LACONIA — Three is a magic number, especially for the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, whose efforts to acquire the former St. James Episcopal Church on North Main Street and to transform it into the club's "forever home" are getting a boost from a trio of local building professionals.
Founded in 1999, the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region has had four homes in its history but late in 2013 it launched a $2.4-million capital campaign with the goal of making the St. James campus the club's first real and permanent home.
The club is working to raise money to purchase the St. James property; to renovate 17,000-square-feet of interior space; and to establish an endowment fund.
Helping with the second element of the capital campaign are Steven J. Smith Sr., who is president of Steven J. Smith & Associates, a civil and sanitary engineering and land-surveying company; Peter L. Stewart, AIA, principal of Stewart Associates and Architects; and Chuck Moretti, a partner with NCM Management which provides construction management, value engineering, scheduling, and estimating services.
Smith, Stewart and Moretti are friends and colleagues and all have their offices at Six Lily Pond Road in Gilford. The men, said Al Posnack, who is chairman of the Boys and Girls Club's capital campaign, are also a godsend.
"The Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region is very grateful and thrilled to receive the in-kind donation of services by Steven, Peter, and Chuck," said Posnack. "Their skills are guiding us through every step of the process of us having, at last, a home that we can truly call our own."
In addition to assisting the club in getting settled at its current and several of its past homes, Posnack noted that Smith, Stewart, and Moretti have also been instrumental in remedying some of the damage recently caused by vandals to the club's facilities.
"We are humbled by the generosity of Steven, Peter and Chuck," Posnack summed up, "as we are by each donation, no matter how big or small, because every bit helps and is truly appreciated by us and, ultimately, by the kids."
Smith, who was raised in Conway, but who has called Laconia home since 1977, said that donating his professional services to the Boys and Girls Club is the right thing to do.
"You've got to give back to the community," said Smith, "especially if you have a business here." A member of the Gilford Rotary Club and of the WOW Trail board of directors, Smith said he was glad to help the Boys and Girls Club while also having the opportunity to collaborate with Stewart and Moretti.
In addition to several commercial and private projects in Gilford and Laconia that they've done together, Stewart and Moretti have been working with the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region for about six years. They previously combined their skills to help the club move to what were temporary homes in the former Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Lakeport, and most recently, in the former Federal Building in downtown Laconia.
Born in Boston, but raised in Laconia, Stewart comes from a family with deep, local civic roots; his father, the late Paul N. Stewart, was the chairman of the Laconia Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Under the elder Stewart's administration, the LHRA built the Sunrise Towers housing complex on Union Avenue, across the street from which, along the south bank of the Winnipesaukee River, sits a municipal park named after him.
Stewart the younger followed in his father's community-minded footsteps as a member of the Laconia Planning Board and of the board of directors of the Laconia Area Community Land Trust and Genesis Behavioral Health. Like Smith, Stewart said giving back to the city and towns that have sustained his business since 1994 is very important to him.
Moretti echoed that point and added that his company was involved with the Boys and Girls project because he and his business partner, Donald H. Roper, firmly believe in the club's mission and want the club to succeed.
"There is such a huge need in Laconia and in the Lakes Region for what the Boys and Girls Club does," said Moretti, a native of Rochester, NY who now calls Belmont home.
In its search for a "forever home," the Boys and Girls Club, Stewart pointed out, had considered properties in the North Main Street area but chose to keep looking. The club's gaze and attention, however, have correctly come back to St. James, said Stewart.
Located across the street from Smith Track and Opechee Park, and just a short distance from Laconia Middle School, the club's location now "is just perfect," Stewart said, and soon so, too, will be the new club itself.
To make a donation of in-kind services to the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region's capital campaign, contact the club at 528-0197. Financial contributions can be made online at www.lakeskids.org.
Cutline for attached photo:
The ongoing acquisition and transformation of the former St. James Episcopal Church on North Main Street in Laconia into the first permanent home of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region is being made possible by the generosity of many people, among them Peter Stewart, right, Steve Smith, center, and Chuck Moretti, left. Each of the men, who all have offices in the same building on Lily Pond Road in Gilford, has donated their professional services to the club. (Courtesy photo)