Calling all volunteers: Westchester Rotary embarks on next Makeover Project

The Rotary Club of Westchester is about to embark on its most ambitious Makeover Project yet when it helps transform Venice’s Safe Places for Youth (S.P.Y.) during President’s Day Weekend.

The almost 70-year-old club has become known for its biennial Makeover Project, which has transformed the homes of deserving local families. Always looking to impact as many people as possible, in 2015, the club elected to makeover the Westchester Senior Center. Thanks to the efforts of the club, sponsors and volunteers, the floors were resurfaced, walls were painted and the kitchen was remodeled. The center now also doubles as a community hub for meetings and events.

The Rotary Club of Westchester has worked with S.P.Y. for years, serving food to the homeless youth that drop in to utilize the nonprofit’s services, which include providing meals, health and wellness exams, art classes, counseling, case management and education and employment opportunities. S.P.Y.’s mission is to help provide a nurturing environment for some of society’s most vulnerable members, with the ultimate goal of getting the youth off of the streets and into permanent housing. It currently serves clients ranging from 12 to 25 years-old. On a recent day in January, S.P.Y. Executive Director and Founder, Alison Hurst, says that 85 youths walked through the door for services, due in large part to the extensive outreach and relationships her staff and volunteers have built with the youth living on Venice’s streets.

Hurst, who was named the Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year in 2015, says that in the last few years the nonprofit has seen tremendous growth and is serving more youth than ever. For her and the more than 1,000 youth the center helps annually, the makeover could not come at a better time.

“We are seeing an unbelievable number of people,” said Hurst. “If we can work with someone in the community to help make the space look beautiful so that every dime I raise goes towards programs for the youth, I couldn’t be happier.”

Undertaking a Makeover Project during your year as president is no easy task, but when Westchester resident, Christa Ramey, found out the project would fall during her year, she didn’t hesitate in selecting S.P.Y. because of the importance of its mission.

“The club is very excited about the project,” said Ramey. “When we come in to feed the youth and we see the same people, over and over again, we know S.P.Y. is making an impact. Most of what we are doing through the makeover is about fulfilling S.P.Y.’s mission.”

This Makeover Project has the largest budget to date, with approximately $175,000 being used for construction, supplies, landscaping, furniture and more. Unique to this Makeover Project, a majority of the funds raised will be used for services, classes and internship programs. Ramey is proud that her club is the first in the district to receive a global grant from Rotary International, thanks in large part to the hard work of Rotarian Warren Bobrow. The club also received major funding from the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, the William H. Hannon Foundation and the Adam Levine Foundation, with additional significant support from the Rotary Foundation and Rotary Districts in India, Thailand and Puerto Rico.

The construction part of the makeover has already begun and a new case management room, a roof over an outdoor space and a fence has been built. The club is now putting out a call for volunteers for the official Makeover Project taking place from Thursday, February 16 through Monday, February 20.

“We’re going to need hundreds of volunteers during the weekend to help,” said Ramey. “People of all abilities can volunteer, even kids with their parents.”

Volunteers will be needed for a variety of tasks including painting, sweeping, cleaning, landscaping, moving items, shopping, photography, decorating and more.

“All of us at Westchester Rotary hope there is a huge turnout for volunteers for S.P.Y during President’s Day weekend,” said Ramey. “This is great opportunity for fellowship, as well as a chance to give to a worthwhile cause.”

For more information on the project or to sign-up to volunteer, please visit spyrotarymakeover.wordpress.com. For those who can’t volunteer, but would like to get involved, the website also contains a wish list of items that can be purchased and donated to S.P.Y.