Kisha Webster, President, Greenmount West Community Association

On a sunny Monday morning in October, Kisha Webster met us at the temporarily-quiet community space she’s been carefully crafting since January.  Earlier this year, a team of NDC volunteers helped put together space plans that captured the GWCA team’s ideas for a community center that feels exceptional, comfortable, flexible and welcoming. No small feat for a rough school basement with cinder block walls.

We explored options for furnishings, flow, and space uses, and were so excited to  see how the site has come together.  Big plans are afoot at the Greenmount West Community Center. Spoiler:  its FABULOUS.

NDC’s Volunteer Team:  Annette Ritchie, Maritinia Iliadi and Jimmy Leonard

Greenmount West Community Center Design Recommendations

Tell me about the NDC plan?

The plan is what, if we had gotten every dime in the world, we’d have implemented. But we’ve had to Stone Soup the space as we’ve gotten funding, donations, we’ve tried to make things work.  As we look at the plan, some of the things were what we were already thinking. Thinking about the computer lab, how to put the desks together….that was already there in our head, and then when they showed it, its like, YES, that will work.

We used the plans as that blueprint of how things could look, in the world of all worlds, how things could look for us. Now, could we get the expensive desks? No, we had to go to IKEA. We got some chairs donated.  We painted the chairs, those types of things.

So its a bunch of these little things…. and now everyone that comes in says, now THIS is different.  We didn’t want it to feel like a regular community center.

Well, looking at the plan that NDC did, it really made us start looking at things in a way, like, HMMMM, yeah we would love to do this, but we don’t have the funding, how can we get close to that?  It was almost like watching HGTV when they had Design on a Dime.  Thats what this became, it became like how do we make it look this nice when we don’t have that much money?  It became about taking our time to do things, being very strategic about how you purchase furniture, how you purchase items, we reached out to places where we got things like the white boards. 

Like, the Get Active Room: we knew we couldn’t do much in there, but we wanted to think about what we could do to bring life to it. S we said, lets put some of those foam tiles down and got a mural going.  The tiles really helped with the sound in the space. 

Its bold; the pop of color, the light, the message: that might be our most popular space (apart from these couches!) 

They fight over these couches.  They lay down, straight sprawling out.  And that is what this place is about, we want people to be comfortable here.  I had a 6’ man SLEEPING on this! I said “Sir, this was not made for you” and he said “I’m comfortable” so  I said, “well, I see that.”

When did you start?

We started in January.  The clearing out, cleaning, painting, getting furniture a little bit at a time.  We officially opened in March.  So we did a lot of late nights, had a lot of volunteers.

The floor being white and walls white, that was already done. We did every other space. It was great they did the base line (white paint). There was a lot of cleaning to do. The library was in the worst shape.  Getting the space together, getting it brighter.  There were books everywhere. Trying to just get them in one space, it was a workout.

We just focused on how to get it to the point that you would honestly WANT to be in the space.

How is the space working? You can do big events in here, you can do the weekly programming, too?

I love the fact we can move the furniture easily and do other things.  We had somebody’s college going away party, we moved everything back and it just works!  If you move everything out, this is a great presentation space, comfortably you can get 50 people in.

Thats something I’m mentally attached to; this is not just a space for children.  Wednesdays, and Fridays are senior and adult programming here so it has to be a place they feel comfortable just like the kids.

So over here, this is our small community space.  Our big community meetings are at Open Works…. Anything past 50 will be at Open Works or at the Montessori School, it depends what type of venue we need. Because this is just one of MANY spaces in our community and that is what we want people to see that we’re just not in this space, we have access to every thing in our community.   

It’s just looking so sharp in here.  How did you get it all done?

We’ve worked with Open Works and they’ve been very gracious and they have the skills to help us make things.  And make them the way they need to work.  So kind, so generous.

They did the high table with taller benches. What it used for, that depends… sometime the older children will sit there, you can plug your computer in, and they can work, snack.  Its a larger spot for larger children and adults.  We tried to make sure we had furniture in here where adults and children could sit comfortably.

I see a sign there for Noisy Tenants— are they a partner?

Yes, they are a partner.  Its an exchange of talent and skills.  It’s a community space. If someone wants to give us money, definitely, but its more about you bringing in your strengths to the space; what can you do that will enhance the  people and community- thats the exchange right there.  It definitely has moved on in a bigger way than we imagined.  We’d have to prepare ourselves for that; how does it impact your life, what does that look like? So it has become, its morphed to become this bigger entity.  And well, this was not the plan at all, but now its just like, I tell people I realize the importance of, when you open up your mouth, you better be ready to back up everything you say, because you can’t just talk.  And I realize that shocks people.

I’ll talk about me:  I’ll say something, and I will follow through on it.  What choice do you have?  You HAVE to be of your word. If you don’t, you lack integrity. You lack character. Thats part of all this.

We walked around and checked out lots of details and features.  Tell me what that one’s all about? (pointing to small text covering some of the ceiling pipes)

Putting the streets of Greenmount West up?… So that when people come in they can see themselves represented in the space.  Thats the thing, its all about the little details. And were gonna put the mission of the community association on the wall. So when people are sitting out there they can see what its all about.

Are there things we still need to do? Sure.

So…  Whats on your list?

We still have to get the art room together.  We knew we could be a bit more eclectic there. So whats on my list is to really get the the art room more centered. It feels like it looks right now….!  Its ALL over the place!  Yes, the computer is in there, yes we do robotics, yes, we paint in there.  I want to do Centers so we can get the space to show what we do. Right now its a hodge podge.  We kind of get it cause we’re in here.  But if anyone else came through, they’d wonder what goes on in here.  I don’t want people to ask us that. I want them to see.  We do 10 times the activities in there….Hydroponics on the window sill.  Its art and science, its STEAM all in one room.  We do have a lot of little children.  How do you get them to move in that space comfortably, like the older children do.  We need shorter tables, smaller chairs. We want things that are installed on the walls, you can pull things out, put them away.

So thats where its going. Right, thats my main next project.  Oh, and the computer lab, we need more computers!