BREAD OF LIFE staff members recently held a meeting to discuss a collaborative civics project involving the organization’s new facility in Malden and students studying architecture at Melrose High School. Counterclockwise from the table’s head: Danny LeBlanc, Metro North Housing Corporation acting director; Larry Gottlieb, Metro North Housing Corporation board member; Chris Chitouras, Bread of Life board member; Paul Martell, Resolution Architects; Gabriella Snyder Stelmack, Bread of Life executive director; Patty Kelly, Bread of Life development director and Kaylee Sanford, student at Melrose High School. (Courtesy Photo)
Bread of Life, architecture students collaborate on building project
By GAIL LOWE
MALDEN—Construction of Bread of Life’s new facility at 54 Eastern Ave., Malden has begun, and a topping off ceremony is anticipated to take place in late spring this year.
The project, which comes at a time when food prices have risen to dizzying heights, began in April 2022 when students from Melrose High School, under the direction of CAD teacher Elizabeth “Betsy” Giovanardi, contacted Bread of Life to inquire about collaborating on a civics project for their architecture class.
“The students were interested in issues faced by homeless and low income families,” said Patty Kelly, development director for Bread of Life.
“They were learning about designing a food pantry, kitchen and community center that would be a welcoming place for families to gather,” Kelly added.
She and Bread of Life Executive Director Gabriella “Gaby” Snyder Stelmack met with the students and Giovanardi to learn about their project,” Kelly noted. “We knew this would be a great partnership.”
Bread of Life serves residents from 13 communities, including Melrose families, and Kelly believes it is a wonderful way to highlight the organization’s work in the Melrose area and to raise awareness about the work being done by students who care about their community and want to learn more about making a positive impact.
Since their initial meeting, Kelly and her colleagues have met with Bread of Life staff; Bread of Life’s project partner, Metro North Housing Corp.; Melrose High School students and Giovanardi, along with Paul Martell, architect from Resolution Architects.
“We will continue to meet and share ideas as the project moves forward,” Kelly said, adding that Bread of Life has solid support from the Melrose community, including residents, faith groups and businesses that host food drives for Bread of Life.
“Many Melrose families volunteer in the organization’s programs to help at our food pantry, evening meal service and other programs,” Kelly commented.
Bread of Life’s development director said she and her colleagues are grateful for all contributions, as each one enables them to do their work.
“This project is a great way to highlight the students’ enthusiasm for an interesting learning assignment,” said Kelly, “We are thrilled that they reached out, and we’re honored to collaborate on this exciting project.”
Outside materials and colors for the new building are currently under discussion. “The students have a great computer program that provides a mock-up of colors and materials,” said Kelly. “We are leaning toward earthy, warm colors that will be inviting for our families. It’s been great to see images of what the new building could look like—we appreciate the students’ help with technology and assistance in seeing our vision come to life.”
Bread of Life has owned the property since 2014, according to Kelly. Demolition crews have been on scene since September 2022.
About 54 Eastern Ave.
54 Eastern Ave. is centrally located and is easily accessible by public transportation and along the Northern Strand Community Bike Trail, said Kelly.
“Bread of Life’s Under One Roof building project will create a game-changing physical asset that will permanently enhance the organization’s services: the construction of a new, all-inclusive home for Bread of Life at 54 Eastern. Ave. in Malden that will bring our kitchen, food pantries, multi-service dining hall and offices under one roof,” she said.
Benefits of the project
- Expand Bread of Life’s capacity through this 20,000 sq. ft. facility to grow programs, providing more people with more food, through well-designed, efficient space and control over its use. The new facility will include a dining/multi-service hall; commercial-grade kitchen; increased space for food storage; capacity to provide full pantry choice for patrons of the food pantry; increased refrigerator/freezer capacity; increased staffing and programming space.
- Increase efficiency, improve and increase services by centralizing all Bread of Life programs and administration.
• Eliminate administrative, financial and program instability created by fluctuating rent and service locations that have caused frequent displacement of our programs and use of spaces poorly suited to the organization’s needs.
• Expand programming capacity through a multi-use community space for community meetings, cultural events, classes, workforce development and more. Bread of Life has provided opportunities for the community to participate in free English classes and to obtain services such as COVID and flu shots, dental hygiene awareness and financial literacy though collaboration with local providers. The new facility will enable Bread of Life to expand these services.
• Help brand Bread of Life by creating a central, recognizable facility.
• Provide an accessible location for all programs. Guests, staff and volunteers (many of whom are elderly) suffer from having inaccessible or partially accessible spaces.
- Expand impact on individuals in poverty by constructing 14 permanent studio apartments to be owned by Metro North Housing Corp. (MNHC), a non-profit corporation, to house 14 low-income formerly homeless individuals.
- Provide services for the tenants, including access to the meals program, food pantry and all educational, cultural and community activities provided in the multi-service hall.
- Transform the existing commercial, utilitarian, blacktopped area of the site, which for years abutted the railroad tracks (now the Northern Strand Community Trail), into green space for use by the public as well as tenants and patrons of the food and multi-service programs. A pocket park at the Eastern Ave. entrance to the site will be used for passive recreational purposes and provide an accessible public walkway from Eastern Avenue to the Trail through the site.