Historic Sierra Vista Center getting needed work

Americorps crew working in Colfax through June
By: Gloria Beverage, Colfax Record Editor
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Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Work Project Administration (WPA) in the late 1930s, the Sierra Vista Center is getting a much-needed facelift. The two-story building on School and Pleasant Streets was home to Colfax Elementary School from 1939 until 1986. It was converted to a community center when the school moved to the Ben Taylor Road campus. Continuing through June 4, a team from Americorps, a national program with roots in the WPA, will be performing a variety of “honey do” projects on the aging building. They started work in May. “It is as if the WPA was sending us a gift certificate to use on our beloved historical building,” wrote President Mary Walker in the center’s April newsletter. “We are being given an extraordinary opportunity.” According to board member Otis Wollan, who submitted the successful application to Americorps, the crew is providing more than $40,000 in donated labor and service to the community. One of their primary tasks is to paint the exterior of the building. “This Art Deco building is now an ugly white elephant with bright orange window trim,” said board member Connie Heilaman of Connie’s Decors, who selected the new color scheme. It is being painted a light gold and trimmed with light teal and two shades of terra cotta, Heilaman said. The doors and railings are being painted dark teal. “When they heard we had a volunteer group coming,” Wollan said. “Kelly-Moore Paints donated 200 gallons of paint.” Hansen Brothers also stepped up to the plate providing the scaffolding and power washers, he added. In addition to painting the building and reapplying caulk to the windows, the 11-member crew put the finishing touches on the community garden started last month by the Colfax Garden Club with help from the California Conservation Corps. “It’s no longer up to the garden club to finish installing the irrigation lines and fencing,” Wollan said. The crew has removed blackberry bushes and other invasive plants on the property and, if there is no asbestos hazard, will help with the demolition of several decaying modular buildings at the back of the building. While they have committed to more than 160 hours at the community center, the crew has offered to do fire clearing work around the city on weekends, Wollan said. “It’s been a delight working with these young people,” Heilaman said. “They’re up to any challenge.” Each crewmember, ages 18 to 24, receives a stipend of $160 a week, Wollan noted. At the end of their commitment to Americorps, each will receive up to $6,000 to apply toward their college education or toward repayment of college loans. “This is a 10-month commitment,” said Cormac Molloy, an Americorps member from Chicago who is one of the team leaders. “Most of us have just graduated from college where we have spent the last four years self-absorbed in our studies. It is nice to be doing something that is benefiting others.” The crew has already been assigned to projects in Barton Rouge, New Orleans and Fresno, she added. While staying in Colfax they are staying with local host families and cooking their meals in the center’s recently renovated kitchen. “We’ve done two or three potlucks for them,” Wollan said. “People are bringing them cakes, pies, scones. These kids have said no other place has cared for them like this.” In an effort to raise funds for additional repairs, including new awnings, replacement of window glass and floors, Sierra Market has implemented a “round up” program. When checking out, customers must ask the cashier to “round up” grocery totals to the next nearest dollar. Sierra Market will match the donated funds. “We have been struggling to convert Sierra Vista to a community center for about 15 years and need to get the project complete so it will be a more useful facility for the community,” Heilaman said. “Please help your community center by rounding up.”