The expansion project that will make girls full members of the Joseph F. Coffey Boys and Girls Club of Meriden for the first time in the club’s 112 years, and likely double the membership, came to a ceremonious end Wednesday night.
"It started as a normal, everyday construction project and somehow ended as the modern-day barn raising," said Building Committee Chairman Dan Roman.
The free labor and donations, he said, were reminiscent of a bygone era, when neighbors pitched in without question. Disappearing invoices from contractors, free couches from Liberty Lagana Furniture, free Internet service from Cox Communications, landscaping by city firefighters and more made it all possible, Roman said.
The expansion added 13,000 square feet to the Lincoln Street building, which was constructed in 1955, and adds a teen lounge with a big-screen television, a snack bar, a weight room and locker rooms with showers. The existing building was also upgraded with a new roof, a new heating and cooling system, a branch of the public library and an expanded computer room.
The work of building committee members Phil Ashton, Jack Biafore, John Ragozzino, Robert Ruzzo, and Ric Suzio also was acknowledged during the ceremony.
In addition to the club officials, more than 300 residents and businesses donated services or financial gifts to the expansion project.
"Everybody who contributed, you’re in the business of saving lives," said James Schwab, the Northeast Region vice president for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. "You’re a role model for the rest of the country."