HOLYOKE — A kitchen renovation at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club, made possible by the Lowe’s Heroes Project, includes a direct video link to Holyoke Community College’s HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, allowing club members to take cooking and nutrition courses.
Conor Bevan, the club’s director of program development, said Hadley and Springfield Lowe’s employees volunteered 150 hours for the project to remodel the aging kitchen. The work involved installing new cabinets, countertops, durable flooring and two stoves and ranges.
“They renovated and flipped an outdated kitchen into the new Kid’s Café,” Bevan said, adding that the club can now produce more hot and nutritional meals for members. “Healthy lifestyle is a pillar of our programming efforts.”
In 2019, the club served 44,000 snacks and 10,000 hot meals to members. Bevan expects a jump in the snacks and meals made in the new kitchen.
“Parents are ecstatic about our new Kid’s Café. For many of the parents who come here, they rely on us to provide their child a snack or dinner,” he said. “Often, if they’re eating dinner here, they’re probably not going to have any other food, or maybe the only meal during the day.”
The HCC-MGM pilot program will teach members about sanitation, nutrition, portion sizes and basic cooking skills.
At a celebration held Wednesday to mark the renovations and recognize the Lowe’s employees, Flor Matos, the club’s in-house chef, used the kitchen to cook a spread for staff, members and guests.
Moises Montesino, president of the Keystone Club, presented Lowe’s employees a photo collage of their efforts. “We use the kitchen for enrichment, and the kids love it. I see myself helping out and teaching the kids,” he said. “It’s a big upgrade.”
Steven White, a service manager at the Hadley Lowe’s store, said the company sets aside money annually for community projects. Last year, Lowe’s volunteers built a boxing ring for the club and installed equipment.
“We got a good crew here. Being part of this is what makes it worthwhile in the end,” White said. “It’s a little daunting. Not all of us are mechanically inclined, as we all come from different walks of life.”
White and his crew installed cabinets and granite-look countertops. “This is going to be heavily used, and we try to design things around more commercial use,” White said.
During demolition, White found a 1969 Holyoke Transcript-Telegram wedge behind cinder blocks. The newspaper, appropriately, touted the benefits of healthy eating. “It was probably the last time anything was done here,” he said.
White said Lowe’s “empowers” all stores to help community organizations each year, and the initiative includes a generous budget. “We try to stretch every penny as far as we can,” he said. “Lowe’s and the Boys Club have a long, standing history.”
Members would frequently ask White and the volunteers about the renovation’s progress. “You want to capture their imaginations,” he said, “and see what happens when everyone works together toward one goal.”