A brief break in Monday afternoon’s off-and-on rain showers allowed young volunteers to nail additional layers of plywood to the roof of Pauquette Park’s shelter and restrooms.
They were doing God’s work, according to their supervisor, the Rev. Scott Dadam, pastor of Portage’s River of Life Church, 102 W. Franklin St..
And, in the mind of City Administrator Shawn Murphy, they were a godsend.
According to Murphy, city officials sought bids for major work on the shelter, including a new roof and remodeling of the men’s and women’s restrooms to make them accessible to people with disabilities. But no construction company bid on the project, estimated to cost about $65,000.
“It was too small a project for contractors, and they were too busy,” he said.
Then Dadam stepped forward with a partial solution.
A group of teen and young adult volunteers from churches in Wisconsin and Minnesota was looking for service opportunities in the Portage area.
This week, River of Life Church is hosting more than 50 volunteers for the volunteer program, called Hands of Hope. In addition to working on the Pauquette Park shelter-restroom roof, the group also is working on other projects, including tending the Pauquette Park garden and working on downtown Portage buildings.
The labor is free, Murphy said, although the city is responsible for the cost of materials for the roof project.
Dadam said the volunteers plan to put a new steel roof on the shelter building, which still had its original roof from when it was built in the 1980s.
The roof is expected to be sturdy enough to withstand a hailstorm, he said.
“That roof will last 50 years,” Dadam said. “You’ll probably replace the building before you replace the roof.”
Dadam estimated about 30 of the Hands of Hope volunteers were at Pauquette Park on Monday afternoon, and many of them were on the roof.
Hands of Hope is working under the auspices of River of Life Church – where many of the volunteers are staying this week – and the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.
Murphy said plans call for city officials to seek bids for the restroom renovation only.
The project would not change the building’s footprint, he said, but it would entail remodeling the interior of the men’s and women’s restrooms to create one accessible stall in each.
The restroom work is part of a larger project at Pauquette Park, to build a multi-use performing arts pavilion.
The Portage Service Club Association has agreed to raise money to pay the full cost of the pavilion. The group had also originally included creating accessible restrooms in the project, but an opportunity to work on the shelter and restrooms, before the money is raised to start work on the shelter, presented itself to the city’s Parks and Recreation Board late last year.
The service clubs’ group and the Bidwell Foundation had planned to share a portion of the cost of the restroom and shelter project, with the city contributing about $33,000 to the endeavor.
The money and in-kind contributions for the project, including the Hands of Hope labor, would count toward the city’s match for a grant city officials are seeking from the state of Wisconsin, for a system of multi-use trails in Pauquette Park.
“We’re really grateful to Scott and his group, as well as Bidwell and the PSCA,” Murphy said.