Marsh Street Centre uses downtime for upgrades

·4 min read

Thanks to a number of grants and a small army of dedicated volunteers, the Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg has been busy upgrading its 94-year-old building.

“Our building was built in 1927. This means it is a continuous work in progress,” said Jan Seneshen, vice president and director of fundraising for the centre.

The Marsh Street Centre is a community-owned, non-profit organization managed by a group of dedicated volunteers and has been an integral part of the Clarksburg and Thornbury communities for more than 90 years.

Over the past year, the centre has been able to undertake several upgrades to its building, including the main roof of the building, a new bar, a new stage front, a new practice room and most recently, a new patio roof.

The expenses for the replacement of the main roof were covered through a $55,000 Trillium Grant and also took more than 100 volunteer hours to complete.

Another 360 volunteer hours were put toward upgrading the centre’s stage front.

“Our new bar was built and totally funded by three amazing volunteers from the Marsh Street Centre in 2020: Florian Lenders, Tim Bristow and Jessica Carson,” said Seneshen, adding that the new bar is much larger and has a better design.

“We are in the process of raising additional funding (through our current Belly Up to the Bar campaign) for a commercial glass washer in the bar – to allow us to use sterilized glasses and mugs and to save our volunteers the trek back and forth to our kitchen during busy events,” she said.

While the centre has been closed because to COVID-19 restrictions, a number of volunteers strategized to use the time to plan, paint and redecorate the centre’s practice rooms.

“Attendees of our children’s program, Marsh Street Rocks, often need to find another place to practice when others use the hall or stage,” Seneshen said. “The old practice room was far too small, impractical and very uncomfortable for them. So we moved the office into a new, freshly painted space and moved the Marsh Street Rocks program into a revived and refreshed version of the former office space.”

Most recently the group took on the task of replacing its patio roof, which had a tendency to leak and create ice buildup.

“This new roof will provide more privacy for our neighbours, greatly improve the look of our back patio area and it will partially cover the back patio – allowing us to hold a lot more events outside for a lot longer. Our goal is to make this a three-season patio,” she said.

The patio roof project made use of the same Trillium grant as the building's main roof, but also required an additional $30,000 that was made up of donations and sponsorships from the community.

Seneshen says the patio roof project has also required over 300 hours of volunteer time to complete. The centre is now shifting its focus to gathering the necessary funds to refinish the patio surface.

“We are currently asking for grant money and looking to raise funds to support this project. It will be a big one,” Seneshen said. “We will need to dig a new foundation for a 2,000-square-foot stamped-concrete patio and to build a brand new fence.”

The centre is also hoping to be able to install patio “sails” to give them the ability to close most of the patio off in times of inclement weather.

She says that the centre’s previous patio was rarely used because it was small and had uneven areas that were not safe for participants – particularly children and seniors.

“We are working hard to have at least part, if not all, of this patio to be open this summer. We are hoping to be able to host events – providing COVID restrictions allow – during the summer months.”

She adds that the COVID shut down did have an impact on the centre’s renovation plans, including doubling the project costs.

“When we were finally able to re-engage with our contractor [after the lock down], we were shocked by the increase in material costs. We had to delay further to raise additional funds and to look for further quotes for construction,” she said. “The total length of delay was a year and the price increased by almost 50 per cent during that time.”

Looking forward, the Centre has applied for another large grant in hopes of covering some of the costs associated with list of renovation wish list, which includes:

Should you wish to help support the Marsh Street Centre with your time, expertise or funding, please contact Steve Gorton, marshstreetpres@gmail.com; Jan Seneshen marshstreetfundraising@gmail.com.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca