A Wider Circle, the poverty fighting nonprofit, is a familiar fiber in the fabric of our North Woodside community.
Trucks bearing the organization’s logo often pass through our neighborhood on Second Avenue. Many residents volunteer, helping out in its neighbor to neighbor, workforce development and wraparound support programs. Others donate furniture, housewares or offer financial support.
Slowly but surely, this neighborhood fixture just behind Woodlin Elementary School is undergoing a transformation. After two adjacent tenants, Rod Miller Plumbing and JDKA Coffee, moved out earlier this year, a long planned renovation and remodeling project began. The ambitious undertaking has been in the works since 2015, when A Wider Circle purchased the 51 year old building at 9159 Brookville Road.
Minor interior changes came first. Next, building permits were filed. Finally, this spring, structural engineers inspected the building to determine the breadth and depth of the work required. “They told us the building’s bones are good, so we are happy about that,” said Mark Bergel, founder and executive director of A Wider Circle.
Bergel’s ideas for renovation were modest at first. But they grew as he realized the potential positive impact of increased space and more efficient building systems including new elevators to move heavy items between floors on A Wider Circle’s clientele.
The furniture showroom is slated to triple in size to 3,000 square feet, allowing the nonprofit to serve twice as many people annually with chairs, couches and other items for their homes. Classrooms and computer labs will more than quadruple to about 2,500 square feet. “Our goal is to provide comprehensive support to those who come to us,” said Bergel. “With these renovations, we can nearly double the number of people we will serve per year and propel the movement to end poverty in many other ways.”
The full cost of the project is estimated at $7 million to $7.5 million. “We don’t have those kinds of funds at hand”, Bergel says. “We are knocking things out, one at a time.”
He and his staff continue to seek inkind donations and support for work related to renovation and remodeling, including general contracting, demolition, drywall, plumbing, HVAC installation and electrical work. A strong economy and aggressive forecasts for commercial construction in the D.C. region have made it a challenging environment for meeting A Wider Circle’s requests for inkind support. “We’d love to assemble a Dream Team of local helpers,” says Bergel. “But if we cannot, we’ll do it bit by bit. We never want to bite off more than we can chew.”