By Konstantine Fekos
Tools, supplies and materials donated to Make A Difference Day have a new home in a section of the Bessemer Building, allotted to community service volunteers at no cost by the Economic Progress Alliance.
While the area is largely unfinished, long-time MADD volunteer and supplies manager Tom Chalmers says the space is more than ideal.
“It’s accessible; that’s what we like about it,” he said. “The EPA says there are no immediate plans for it, so we’ve found a home for at least a while.”
Regular stock includes cleaning supplies, tools, rakes, shovels, gardening tools, plumbing supplies, paint, flooring, cabinets and more.
Overseeing enough supplies to fill a space roughly the size of a three-car garage, Chalmers is grateful for the additional space and expects growing donations to take up even more room in the future.
“This was handy for them,” said Mark Turner, EPA executive director. “It’s vacant; just a raw storage space our own construction crew still uses a small part of. It’s clean, weatherized.”
The MADD warehouse mainly compensates for volunteers who may not be as readily equipped as skilled supervisors such as carpenters, painters and plumbers, Chalmers said.
“We try to supply people who don’t have a lot of tools and miscellaneous equipment and materials,” he said.
Prior to using donated space from the EPA, MADD volunteers kept their supplies in a building shell owned by the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department, located behind the truck garage on Dunham Road.
“They allowed us to use that space for about three years, thank goodness,” Chalmers said. “Since then, we’ve gathered up a lot more donations.”
The department had originally intended to use the building as a social hall until its board decided to sell the site.
Understanding the department’s position, Chalmers sought help from the Vernon Township Supervisors, explaining the need for space.
Former EPA board member Clark Hoffman knew the space was available and alerted both parties who subsequently made the accommodations, Turner said.
“If we hadn’t gone public with the need, we’d still be looking,” Chalmers said.
MADD regulars and Allegheny College volunteers helped move supplies to the new location over the past month, according to Turner.
While warehouse traffic increases around the MADD season, volunteers generally access supplies once a week.
“The (Community Improvement Center) works out of this material with projects all year long,” Chalmers said. “As much as we try to avoid it, some projects may not get done. We can hold some of them to finish later on.”
Although the Bessemer Building is currently for sale or lease and may need to be cleared for a tenant, the EPA would be willing to accommodate MADD volunteers once again, according to Turner.
“We’d help these folks find another home,” he said. “We tend to have real estate available and we’ve dedicated it to these kinds of purposes in the past. We’re glad to do it when we can.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.