

Delahunty Nurseries & Florist

Dick Murphy

E.W. Sleeper

Firmly Rooted Landscaping

Giant Landscaping

GPR Masonry

Home Depot

Manchester Sand & Gravel

Mike Rabbitt

Millican Nurseries, Inc.

Moses Enterprise
(603) 798-5422

NH Landscaping

ProCon Incorporated

Skip McKean Transport
(603) 428-3333

Swenson Granite Works

The Dirt Doctors

Tasker Landscaping

Trimmers Landscaping

Unilock


Community Room

Designed by: Brie Marie Interiors

Building Partners:

Albert Fitzgerald Tile

Benjamin Moore Paint

Charron, Inc.

Discount School Supply

Distinctive Theater installations
(603) 785-7312

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Assoc.

EnviroVantage

Harvey Construction Corp.

Home Depot

Hytex

J&R Langley Co.

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Luke's Carpentry

Mio Culture

Office Horizons

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Pinta Accoustics

Puffin Interiors
(603) 472-5923

RE Marble & Granite

SAM Mechanical Services

Screen Flex

SingleDigits

Time to Clay

Versteel

Reception and Stair

Designed by: KJ Designs

Building Partners:

The Bechards

Benjamin Moore Paints

The Bowdins

Brenda Wiley

The Carpenters

Curtains by Claire

Doodlin Di

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Association

Empire Sheet Metal
(603) 622-4439

EnviroVantage

Gills Drywall Co.

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction

Jacques Surprenant

The Judges

JMA Flooring
(207) 228-8963

Jules, Jules and Jacques

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Lord Acoustical

Nancy Carlisle Interior Planting

The Ouellettes

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Pavilion Flooring

SAM Mechanical Services

Sherwin Williams #5781
Valley St., Manchester, (603) 623-3576

Stuart Porter Painting


Kitchen and Café

Designed by: Mariposa Interior Design

Building Partners:

A&E Flooring

Altro Floors

Benjamin Moore Paints

Brushworks Painting, Inc.

Catholic Charities

Charron, Inc.

Dennison Cabinets

Dunkin Donuts

Elect. Contractors Bldrs. Assoc.

Empire Sheet Metal
(603) 622-4439

EnviroVantage

Furniture Liquidators

Gills Drywall Co.

Gorman Thomas, Inc.
(603) 641-6055

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction Corp.

HLD Flooring

Independent Marble & Granite

Ironrock

J&R Langley Co.

Jules, Jules and Jacques

K&L Insulation Company

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Lord Acoustical

Lowe's of Bedford
222 S. River Rd., Bedford, (603) 518-9900

Paul Mansback

Merrimack Building Supply

Metropolitan Ceramics

Milestone Construction

NH Tile II

Noonan Brothers Painting
(603) 621-9402

Paradigm Plumbing

Ray's Refrigeration
(603) 623-2994

Rexel

SAM Mechanical

TEC Grout

Top Notch Painting
(603) 226-2264

Walmart/Sam's Club

Warrenstreet Architects

Wilsonart Laminate


Bathrooms

Designed by: NH Tile II

Ellie Davis

Building Partners:

Altro Flooring

American Standard

Benjamin Moore Paint

Greg Bibaud

Mike Corriveau

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Association

EnviroVantage

FW Webb Company

Gills Drywall Co.

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction Corp.

Independent Marble & Granite

Liberty Hill Construction

Lord Acoustical

Lowe's of Bedford
222 S. River Rd., Bedford, (603) 518-9900

NH Tile

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Paradigm Windows

Quality Tile
(603) 623-2104

SAM Mechanical Service

Toto

Walmart


Entry

Designed by: JRL Studio, (603) 622-9653

Building Partners:

A&E Flooring

Arc Com Fabrics

Brushworks Painting, Inc.

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Association

EnviroVantage

Gills Drywall Co.

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction Corp.

J&R Langley Co., Inc.

Jacques Suprenant

Jules and Jules

Kellex Corporation

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Lord Acoustical

Mannington Commercial

New Hampshire Reupholstery
(603) 229-0204

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

RE Marble & Granite

SAM Mechanical Services

Walmart


Library

Designed by: Lyne V Interiors

Building Partners:

Ilene Bryson

Distinctive Theater installations
(603) 785-7312

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Association

EnviroVantage

Framer's Market

Sara Freeman

Gills Drywall Co.

Goedecke Flooring & Design Center

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction

J.A. Woods Interior Design, LLC

Jack the Liquidator

Jacques Suprenant

Janine Jobin-Barnes

Jules, and Jules

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Lord Acoustical

Loretta's Cosmatique
(603) 483-2174

Lucie Jobin

Office Horizons

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Paradigm Windows

Pavillion Flooring

Print NH

Rachelle Ghanem Lowe

Joyceline Raho

RE Marble & Granite

SAM Mechanical Service

SingleDigits

Dana Strafford

Surplus Office Supplies

Amelia Toural

Walmart

Computer Room

Designed by:
L. Newman Associates / Paul Mansback, Inc.

Macy Industries, Inc.

Nick Shakra Real Estate

Building Partners:

Bedford Cosmetic Dentistry

Esther Chaffee

Matt Conlin

Counter-Pro

Cybertron, Inc.

Distinctive Theater installations
(603) 785-7312

Darlene Friedman

Electrical Contractors Business Association

Electrical Supply of Milford

EnviroVantage

Joe Dube

Jules, Jules and Jacques

Gills Drywall

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Granite State Credit Union

Harvey Construction Corp.

Vivian Hodges

Cesar Huezo

George Lemire

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Paul Mansback

Mavrikis Upholstery
(603) 883-6868

Chris McCall

John McCall

Melvin Interior Finishes, Inc.
(603) 642-7901

Craig Mortensen

Oscar Pevez

Norton Phelps

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

SAM Mechanical Services

SingleDigits

Stuart Porter

Lauren Shakra


Office

Designed by: Lavender & Lotus Interior Design

Building Partners:

Melissa Amorim

Brushworks Painting, Inc.

BSR Services
(603) 497-8192

Ed's Flooring America

Electrical Contractors Business Association

EnviroVantage

Gills Drywall

Granite State Acoustical
(603) 668-0150

Harvey Construction Corp.

J&R Langley Co., Inc.

Jacques Suprenant

Jules and Jules

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Lord Acoustical

Office Horizons

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

RE Marble & Granite

Rowland Studios

SAM Mechanical Services

SingleDigits

Surplus Office Equipment

Walmart


Coat Room

Designed by: Suzanne D'Amato Design, LLC

Building Partners:

Danielle Boucher

Eckman Construction

Electrical Contractors Business Assoc.

Fitzgerald Tile

Gloria Fortin MacNeil

Gills Drywall

Harvey Construction Corp.

Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Hickle

Home Depot

Kearns & Co. Architectural Building Products

Liberty Hill Construction

Looking Good Painting
(603) 463-5635

Melvin Interior Finishes, LLC
(603) 878-4965

Office Horizons

Paradigm Plumbing & Heating

Paradigm Windows

P.J. Currier Lumber Company, Inc.

Meaghan Ryan

Suzanne D'Amato Design, LLC

Top Notch Painting
(603) 226-2264

(NOTE: This was a huge and complex project and we may have missed some participants. Please notify Clark Van Der Beken at Silvertech of any omissions: clark.vanderbeken@silvertech.com)

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