I hate to use the phrase “Mission Accomplished,” but yea, we got it done. For the last several months I have been busy with Building On Hope (BOH) to renovate the Manchester Police Athletic League (MPAL). There was a big push to bring it all together, but we made it happen.
As I’ve mentioned before, the room I was responsible for was a shared office space for the Judo and Aikido coaches. My goal was to create a bright and happy space (despite the lack of exterior windows) while also keeping things somewhat traditionally Zen.
What surprised me most about this project does not have to do with the building itself. I knew when I signed up that the Michael Briggs Community Center was in a tough area of Manchester (corner of Lake Ave and Beech Street). I knew the statistics too: about 8,600 youth living within 1 mile of MPAL; ¼ are minorities and 1/3 live below the poverty line. In all honesty, I didn’t really understand those numbers until the last week of the project.
It was some time around 4pm on Thursday afternoon. I was in the parking lot across from MPAL and kids from the neighborhood came by the tent. Word had gotten out that food was available. Lunch was donated for the BOH crew during the last “Build Week”, and typically there was food leftover. Three kids, five kids… easily 20 kids came by in what could have been 15 minutes. I remember wondering “when had they eaten last? When will they eat again? Was that their dinner?!” This project suddenly became real in an entirely new way.
But my biggest surprise has to be a new appreciation and respect for the police officers themselves. Sure, cops are tough. Cops are serious. Cops like rules and they enforce them. Never did I imagine to experience the kindness, compassion, generosity, humor and heart that police officers have for our community and everyone in it. It doesn’t matter what your situation is either – I saw men and women from every walk of life greeted with warmth and respect. These officers care more than I ever realized.
BOH’s renovation of the MPAL building may have been for the kids, but I see it as an chance for the Manchester PD to help so many more. This project couldn’t have happened to a better organization at a better time. I am proud and honored to be part of it. Best wishes to Officer John Levasseur – you give us hope!