Legat Architects donates design to give a “hand up” to Waukegan community center
[Waukegan, IL] – Many Waukeganites recognize “the big blue house” on McAlister Avenue as a welcoming place that is there to “give hope to dreams.” Beacon Place is a vacant house turned neighborhood community center that serves over 700 kids and adults with programs focused on health, academic support, and life skills. Those who benefit from the free programs commit to give back, so it’s “a partnership that goes beyond a hand out and becomes a true hand up.”
Beacon Place has reached capacity for its tutoring programs—when it opened in 2012, it had two students. Today, Beacon Place serves over 100 (grades K-10) students, and has a waiting list of over 25.
The lack of space has also affected the organization’s food distribution programs. Each summer, Beacon Place manages to serve over 2,000 meals out of a detached garage. It also uses the garage to store as many as 350 backpacks full of donated healthy foods that children take home to their families each week. The garage is too small and too old to meet the organization’s current needs.
For these reasons, Beacon Place reached out to Legat Architects, which was founded in Waukegan and operated a studio there for over fifty years.
Legat’s Casey Frankiewicz and Ted Haug are donating design services for a new, potentially 2,400-square-foot, two-story structure to replace the old 400-square-foot garage. The first floor will house a lunch preparation area with refrigerators and a freezer, a large room for the stuffing, storing, and distribution of the backpacks, and storage space for outdoor equipment.
A second floor has been planned as a multipurpose room for expanded educational programs, while a potential basement will allow for much-needed storage of additional supplies and equipment.
An added benefit for Beacon Place is a quick and safe way of providing an inclement weather refuge. When thunderstorms strike, kids will be smoothly ushered into the new facility—it has overhead doors on either side (one opens to the backyard, the other to the adjacent park).
“The hardest thing for us to do is turn away a child because we have reached our capacity,” said Beacon Place Executive Director Barbara LaFasto. “This new annex will allow us to continue to provide neighborhood children and families additional services that will guide them toward a brighter tomorrow.”
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