Dec 3, 2015 11:31 AM
MANCHESTER - Police officers and local dignitaries held a tree lighting ceremony to celebrate the start of the holiday season and to launch a new fundraising campaign for renovations to the Officer Michael Briggs Community Center.
Mary Ann Briggs, the mother of Michael Briggs, who died in the line of duty in 2006, and police Chief Nick Willard lit up the tree and hung special ornaments that honor fallen officers.
Plans are to renovate the building, used by the Manchester Police Athletic League and dozens of children involved in its after-school programs.
"It's going to make a difference; it's going to make a huge difference for this area," said Officer John Levasseur. "Without it, I see kids roaming the streets."
Former police Chief David Mara said the plans include a newly outfitted kitchen. "Be great to get someone in here to show kids how to cook almost like a home ec. kind of deal," he said.
He also hopes to see a refurbished homework area where college students can tutor the younger kids.
As many as 100 Manchester youth ages 5-21 come to the center daily, including Victoria Williams.
"To me, this is like a home away from home. I can come and I can have fun with my friends and exercise," she said.
The nonprofit, Building on Hope, has accepted the project and will be coordinating the renovations.
The 16,000 square-foot, 105-year-old facility is in need of significant repairs, including electric and heating systems, appropriate flooring for athletic activities, and a resurfaced parking lot.
A commercial kitchen is eyed to provide healthy snacks and meals to many kids who do not have adequate access to nutritious food at home. The installation of basketball hoops and conversion of two floors of vacant areas into usable space will make room for more programs and participants.
The project needs to raise at least $500,000.
"I know that this facility here is going to be something we can all be proud of," Mayor Ted Gatsas said.
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