St. Croix’s Project Promise has less than two weeks to raise the $50,000 it needs to put a new roof on its future Christiansted home.
While some might see it as a potential disaster, founder Resa O’Reilly has been in tighter spots.
At the “very beginning of my journey, I was laid off and unemployed and not knowing really what was next. I felt like I could be doing more and I didn’t know what that looked like,” O’Reilly said.
She got her first glimpse of what her future might be when she noticed her cousin’s abandoned Christiansted building was up for auction.
“Its been used, or owned by, tavern keepers, shoemakers, a ship captain, a mason,” O’Reilly said. “The last thing it was used for was a wig shop — Mr. Wig in the ’70s.”
What she saw was a youth center and after “emptying” her pockets, she got the building that was badly in need of a roof, a second floor and had sat abandoned for decades.
Now, Project Promise delivers St. Croix’s youth a mix of after-school tutoring, life skills and exposure to careers. A recent trip to the U.S. mainland combined visits to college campuses and service projects.
“Every day since has been incredible, been such a blessing,” O’Reilly said. “Now it is time for us to actually get in the building and get a permanent home so we can build and expand on our impact.”
The $50,000 fund-raising goal is just a first step. The funds will be used to make the building — which O’Reilly has raced back to 1752 — safe, primarily by installing a new roof.
In a few weeks, with the new roof on, an army of volunteers from the Humanitarian Experience for Youth will descend on the building. During a seven-week period, the abandoned building will become a living lab as the 19 youth volunteers learn construction skills from skilled laborers as they rehab the structure.
Replacing the second floor, which is rotting out, and masonry work is expected to take up much of the volunteers’ efforts.
“I think that once they leave we should be 85 percent complete,” said O’Reilly, who is already thinking about the grants she will need to move in.
When finished, the building will house a computer lab, classrooms, kitchen, multipurpose room and office space.
O’Reilly envisions a building busy around the clock, with classes for adults and parents, after-school and weekend programs for children and a kitchen where students can learn to cook and they can prepare healthy snacks.
To make a donation, visit https://www.projectpromisevi.com.