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Occupy Huss: The kindergarten room

Kindergarten Room

Kindergarten Room

In September, we announced the next Brick Campaign goal: to occupy Huss — specifically, the old kindergarten room on the north end of the main floor.  The primary advantage of occupancy is that we’ll be able to do year-round programming, building on our successful summer activities.  Another important advantage is that occupancy would relieve us of our annual property tax burden — a savings of about $3,500 a year which we can then invest into infrastructure and programming — and would save us money on insurance.

So what exactly does the kindergarten room need in order to become not just functional, but beautiful and efficient?  Here’s a summary of the existing features that make this room a good place to start, as well as some details about what’s required for occupancy and what we would ultimately like to see happen with this room.

Existing features

  • A separate outside entrance conveniently located near the parking lot.
  • Approximately 1,600 square feet of space.
  • One functioning bathroom and another that could be renovated for use.
  • Basic food service area with two sinks.
  • The original maple floor with a circle painted in the center from early kindergarten classes.
  • Twelve-foot ceilings.
  • An original slate chalkboard and built-in storage unit from 1919.

Basic upgrades:  Occupancy

Estimated cost: $22,000 ($16,000 down, $6,000 to go)

In consultation with the inspector, there are three main things we need to address in order to obtain an occupancy permit for the room:

  1. A heating system.  The building used to be heated with a retro-fitted boiler that cost approximately $7,000-$8,000 a month to run.  We are currently researching heating systems that would function for this room alone while we raise money and make plans for the rest of the building.
  2. A second bathroom.  Perhaps you remember this summer’s Great Toilet Challenge when you all helped us get one bathroom up and running before Future Festival — amazing!  Now, per the room’s potential capacity, we need to take on the other bathroom, which is a bit more of a challenge, seeing as it was converted at some point into a laundry room.  Difficult, but not impossible.
  3. Emergency lighting and signage.  Stuff to point the way to safety?  Just makes good sense.

Ideal upgrades: Beauty and efficiency

Estimated cost: $20,000

We imagine a space that will not only be functional, but will welcome all who come through the doors with a sense of beauty, possibility and hospitality.  We hope the old kindergarten room can offer a glimpse of what’s possible for the rest of the building with such improvements as:

  • Super insulation and new interior walls, which will greatly reduce heating costs.
  • Renovation of the food service area with new cabinets, storage and sinks that are full height (rather than kindergartener height, as sweet as that is).
  • New windows and doors that return to full window sashes like the original windows, as opposed to the partial ones you can see in this photo.  The current windows are single panes with aluminum frames, which conduct heat and cold too easily.  And besides, sunlight just makes people happy.

How you can help!

We continue to depend on our community of supporters near and far to make our progress possible.

  • Buy a brick!  Maybe someone on your Christmas list has been especially nice this year.  And, of course, donations in any amount are very much appreciated.
  • Go to the Kennedy’s Kitchen concert on December 13 at the beautiful Riviera Theatre in downtown Three Rivers. All proceeds will benefit the Huss Project!
  • Offer professional services.  We need professionals licensed to do commercial work in Michigan who can help with plumbing, HVAC, electric, architectural drawings and carpentry.
  • Spread the word.  If you know someone who would be interested in this project, please share this link with them now.
  • Pray for us as we seek to be joyful, discerning, grateful, wise and resourceful in this big, good work.

Thank you for continuing to walk with us as this story evolves here in Three Rivers!

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.