After more than 70 years of serving the youth of the community, the Westchester Townhouse will finally get the makeover it deserves courtesy of the Rotary Club of Westchester.
Since opening in 1945, the Townhouse, located on Emerson Ave. next to Kentwood Elementary School, has been a hub for youth-focused nonprofit groups, including the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, schools and theater group, Music West, who are able to use the space free of charge. Without the budget for upkeep, the Townhouse has had maintenance deferred, leaving the charming space in bad need of upgrades. Looking for the support of the community and to bring awareness to their situation, Townhouse board member and Girl Scout troop leader, Anne-Marie Ross, suggested the group hold its first fundraiser in recent memory last April. The open house style event brought out hundreds to support the Townhouse and as luck would have it, Westchester Rotarians also stopped by. After viewing the space, their wheels starting spinning– the Townhouse would make an excellent location for the club’s next Makeover Project.
“They were completely floored when we told them they had been selected,” said Westchester Rotary Club President Tori Hettinger. “They have been amazing and really easy to work with. This makeover is going to impact so many people in the community.”
Every two years, the Westchester Rotary selects a new location for its Makeover Project. In the beginning the club selected single-family homes, but in recent years the project has focused on community spaces that benefit a large group of people. In 2017, the group renovated Venice’s Safe Place for Youth (SPY), and in 2015, the Westchester Senior Center got a major upgrade. For each makeover, the Rotary has been able to raise upwards of $100,000 in money and in-kind donations to work their magic. Major contributors of the Makeover Project include the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, the William H. Hannon Foundation and the Westchester Woman’s Club.
Being selected for this year’s Makeover Project, which will take place from February 28 through March 3, was a complete shock for Westchester Townhouse President, Jaymes Bellous, and the nonprofit’s volunteer board, which is made up of Townhouse users.
“They are so positive and terrific,” says Bellous. “This is such a generous gift. The benefit to the community is huge. They saw what an important resource this is for the community and children.”
During the makeover weekend, hundreds of volunteers will make their way to the space to paint, sand, landscape and decorate to help fulfill the Townhouse’s makeover wish list. Hettinger says it will be “all hands on deck” for the project, and that 100% of the club’s members participate in one form or another from swinging hammers to donating to fund the project.
While part of the excitement of the Makeover Project is not letting the recipient know exactly what the Rotary’s plans are, Hettinger says the group’s to-do list includes upgrades to the bathroom to make it wheelchair accessible, installing new doors and floors, adding new cabinetry and putting in new windows. A mural depicting California landscapes that wraps around the interior of the “diamond in the rough space” will also be retouched by local artist and Otis instructor, David Russell. As for what else the Rotary Club has in store, Hettinger remains tight-lipped but ensures that there will be plenty of “fun surprises.”
“There isn’t a moment that goes by that we aren’t grateful for what the Westchester Rotary is doing,” says Bellous who comments that all the positive exposure is giving the space new life. “Our goal is to see the Westchester Townhouse used by the youth of this community every day of the year. This is your townhouse.”
For those interested in volunteering during the Makeover Project, the Rotary Club will post sign-ups on their website at rotary-westchester.com.
“We are hoping to make the Townhouse a better experience for everyone who uses it,” said Hettinger. “We hope that when everything is updated it will be a much better, vibrant place for everyone to meet.”
The Westchester Townhouse will mark the Rotary Club of Westchester’s seventh Makeover Project. Here’s a look back at some of their other makeovers:
2006: The Rotary Club made over the home of LMU professor Scott Odom, who had been battling cancer for years. With the high cost of treatment, many home improvements had to be deferred until the Rotary Club stepped up to paint, put in new carpets, remodel the kitchen and provided all new furniture, while the family was treated to a trip to Disneyland. The beloved family man and professor lost his brave battle with cancer the following year.
2008: The Hunts were the club’s second makeover family. At the age of just 46, Jackie Hunt suffered a stroke leaving her wheelchair-bound and struggling to do things many take for granted, including navigating her home. Also suffering from a genetic eye disease that was causing blindness, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Hunt to enjoy her home. With the help of more than 130 volunteers and workers, the club was able to install a wheelchair ramp, a handicap-accessible bathroom, add new flooring, paint and build a deck for the family to be able to enjoy the backyard together.
2011: While Gloria Dresser was treated to a trip to Hawaii to visit her daughter, Rotarians made quick work of installing a new roof, repairing water damage, putting in new windows, renovating the kitchen and decorating the house with new furniture. Dresser, who grew up in Westchester and has cerebral palsy, was left speechless when she returned home from her vacation and saw the upgrades Rotary had made.
2013: After the devastating loss of the Ricks’ family patriarch, Rotary came in to help make improvements to the house with new flooring, a redesigned kitchen, new landscaping and paint.
2015: For its fifth project, the club set its focus on the Westchester Senior Center. With the goal of creating a welcoming place for seniors and community groups, the club was able to give the facility a $100,000 face-lift that included a remodeled kitchen, new furniture, refinished floors, a new walkway and more.
2017: During the club’s most ambitious project to date, Venice’s Safe Place for Youth (SPY) received a remodeled interior to accommodate new office space, a roof over an outdoor space, a new fence, paint and more. SPY, which helps more than 1,000 homeless youths annually, also received funds for classes and an internship program.
Posted January 2019.