YNDC Progresses on Fundraising for Monastery Building

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The public fundraising campaign to renovate the former Carmelite Monastery on the South Side has passed its target, and the overall effort is more than 80% past the goal.

In February, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., which inherited the 1810 Volney Road property, announced plans to establish a neighborhood action center in the 7,000-square-foot house, which was built in 1927. Those plans included providing meeting space for YNDC and community groups and, eventually, residential space on its upper levels.

YNDC’s executive director, Ian Beniston, announced an $80,000 fundraising goal for the first phase of the project, including $20,000 to be raised via an online public campaign.

As of midday Tuesday, the online effort raised $21,265 from 187 donors. Donations range from $5 to $1,000. 

“The fact that we were able to achieve that goal speaks to the level of support for the project and for YNDC,” Beniston said. 

Emery McKelvey, general manager of the McKelvey’s Department Store, built the house in 1927. During the 1950s, it came into the possession of the Catholic priests of the Carmelite Order. Carmelite priest the Rev. Richard Madden held services at the monastery for decades before his death in 2012. YNCD acquired the property in late 2019.

As part of the fundraising campaign, YNDC reached out to individuals who attended services. Alan Setz – retired chief financial officer for an Arby’s franchisee who was named executor of the property by his predecessor, CeCe Bersch – provided YNDC with names of attendees. 

Checks from those individuals are coming from across the country. Setz credits Madden with that response as well as local individuals’ desire to preserve pieces of the area’s past.

“He left a lasting impression,” he remarked. 

Among the donors is Denise DeBartolo York. The GoFundMe site shows she donated $1,000 to the project.  

“I attended many of Father Madden’s masses in what he so aptly called, ‘God’s Back Yard,’ ” DeBartolo York said in an emailed statement. “He was a positive force in many lives. I am thrilled that YNDC is working to re-purpose this historical home in this beautiful area of Youngstown.”

Ian Beniston, executive director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.

Beniston also reported progress on raising the remaining $60,000 to help fund the first phase of the renovation. YNDC received a $30,000 donation from the Youngstown Foundation as well as a few smaller grants.

“We’re getting pretty close. I think we have about $15,000 left to raise to achieve our overall goal,” he said. 

The renovation’s initial phase of the project will involve general exterior improvements, including removing dead trees and trees that are too close to the house, as well as replacing any doors that need replaced and upgrading outdoor lighting and the parking lot. Interior work will include repairing and painting walls, refinishing the hardwood floors, insulation, and mechanical and electrical upgrades.

Work is already underway and on track at the site, according to Beniston. Several trees have been cleared and the outdoor pavilion and altar structure have been painted. Inside the building, interior demolition is in progress. 

Architectural drawings are complete and YNDC is awaiting completion of engineering and mechanical drawings to secure the necessary permits.   

“I’m confident we’ll have the place renovated later this year,” he said. 

There is a definite need for such a center, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally said. The Idora Neighborhood Association stopped meeting regularly because the organization lost its regular meeting space, and other groups in Idora and adjacent neighborhoods struggle with finding meeting spaces as well.  

“That property is beautiful and it definitely has quite a story,” she added. “It’s a piece of our history that we’re saving.”

Work at the monastery is just one of YNDC’s active projects in the Idora Neighborhood, as the South Side area is known. As part of its neighborhood stabilization efforts, YNDC is planning to build houses nearby and clean out a commercial building near the entrance to the Youngstown Playhouse on Glenwood Avenue. 

The last three houses that YNDC renovated received more than 500 inquiries and all three were rented immediately, Beniston said. “There’s growing interest in our quality housing product as well as the neighborhood here,” he said.   

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.