If you’ve driven down Magazine Street this week, you’ve probably noticed that the front porch of our building has been dismantled and is in the process of reconstruction, due to water damage. You may also have noticed that the pristine new sign now hangs in the front, so fresh and brand spanking new it practically radiates our name and message in lights. The logo on the sign is different from our old one; in fact the only similarity to the old sign are the red, white, and blue colors–otherwise all the information has been updated and clarified, and the sign is much more easily seen from the street. The sign was purchased with funds allotted in the budget; the porch was one of those unpleasant surprises that seem to crop up periodically to remind us that not every expense can be foreseen and planned for. When the work is finished, the porch will be sturdy and hopefully waterproof, and it may even sport a functional set of steps that will make it accessible for events like the volunteer appreciation luncheon (can’t you just see yourself seated on the lovely new “veranda”, dining on cake while listening to Jon Burroughs on his accordion or Kerry Ermon on her flute–ah, bliss!)
Our building is a lot like an aging Hollywood actress: still beautiful after several facelifts, but unable to hide her true age. Luckily she has good bones and DNA and is in no danger of collapsing anytime soon, but still, our house at 3606 Magazine Street requires quite a bit of TLC to stay in good shape. Luckily Natalia is vigilant about noticing potential problems and her husband Guy is an architect who can advise on solutions, but that doesn’t always mean all disasters can be averted. Over the years we’ve had a small electrical fire in the attic due to the ancient wiring, flooding in the studios from plumbing in the offices on the second floor, a large hive of bees removed from the eaves of the upstairs balcony, along with countless incidents of the air conditioning and heating systems going kaput on the hottest (or coldest) day of the year. The fuses tend to blow whenever something is microwaved too long (damn those Thai Peanut Noodle Lean Cuisines!) and the roof and windows have been known to leak when a strong sideways rain occurs, and of course, there’s always the threat of hurricane damage. Our grand old lady requires quite a bit of attention and she can be expensive, but the reward is working and volunteering in a place where the original decorative arches and plaster medallions in the studio take your breath away. Next time you come in, take a close look at the carved, creamy white marble mantels in the foyer and office, and then make a special trip to check out the rarely seen mantel in the studio near the bookshelves. I have no idea what kind of deep green and black and gray stone it is made of, but I have never seen any other fireplace like it. And they are all original to the house!
We’ve been lucky with help from others when we’ve needed it–G.E.’s Elfun fund helped to paint the boardroom and offices many years ago, sweet volunteer Faye Neal, aka “The Bringer of The Donuts” planted the flowers in the large pots in the front, and dearly departed volunteer Harold Davis planted the ferns that grace the flagpole. But we could always use more help. If you’ve got skills with a shovel and hoe, or you’re good with plants and itching to design a garden, let us know. The next (small) phase is a bit of landscaping for the front, and we’d love your ideas, advice, and maybe some plants you’d like to share from your own home garden. That way, in the spring, while noshing on cake listening to music, you can admire the flowers and think, “I helped create that.”