By Susan Elise Campbell
Franklin Community Center has purchased the former MASIE Center property at 95 Washington St. in Saratoga Springs.
The building will soon be known as The Michael & Stacie Arpey Family Community Center in tribute to the Saratoga Springs philanthropists who donated $1 million to help make the purchase a reality in 2020.
“We had raised the first million dollars when COVID struck,” said center Executive Director Kari Cushing.
Over the past five years the growth in demand for the types of services and outreach Franklin Community Center provides made it clear that more square footage was needed, she said. “This reality led the board of directors to commit to more space.”
The building will be the fourth facility Franklin Community Center manages in order to bring basic necessities and services to the public. Administrative offices, a community room and a food pantry are housed at 10 Franklin St. The distribution center is across the corner at 101 Washington St. There is also a 19-unit rental building at 95 Congress St.
“We had thought our only option was to put an addition onto 10 Franklin St.,” Cushing said. “But there was still a problem of where to put more freezers, refrigerators, and storage of food and materials as well as extended programs. Then the “for sale” sign went up in front of the MASIE Center.”
Cathie and Elliot Masie, who Cushing said are big supporters of Franklin Community Center, were unaware their neighbors may be in a position to buy property to facilitate the expansion.
“Our goal was $3 million, including any construction, moving and additional operating expenses, and we were approaching the private phase of reaching out to our larger donors before our public campaign began,” said Cushing.
There were $2 million in funds to go when the Arpey family made their donation and the Masie family made “a significant reduction in the purchase price,” she said. The 8,000-square-foot former educational center would be purchased for $2.1 million, further aided by a small loan from Adirondack Trust Co.
“We had to act quickly,” Cushing said. “This was literally the only building that would work for our needs.”
The Masies sold the building fully furnished. Everything inside is on wheels, Cushing said, including tables, chairs and partitions. Few of the interior walls are load bearing and partitions can be moved to make smaller meeting areas “that will allow for the confidentiality people deserve when they visit the center for assistance.”
“We can quickly reconfigure the awesome huge room for education and programs,” she said. “We can also let other non-profits do training there or generate some revenue by renting out space to businesses for their own meetings.”
“Now instead of stacking back-to-school supplies, food for the pantry or donated items for the free store, everything is on a table and accessible, making it easier to fill orders,” she said. “No more turning away donations. We felt the best way for us to use the space was the way it had been” with a focus on flexibility and training.
But the biggest challenge is feeding people in need and Franklin Community Center, like many nonprofits, are experiencing an unprecedented rise in the number of families whom they are supporting.
“There has been a whole different population of people we are saving since the pandemic started,” said Cushing. “We fed 2,241 families since March, for a total of 7,031 individuals.” She said 588 of those families were new to a food pantry.
“Franklin Community Center has acted like a middleman between wonderfully generous people and people in need,” said Cushing.
Cushing and staff are “taking their time planning the move and determining the best use of the new space,” both for themselves and the community they serve.
By Susan Elise Campbell