By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Project Renewal invites you to an open house and groundbreaking Nov. 29 for an expansion project of the nonprofit that works to empower children and families by acting as a loving presence in the neighborhood. The open house is from 3-5 p.m. with groundbreaking at 4 p.m.
The $1.8 million campaign to fund the project got underway earlier this year with the purchase and demolition of a vacant, four-unit apartment house across the street from Project Renewal’s “Treat House” on Warren Street. The Treat House is a home away from home where kids can receive educational assistance after school, participate in recreational activities, enjoy a treat and build on life skills. They participate in a variety of educational, recreational and enrichment activities in the summer, including field trips. Breakfast and lunch are served in the summer program.
Project Renewal needs more space to accommodate kids and activities, says Executive Director Ann Schwickerath. So, a two-story house will be built on the new site to provide a gym/fitness center and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) activities on the first floor and two, two-bedroom apartments and storage space on the second floor. Remodeling of the 100-year-old Treat House will happen next, followed by upgrades to the original red brick house (built in 1860) where Project Renewal began and which the organization still uses for housing. To date, the campaign has raised 40% of the needed funds, Schwickerath said.
Demolition of the apartment house happened May 1 after abatement of asbestos. Project Renewal submitted plans to the City of Davenport for property excavation and concrete work to be completed in late summer or fall. However, the city required seven off-street parking spots for the plan to move forward. “We had five or six — which included a garage,” Schwickerath said. One parking spot was needed to accommodate a dumpster. The city eventually granted Project Renewal a variance based on the majority of children living within walking distance and other parking options available for staff and volunteers.
She hopes for completion of concrete work (also unexpectedly delayed) by early December but progress is contingent on the weather. Construction could start next spring with an anticipated opening in the fall.
Sister Concetta Benedicente, PHJC, founded Project Renewal in 1973 to establish a ministry of presence in the neighborhood. Today, approximately 60 youths — from kindergartners to high school seniors — attend Project Renewal year-round. High school students receive assistance with career exploration and options for college, trade programs and jobs right out of school.
This year, two more fulltime employees have joined Schwickerath and Carl Callaway, who have worked 30 years and 29 years, respectively, for Project Renewal. Connor Beyer serves as program director and Lorena Steinke as program manager. “Both Conner and Lorena are valuable additions to our staff,” Schwickerath said.
“Lorena worked in customer service at HyVee and graduated from high school. She attended classes at Scott Community College and took a job at McDonald’s where she worked her way up to store manager. We kept in touch, as she was one of our youths,” Schwickerath said. “I told her of our plans and she asked if she could apply to work at Project Renewal.”
Conner began “as a volunteer with the St. Ambrose University football players. He then fulfilled his work-study job at Project Renewal and signed on as summer staff while finishing his business degree at St. Ambrose,” Schwickerath said. After graduation, he started as the program director. “His mom always knew he was destined to work with kids someday,” Schwickerath said.
To learn more about the project, attend the open house Nov. 29. To make a donation, visit www.projectrenewal.net and click on the support button, then the donate button through PayPal or send checks to Project Renewal, 906 W 5th St., Davenport, IA 52802..