Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 13, 2012

Tree lot popular as Youth Center fundraising continues

Tree lot popular, but more substantial money needed

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — Andover Youth Services’ tree lot is open again, with every tree sold collecting money for the proposed Cormier Youth Center. Daily, the holiday venture in front of Andover High School is sending dozens of Andover residents home with Christmas trees, wreaths and more.

“Every tree we sell brings us another step closer, because we’re almost there. We have 80 percent of the money we need,” said Diane Costagliola, Andover Youth Foundation chairwoman.

But, even after youth center supporters secured pivotal town financial support for the planned center last December, supporters remain hundreds of thousands of dollars shy of the money they need, leaving them talking about trying to build the youth center in stages.

The private Andover Foundation, charged with fundraising for Andover Youth Services programming and the Cormier Youth Center, is hundreds of thousands shy of paying off the Youth Center’s construction. Special Town Meeting in 2011 approved $2 million for the project, while a remaining $2.2 million was to be provided by the foundation.

With over $1.5 million in the bank from prior donations, the organization has raised around $100,000 this year, Costagliola said.

The cost of the building has gone up over the last year, because construction costs have jumped across the board, according to Costagliola.

“It’s kind of a moving number. It’s moving because, until we really bring it out to bid, we’re not going to know how much (is needed),” Costagliola said. “We do have some good potential prospects that we’re working on. We’re hoping that the culmination or close to the culmination of our fundraising efforts will be the telethon on the 14th, 15th, 16th of March.”

The Andover Youth Center Building Committee recently selected its architect for the project and is currently working through “value engineering.” In that, the board will “figure out how to get the most cost-effective building within our budget,” building committee Chairwoman Nancy Jeton said.

“Functionally, we feel that we can deliver a building within the budget that still meets what people have been talking about,” Jeton said.

In the event that the gap can’t be closed before the town breaks ground on the project in June, the building could be built in phases, according to Jeton.

“If you think of the building in three parts, the northern part of the building is the classroom spaces and lounge spaces, the middle part of the building is the lobby, multipurpose and fitness area, and the southern component is the gym,” she said.

The popular plan right now is to “build the first two, put a temporary wall on the south side, lay the foundation for the gym, and have an outdoor basketball space until the money is raised to complete the gym,” Jeton said.

Under the agreement, the youth foundation must raise and spend the $2.2 million before the Special Town Meeting approved $2 million can be accessed, so the first phase of the project would be build entirely with donations, not tax money.

Back at the tree lot, however, the financials behind the project aren’t part of tree-shopping conversations. Youth Services’ future is instead.

“I feel like we’re paying it forward,” resident Heather Marquis said as her two children, aged 2 and 5 looked at items for sale at the lot.

Marquis was shopping at the lot for her sixth year in a row, dating back to when she first moved to the town. This past week, she was making a return trip for a wreath and greens after already buying a tree earlier in the month.

“The youth center does a lot for the community, and soon we’ll be at that point when our children get older,” Marquis said. “My children will be able to go to the youth center.”

Helping shoppers mount trees on top of their car, 16-year-old Jacob Anderson said he joined Andover Youth Services three years ago.

While he’s happy that money for the project was approved last year, he’s even happier about “all the people who come and support Andover’s youth center.”

“I’m glad all this money is going to go towards it,” he said. “It’s a great cause they’re putting it towards.”

For feedback or questions on this story, email dluca@andovertownsman.com.