Life seen in former mortuary reborn as clubhouse for kids

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.But Schotz and others involved in the project say more needs to be done. In fact, so much work needed to be done that HGTV partnered with community groups. “It’s coming to life,” said Ronda Wilkin, a Blue Shield employee who mobilized 90 of her fellow workers into action. “It’s wonderful to see this old building actually begin to smile.” Each day, about 75 children visit the center at 7245 Remmet Ave. in Canoga Park for activities in the arts, health and life skills, sports, fitness and recreation. Before its restoration, the dilapidated building had crumbling walls, and a portion of its roof was caved in. It had no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. To date, volunteers from Pratt & Whitney, the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and others have logged more than 1,500 hours to remake the building. CANOGA PARK – For years, the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley operated out of a creepy, decrepit building that had previously housed a mortuary. But community and corporate volunteers, with a little help from Home & Garden Television, have breathed new life into the macabre building. An embalming room has been turned into an arts-and-crafts center. The freezer is now a learning center. And the sanctuary will be used for dances, indoor basketball and other children’s activities. “You don’t want kids playing in a mortuary,” said Eric Schotz, an executive producer at Home & Garden Television. “You want them in a Boys & Girls Club. It was creepy before.” The makeover will be featured in an episode of the “Over Your Head” television show on HGTV on Nov. 17. “The kids are touched that people out there care enough to make this place so special,” said Jan Sobel, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. “To them it’s a place to have mentors, play, feel safe. “They don’t see the holes in the wall or no lighting. They understand this is a place of hope and opportunity.” The Blue Shield of California volunteers helped with patching, priming and painting. “It’s starting to look amazing, compared to what it did look like,” Wilkin said. “It has a much warmer feel to it.” The project started with a call from one of the club’s board of directors to an HGTV producer. Within weeks, the second-floor apartment, where the mortician had lived, became a hip teen center with a flat-screen TV, music room, a new kitchenette and a room for a future computer center. “The ceiling was falling down, the electricity was not working, there was no air conditioning or heating. It was a mess,” Schotz said. “The whole place was over its head. It was such a large project that, as one show, we couldn’t do the whole thing.” The upstairs area got a total makeover – from new paint to flooring, lighting and new furniture. With the help of professional contractors and others, volunteers are now concentrating on the downstairs area and exterior. Workers have brightly painted the walls, put in new flooring and carpeting and, because the building lacks windows, added better lighting. They are renovating the bathrooms, and an air-conditioning and heating system is now in place. Joel Dibiase, a young club member, said he looks forward to roaming through the entire building when it’s fully finished. “There were rooms we couldn’t go into because they were unsafe,” the 12-year-old said. “It’s starting to look nice and modern. Instead of looking like a mortuary, it looks like a place for kids.” The expansion also means the club can accept additional members, Sobel said. The work began in the summer and will continue for the next several weeks. Staffers and children alike are giddy with anticipation. “It looked too much for the use that it used to be – and not a place for children,” Sobel said. “The kids love it. One kid said, `This is nicer than where I live.’ “It’s getting there. We’re excited.” [email protected], 818-713-3699160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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