Springfield’s Family Center looks to downsizeBy Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | May 01,2013PHOTO BY LEN EMERY
Stephanie Gibson, executive director of the Springfield Family Center, stands in front of the center’s main building on upper Summer Street in Springfield.SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Family Center wants to sell its current home so it can spend less money on maintenance and more on services.
Executive Director Stephanie Gibson said White Acres, named after the original owner of the 1915 house, was too big for the Family Center’s needs.
“When the property was purchased, there were a number of other agencies here with us for a number of years. Some of those agencies have left,” said Gibson.
The Family Center rents a wing to Springfield Hospital for its day care center, Squeaky Sneakers, as well as office space to Health Care and Rehabilitative Services and L&M Family Caregivers, and one individual.
Springfield’s Santa Claus Club also uses space in the center.
For the past several years, the Family Center’s third floor has been empty, she said, and competing in the tenant-friendly real estate market in Springfield has been difficult.
Plus, she and Family Center Board Chairman Walter Koenig said, too much of the center’s budget has been going toward building maintenance.
“If someone gives us $100, do I want to spend it on paint or food?” Koenig said Tuesday.
“We had to make a decision,” he said, noting the board had debated the issue for a long time.
“We are safety net agency,” said Gibson, noting the Family Center was there to help people in need, whether providing a food shelf, a day shelter, or help with housing and other needs.
Gibson said the 12,600-square-foot building was being listed for $575,000 with local broker Gale Alger of Barrett and Valley Associates. Once the building is sold the Family Center would start looking for a new home. The building sits on 2.4 acres, and altogether has 30 rooms, Gibson said.
The building also has a separate three-bay garage and former ice house.
She and Koenig stressed that they wouldn’t be moving until the building was sold.
The Springfield Family Center bought the former Hanson Court nursing home in 2001, Gibson said, moving to the Summer Street location from the foot of Main Street.
The center was founded in 1971 to serve Springfield’s families in need, by Myrtle Birsky. Since then, it has only had two directors, Deb Luse, and Gibson, who is a member of the Springfield Select Board.
It regularly receives support from Springfield voters at town meeting; this year the allocation was $50,000.
Gibson and Koenig both said the need had never been greater. The Family Center runs the area’s local food shelf, and hosts a daily meal at noontime for those in need.
Gibson said that there are usually about 60 people at the center’s noon meal.
Koenig said a real estate broker said the large building, which once was a private residence, could be sold, but that it would likely go to someone who had a specific need for a program or project.
Koenig said the Family Center wanted to spend as much of its donations as possible on services, rather than building maintenance. Any new location, he said, would hopefully be more maintenance free.
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