Women with Children House Renovations Underway

Colleen Garrison, Reporter

Final phase renovation plans for the Rasmussen House, a residence for Women with Children Program participants, are underway.

Facilities Department staffers have assessed the kitchen and dining area of the Lake Street house and found that the space is not adequate for the families who live there. One non-weight bearing wall can be removed, which will extend the dining space into an adjacent room that is used for storage. Adding two tables to the area will double the occupancy.

“We are trying to house six families in a community environment at the same time. It’s very hard with one kitchen and a dining space that was probably functional and designed for ten people,” said Katherine Pohlidol, Director of the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program.

Pohlidol said an updated dining area will enable everyone in the program to meet in one place. There is no private place on campus where all of the participants and their children can meet at the same time.

Felicia Glover, first-year communication student and Women with Children Program participant, is looking forward to using a new dining area and being able to sit and share meals with other families and her two sons.

“All the children are able to sit at the dining room tables, but the adults have to stand.”

Glover often eats in the living room apart from her children.

Pohlidol is searching for ways to reduce remodeling costs. She is looking for a contractor who could do some of the work pro-bono by supplying either time or supplies.

“Historically we have had people come in and do things like that.”

In the past, clubs such as the Junior League donated time and services at no cost.

“Every year they find a community program or non- profit that they can attach to, and that pro- gram becomes their benefactor for that year. They chose the Women with Children Program this year,” Pohlidol said.

Pohlidol said that it takes much communication between several departments to plan a project of this size. She has consulted with Paul Murphy, Director of Facilities and Campus Safety, Laurie Finnegan, Grounds Manager, and Paul Beecham, Facilities Operations Manager to decide the next steps.

“Facilities here at Misericordia has been totally outstanding,” said Pohlidol.

No one knows how much the new dining room project will cost. “I don’t know what is going to be completely involved so that will be next,” said Pohlidol.

The cost depends on many variables such as labor, time and supplies, she said.

The tentative date for completion of the dining room is the end of summer, said Pohlidol.

“Some of the families will leave in the summer and it will be less intrusive then.”

Pohlidol realized that Rasmussen needed updating when she assumed the position of Director in September 2013.

”Going through the homes, one of the first things I noticed was we had some spaces that we weren’t utilizing in a way that I thought made sense.”

Previous renovations included the installation of a sprinkler system and the remodeling of one storage space into an office and another storage area into a study. Pohlidol said the study is much needed because mothers in the program did not have a place to work other than their bedrooms.

“It’s going to afford moms the opportunity to be able to find a quiet space especially in the evenings when more of the children are sleeping.”

The study provides an atmosphere similar to a library.

“College students will say ‘I am going to the library for a few hours and I’ll be back.’ Our moms don’t really have that luxury.”

Glover has been using the study room and she said the privacy helps her to get work done.

“I really like it.”

She said the paint, decorations and lighting make the space homey.

“It is our home and we need that more intimate feeling.”

Pohlidol intends to use the study as a private place to hold meetings.

“As a director it will be really helpful. If I need to close the door and sit down with people, I will have that opportunity.”

Pohlidol said families in the program provided input on the design.

“I did ask opinions from the moms in terms of what paint colors they wanted for the rooms, and I asked for their input on what they would need if they had a study.”

Based on that information, Pohlidol decided  to secure desks that were in storage. She also donated a few pictures.

Renovating the study cost approximately $200 because crews used re-purposed items and volunteers donated their time.

“The funding was done either through myself or our budget, which is very modest, because basically we did all the work, and the Junior League provided the paint supplies so the only cost was the paint.”

Pohlidol said it is important that cost be minimized.

The remaining office space will be used by a new hire, a program coordinator. “The coordinator will be based inside the program, out of the Rasmussen House.”

The new staffer will provided faster responses to issues or concerns.

Pohlidol said that once the dining area renovations are completed, “we will be at full utility in terms of all the spaces within that house.”

The Rasmussen House, formerly Rosary Hall, was once a convent for the Sisters of Mercy. At times it was used for student housing or offices. It became the first Women with Children Program residence in fall 2000 when the program was founded by Sister Jean Messaros, current Vice President for Mission Integration.

Messaros said the program has been very successful. “We have had eighteen graduates from the program. All are employed.”

She believes educated mothers become role models for their children and there is a “circle” of learning that starts with the mother and ends with the child.

“Our first graduate, Judy Strish has a daughter who completed two years at Bloomsburg [University] and joined the Air Force. We have two other graduates whose children are college-aged and they are looking into colleges.”

At maximum capacity, the Women with Children Program can accommodate ten students and up to 20 children. The program provides housing to participants along with educational scholarships and various support services.

The Pauly House, located on Lower Campus, is also a Women with Children Program residence. No renovations are expected for that home in the near future.

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