Center will rent upstairs to cover expenses

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CHESAPEAKE — For a couple of decades the Chesapeake Community Center has been in the business of being a nonprofit, providing for a minimal fee exercise space, classes for the community and a much used food pantry.

But with monthly utility bills ranging close to $3,000 at the 1920s building, the center’s board has decided getting into for-profit business is the only answer to staying alive.

So in about a month, the center will start renting out its upstairs rooms.

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“We are cleaning out the rooms and are going to paint the walls and get ready for renting them,” Ruth Damron, center director, said. “We have some lovely rooms. They are big school rooms and are huge.”

Before the building on State Route 7 became the community center, it had a long life as part of the Chesapeake School District. That means there are four onetime classrooms with approximately 600 square feet each on the second floor. Each room will rent out for $200 a month.

Right now the rooms are used for storage, including housing 20 computer desks that are going to Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore home improvement store.

“They are beautiful desks and Habitat is going to pick them up,” Damron said. “The rest is just junk. If people have items there, they have to be cleaned out by the end of the month or pay $200 a month in rent.”

Since the winter of 2013, the center has struggled with getting its boiler repaired. Many days there was no heat in the building.

This winter the heat has yet to be turned on and won’t be until the center can come up with $2,900 – $1,400 to get the gas turned on and $1,500 to pay the repair service who fixed the boiler.

“We decided we are going to get a loan to help with the expenses, help with all the money we owe to the gas company and (the plumber),” Damron said.

On top of that the center will host a spaghetti dinner on Saturday Dec. 13 from noon-6 p.m. for $7 a plate. There will also be a silent auction.

Recently modular units adjacent to the center were set up as a senior center for eastern end residents where lunches are served three times a week.

Also, three days a week after the fifteenth of each month, the center provides a food giveaway where 300 families a month are served.

“If we weren’t here, they would have nowhere to go,” Damron said. “We have to be here. At Christmastime we have almost 700 boxes to give away, plus toys for all the kids who sign up. A lot of people depend on us.”