By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT —Ground was blessed and dirt turned over for the future Project Renewal Youth Center Nov. 29. Ann Schwickerath, Project Renewal’s executive director, wondered what founder Sister Concetta Benedicente, PHJC, and supporter Msgr. Martin Mottet (both deceased) would think of the organization’s development since its start nearly 50 years ago. “I hope my work lives up to their vision and feistiness,” she said with a laugh during the ground blessing ceremony.
Speaking at the site where the new construction will take place, across the street from the “Treat House” where children and teens participate in Project Renewal activities, she said, “It’s a family-like atmosphere here.” But Project Renewal needed room to grow.
Board member Alex Cahill said Project Renewal offers a loving presence. He is excited that the future youth center plans to offer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities. The project’s $1.8 million goal has reached the halfway point at $900,000, he said.
Michelle Russell of Russell Construction, which will build the center, has been involved with Project Renewal for years, after meeting youths from the program at a running event where they distributed water to participants. She accepted an invitation from Schwickerath to stop by for a visit and stayed much longer than she anticipated. “Project Renewal is under known, but is a well worthy organization,” she said.
Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, connected with Project Renewal when he served as chaplain at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. During the ground blessing, he read from Scripture and blessed the ground. “Yes, let the children come,” he prayed.
Many St. Ambrose University students have volunteered at Project Renewal over the years. The university’s president, Amy Novak, made a visit there in the spring. “We learn from them (Project Renewal participants) just as much as they learn from us,” she said at the ground blessing.
Project Renewal volunteer Molly Carroll introduced John Anderson, chief executive officer of Quad City Bank & Trust, to Schwickerath, whom he described as “amazing.” Teaching the youths about courtesy, respect and financial literacy inspired his involvement in Project Renewal, he said.
From its start in the red brick house at 906 W. 5th St. to the Treat House at 510 Warren St. to the future youth center, “you can see the progress” of Project Renewal over 50 years, Schwickerath said. She hopes concrete work on the future youth center can begin soon, but that project is contingent on the weather. Construction could begin in the spring of 2024 with an anticipated opening in fall 2024.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.projectrenewal.net or send checks to Project Renewal, 906 W. 5th St. Davenport, IA 52802.