Teen Challenge Center gets overhaul from Ace Hardware $10,000 grant

A few of the helpful hardware men made the Macon Teen Challenge Center a better place Tuesday.

About 40 volunteers from midstate Ace Hardware stores, a couple of churches and several service contractors spent the day refurbishing the Houston Avenue building that is home to a ministry that helps people with substance abuse and addiction problems rebuild their lives.

Led by Ace spokesman Lou Manfredini, the “Helpful Hardware Man,” the volunteers used a $10,000 “New Faces for Helpful Places” grant to paint the inside of the center, install new carpet and laminate flooring, put in a new heating and air conditioning system, install new bathroom fixtures, landscape the outside and install new fencing.

“We’re ecstatic,” center director Chris Trivolis said as he and the 12 current residents helped with the renovation.

“We were more than surprised when we learned (in October) that we were one of the 10 programs chosen for this year’s makeovers. There’s no way we could have afforded to do all this ourselves.”

It’s the fourth year of Ace’s makeover program — the 33rd project, Manfredini said — and just the second year it has been open to solicitations from the public. Trivolis said he and his wife wrote the 100-word entry essay and then forgot about it after submitting it.

“We were shocked when they showed up in October to tell us we had been chosen,” he said.

Manfredini said there were 2,600 requests for this year’s grants. Those were narrowed down to 100 over the summer, and then 10 were chosen in the fall for the grants.

“We look for nonprofits that are helping people and could use some help themselves,” he explained. “We concentrate more on the small charities like this who don’t have a big megaphone to get their message out to attract support.

“Anyone could use a $10,000 makeover, but it means even more to a smaller organization like this.”

Volunteers from the three Macon Ace Hardware stores, one in Perry and another in Fort Valley were helping Tuesday, and stores in Byron, Warner Robins and Lizella also sent supplies and equipment, said region manager Ron Odom.

“Our local stores sent people and supplies to help out with Ace’s Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort, but this is the first time we’ve had a program in our area. So we were very happy the corporate office chose to come here,” he said.

Trivolis said there are 370 Teen Challenge centers in the United States. The Macon center, which opened five years ago, serves adult males.

“We have a boys home in Griffin, another men’s center in Dublin and women’s and girls centers in the Columbus area,” he said.

The Macon center is licensed to house up to 18 men seeking help with addictions and other similar problems.

“But we try to keep it to 12 to 16 at a time to ease up on crowding,” Trivolis said.

The program lasts 12 to 14 months. Those who are enrolled live at the centers and attend classes and do chores during the morning, then work in outside programs in the afternoon.

“We work with Keep Macon-Bibb County Beautiful and other benevolent groups some, and we hire out to do other work projects in the community — spring cleaning, remodeling, whatever. The money we take in goes back into the program to pay expenses,” Trivolis said.

“Our goal is to help the teens and adults become responsible for their own actions and get their lives back in order, and hopefully help them get an idea about a career they can pursue,” he said.