It was a laundry and general storage area in the basement of the Spring Valley Good Counsel Home.
But now that Victoria-Elizabeth Negron and the Ridgewood Knights of Columbus have worked their magic, it’s a neat and functional study space — complete with computers, new office furniture, shelving, and proper lighting — where the moms of Good Counsel can find a quiet, comfortable, and encouraging place to study and work with tutors and mentors to improve their reading and computer skills.
It all started last November when Bob Reilly, co-chair of the Spring Valley Good Counsel Home leadership team and Past Grand Knight of the Ridgewood (NJ) Council of the Knights of Columbus, was contacted by his fellow Knight, Dan Negron.
Dan told him that his daughter, Victoria-Elizabeth, then a junior at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, was looking for the opportunity to do more volunteer work after a good experience performing service hours as part of her Confirmation program. She was a good student and liked to help others.
Was there a need for tutoring at the Spring Valley home, he asked.
Definitely! Many of the young women living at the home are working to complete their high-school education with a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) or advance their training, and volunteers and mentors are always welcome.
So in November 2011, Bob, Dan, Victoria-Elizabeth, and Ridgewood Council Grand Knight Doug Findlay visited the Spring Valley home to learn more about what kind of tutoring was needed and where it would be conducted.
At their first visit, Bob recalls, “Victoria-Elizabeth was very comfortable with the home and with the young mothers. She seemed to have a bond and ‘related very well’ with these women when she asked about the need for tutoring.”
And the little space in the basement – with just a single desk and two computers — got her thinking. What if they could transform this portion of the room into a real learning center?
She took photos and measurements, and after she formally presented her designs and ideas to the Knights in December, they enthusiastically decided to support her project. They quickly formed a Core Team to do the construction work and set about raising funds for supplies and new furniture.
“I was really blown away,” Victoria-Elizabeth said. “ They said, ‘I can help, I have contacts, I can provide this.’”
“I consider myself very fortunate,” she continued. “When you’re 16, many people may not take your seriously. But when you have people like the Knights who believe in you and are so charitable, so much can get done.”
The Ridgewood Knights of Columbus Council donated $500 as a group, and then individual Knights donated $1,000 more to obtain the equipment to do the electrical work (three new flourescent lights), new flooring for the laundry area, and a walled-in closet to hide the plumbing in the corner of the basement.
The Core Team started work in April. You can see their progress in the slide show above. And after many hours of hard work, the job was completed in July, and the new Learning Resource Center was presented to the public at the Good Counsel Open House on Aug. 25.
The members of the team were Doug Findlay, Bob Reilly and his wife, Marge, Terry Wittmaack, a builder, Sean Noble, who donated the office furniture, and Victoria-Elizabeth and her dad, Dan Negron.
A new team is now forming to start tutoring and mentoring next month. If you would like to help, please call house manager Nanette Morris at 845-356-0571. Donations of books for GED preparation are also needed.
And there are many other projects that need to be done at the home. If you or your group would like to take one on, like Victoria-Elizabeth and the Knights, you too can make a big difference in the lives of the young women who live there and become a special part of the family of Good Counsel.