October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Volunteers improve Haven Center lobby

Niraj Patel helps paint and prime the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Niraj Patel helps paint and prime the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

LORAIN — About 15 volunteers from the 2014 Leadership Lorain County class worked in shifts Saturday and today to transform the lobby of the Haven Center into a brighter, more inviting space for the adults and children who find refuge there.

“We got a down-and-gritty tour” of the county’s only 24-hour homeless shelter, which followed a poverty simulation project taken by the class last fall, said class member Warren Maiden.

“It really moved me,” Maiden said of his up-close look at the well-used East 30th Street facility. “I thought it was a good candidate for a project.”

Ratna Kanerica helps prime the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday.

Ratna Kanerica helps prime the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday.

A supervisor for the Ohio Turnpike plaza near Strongsville, Maiden got in touch with other members of the 2014 Leadership class including Rick Ross, Maiden’s co-chairman for the Haven Center project and an official of Ross Builders Co. Inc. in North Ridgeville. Ross Builders wound up supplying a sizable quantity of materials for the renovation.

Add in the generosity of other businesses including Sherwin Williams paints and a Columbia Station company that provided new flooring, and the Leadership Lorain County team undertook a $10,000 job for about $4,000, Maiden said.

Other business support came from Invacare Corp., PolyOne Corp. and Nordson Corp.

“They recruit people to form teams to do these jobs,” as well as make monetary donations, said Beth Pongracz Maiden, president and CEO of Leadership Lorain County, and Warren Maiden’s wife.

The Haven Center project began a week ago with sanding and priming, patching wall holes and removing molding leading to this weekend’s painting and replacement of old banks of battered lockers with new, roomier lockers in which shelter occupants may store their valuables.

The project looks to be completed next week when new flooring is installed.

Patrik Patel, back, and Jason Perkins help sand the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday before the walls are painted.

Patrik Patel, back, and Jason Perkins help sand the walls at the Haven Center in Lorain on Saturday before the walls are painted.

Washing and drying clothes will be easier too, with the donation of a new washer and dryer.

“This class has embraced the service aspect of their experience,” Beth Maiden said.

Volunteering for work projects has proven to be a revelation for many, as it was for a young PolyOne engineer.

“He found the poverty piece very eye-opening,” Beth Maiden said. Participants grapple with problems such as a family coping with a father in jail, a child with a disability or a family member with a drug addiction.

“They find out what their income is and basically have to learn how the system works and where to go for help,” Beth Maiden said. “To actually have to figure out how to exist for a month on a limited income was very challenging.

“That had a huge impact on what they’ve chosen to do for their class project,” Beth Maiden added.

Ratna Kaneria, who works with Middough Consulting, a Cleveland architectural and engineering consulting firm, agreed.

“You get to see things from their perspective,” Kaneria said.

“The plan here at Haven Center is to reduce stress on people by providing them (and their children) with a place to stay (and meals) for a week or two so they can focus on getting a job and taking care of other things,” Kaneria said.

Improvements to the center’s lobby, including an electronic bulletin board to replace the clutter of paper notices, should enhance that sense of well-being and give the site a more contemporary feel, Warren Maiden said.

Aaron Olsen tapes off air vents in preparation for painting.

Aaron Olsen tapes off air vents in preparation for painting.

“The idea is to make things brighter and happier, and provide a greater sense of dignity,” he said. “That’s something everyone should have.”

Another project for the 2014 Leadership Lorain County class is forming a marketing and communications plan for the Lorain County Habitat for Humanity ReStore on East 34th Street in Lorain.

In operation for several years, the ReStore generates money for Habitat’s work to build homes for qualified low-income families by the sale of donated and gently-used building materials, flooring, furniture and other household items at greatly reduced prices, Beth Maiden explained.

The business received a boost with the recent donation of five truckloads of materials arranged through a facilities manager at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center and member of this year’s Leadership Lorain County class, she said.

“(It) is such a small organization that it doesn’t have those resources,” Beth Maiden said of the ReStore’s marketing program. “They really need help to communicate about it.”