Volunteer effort to restore Pittsfield's Christian Center



There's a sign on a small patch of lawn in front of the Christian Center that clearly states: "Please No Dumping."

But a sofa and mattress showed up right in front of the sign when the Christian Center was closed for a break last week.

Executive Director Ellen Merritt said it will cost the center between $25 and $50 to have the sofa and mattress hauled away -- something she said the nonprofit can't really afford to spare from its budget.

"This is not acceptable," Merritt said.

She said this kind of disregard -- people leaving unwanted tag sale items and trash on the green space -- happens regularly.

"That is not a tone I want to have set here," she said. "We care about the people we serve and believe they deserve to have a respectful, beautiful place to come to."

"This," she said, pointing to the sagging heap of furniture, "this is not who we are."

She and others in the community, however, have a new vision of what the outdoor space at the center can be.

This spring, members of the Christian Center applied for and received a beautification project grant from Sabic Innovative Plastics.

According to Christian Center Business Manager Ellen Richardson, Sabic will help build six raised garden beds -- at least one handicap accessible -- to be used as an educational component of its Community Outreach Program. The garden beds will be installed on the portion of the property along Robbins Avenue, where a blighted synagogue was demolished about a year ago. Fabino & Libardi Landscaping donated their time to clear and grade the site.

In addition to partnering with Sabic, the Christian Center is also partnering with community landscaper Abigail Elwood to begin a beautification project for the patch of lawn where the no dumping sign is located.

Merritt said the goal is to create two outdoor green spaces that community members can take ownership of and participate in.

Sabic volunteers will provide all of the necessary materials to build the beds, and all of the growing supplies, and will also teach the construction process to any community participants that would like to be involved. Those tasks will be performed between noon and 5 p.m. on Friday.

The landscaping project to revitalize the face of the Christian Center begins July 18.

Until then, the Christian Center will be reaching out to the community for financial, material, and volunteer support for the beautification project. The center is also collaborating with Whitney's Farm Market in Cheshire to organize the necessary donations. People can choose an item from the Christian Center's wish list at Whitney's to purchase and donate. These donations can be dropped off at the center or left there for pickup.

"There's so much blight and disrepair in the neighborhood. We want to spread the message that we really care. Beauty usually makes people feel better," said Merritt.

Her message to the community: "Bring your shovel, bring your rake and come on down and help us dig."

Help the community

On Friday: Help Sabic Innovative Plastics volunteers install raised bed gardens on Robbins Avenue, beginning at noon.

Volunteers who would like to be part of this project may call the Christian Center at (413) 443-2828 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to sign up or to obtain additional information.

On Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19: The Christian Center is reaching out to the community for financial, material and volunteer support for a garden beautification project transforming the face of the Christian Center into a colorful and peaceful garden. Abigail Elwood will lead community work days on July 18 and 19.

The Christian Center is also collaborating with Whitney's Farm Market in Cheshire to organize the necessary donations to make this project happen.

People may purchase plants or materials from the center's wish list at Whitney's. These donations can be dropped off at the Christian Center or left there for pickup.

To transplant plants from your garden to the center please call the Christian Center to make arrangements.

Monetary donations can be made in person or mailed to: Christian Center at 193 Robbins Ave., Pittsfield, 01201 to the attention of Ellen Merritt, executive director. Donations can also be made online at christiancenterpittsfield.org, or by calling Pat Masoero at the center, (413) 443-2828.

To reach Jenn Smith:
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink


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