MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA — On a recent Saturday afternoon, Paul Scialdone painted the walls in the community room at the Newport Park elderly housing complex.
The NCAA tournament was in full swing and Scialdone is a self-described “basketball nut.” But he made a commitment, so there he was, in great spirits, even though this would be a three-day job that wouldn’t pay him a dime.
“I don’t care,” said the Beverly-based painter, who will happily tell you that he’s 17
“People think it’s Manchester and everybody’s loaded, but that’s not the case,” he said. “Old people get forgotten.”
That was typical of the optimism and good will surrounding one of the region’s latest volunteer projects.
‘People think it’s Manchester and everybody’s loaded; that’s not the case.’
Many hands made light work as community-minded teenagers, professional painters, carpenters, decorators, and others volunteered to clean, renovate, and redecorate the community space, which also includes a tiny hallway, laundry area, kitchen, and bathroom. Volunteers gave time and money for an HGTV-quality transformation that brought the place from dull and dingy to bright and beautiful.
The project originated when Pam Ciccone, the town nurse, held a flu clinic in the room last fall at the public housing complex, and later talked about its deplorable condition with her friend, Caroline Cheshire.
“Everybody had been complaining about it for years, and I had some time, so I was able to coordinate [the redesign],” said Cheshire, a 15-year resident of Manchester who recently sold her online business and is preparing to move with her husband back to their native England to care for their elderly parents. “But the heroes of this are the ones that did the work.”
Cheshire began gathering support, and coordinated the network of volunteers to kick in their time, goods, and money.
“We all kind of put our heads together,” said Martha Gardner, proprietor of Timeless Interiors in Hamilton. “We all had things to bring to the table, and it worked out well.”
In all, Cheshire estimated that the volunteers gave $25,000 worth of goods and services toward the project, starting with volunteers Jim Hickey, Johnnie Handel, and landscape designer Alex Adams, who moved the furniture out of the room to start the project.
Here’s what followed:
■ Eight high school seniors from the nearby Landmark School in Beverly scrubbed and cleaned.
■ Youth volunteers from the First Parish Church Congregational in Manchester prepped all of the walls for painting and also cleaned the windows.
■ Scialdone — sometimes with one of his workers — spent three full days painting. Jennifer Coles Color & Design picked out the color scheme, and Waters & Brown Paint & Decorating of Beverly donated $400 worth of paint.
■ Chris Costello, who owns Timberline Enterprises in Gloucester, sold the red oak flooring for the project for just 35 percent of the price. Needing $700 to purchase it, Cheshire sought and received three donations of $250 from three town churches: First Parish Church Congregational, Sacred Heart Church, and First Baptist Church.
■ David Bucci of Beverly Flooring installed 680 square feet of flooring over two days.
■ Local general contractors John Hannah and Brian Nelson worked on new cabinets, including donating the wood. They also hung the television.
■ Scott Hunt of Complete Chimney Sweeps of Beverly inspected the chimney, and confirmed that it was a working fireplace.
■ Timeless Interiors donated $3,000 worth of furniture, artwork, and a rug.
■ Sue Jackson of Manchester donated fabric, covered eight dining room chairs, and sewed some pillows.
“They gave us whatever we needed,” Cheshire said. “They said, ‘Come in and take what you need for your project.’ ”
Country Curtains of Beverly donated curtains and hardware, with manager Jenifer Dunn Coen donating her time to measure and fit the curtains.
The Stanton Family of Manchester, whose late grandmother, Margaret Doneghy, once lived at Newport Park, donated a coffee machine.
Mary Clunan helped find the items needed for the interior design.
The youth board at the Manchester Community Center donated the 40-inch flat screen TV that has been installed over the fireplace. A teen dance scheduled for May will raise funds for an air conditioner and more rugs.
“Everyone presumes Manchester is posh and rich and you know what? It’s not,” Cheshire said. “This town is full of people who can’t pay their mortgage, who can’t pay their college tuition. These are working people up here.
“It was suggested we could write to a couple of the very rich people here, and I argued no, because we can all do a little bit and make it happen. It’s up to us to make it happen and not just to approach those that do have the money, and everybody did a bit. By breaking it down into small pieces, it got done.”
In recent years, the room has been used by the local chapter of Meals of Wheels, but that program has moved into new digs as the new community room promises to become a centerpiece for social activity in Newport Park.
“If you have a really nice room they can come and meet, and invite friends and relatives,” Cheshire said. “Hopefully they’ll start chess clubs, knitting clubs, and book clubs. The Manchester Library donates books to them [but] everything was just buried under an inch of dust and it had come to a grinding halt, really.”
On April 1, volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated community room, with bright yellow walls and colorful accessories.
“It’s wonderful, beautiful,” said Ann Adams, 87, who lives in one of the 40 apartments at Newport Park. “I never thought I’d see this.”
Adams lives one unit away from the community room, and she met Cheshire early in the process, before the work began. Once it did, she said, she kept close tabs on the project.
“Every day I would walk in and see what’s going on. My neighbors will love it when they see it. I’m sure they’ll all be over to see the place.”