By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — An apartment in Schenectady City Mission’s transitional housing program represents a clean start. After months of planning and two days of hard work with friends and family, Niskayuna High School senior Alex Carpenter ensured one unit had clean walls, carpet and appliances to match.
When he began to plan his Eagle Scout project, a capstone for Boy Scouts that enables them to reach the organization’s highest rank, Carpenter knew he wanted to continue his work at the City Mission. He’d been volunteering there with his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since he was 12 years old. He called the volunteer coordinator there, who suggested he renovate an apartment.
Transitional housing at the mission is for people who are learning to support themselves, often while recovering from an addiction. The apartments house one to three people and are available for two years at a time, during which residents have 24-hour access to support staff. They receive guidance and counseling while they form new habits and make new friends.
“It’s so those people can have a place away from their old homes so they don’t go back to their old habits,” Carpenter said.
He was excited to get started on the project at his longtime choice for community service.
“It’s my history with them that really makes it special,” he said of his project.
His lengthy to-do list included repainting the walls, replacing the carpet, deep-cleaning the entire unit and some other minor repairs such as replacing smoke detectors that had been removed by the previous tenant.
To make sure no financial burden fell on the City Mission, Carpenter got right to work calling local businesses. He gathered paint from Sherwin-Williams on State Street, cleaning supplies from Hannaford, light fixtures and smoke detectors from Marty’s True Value on Van Vranken Avenue and gift cards from other donors.
He said the planning process, including gathering supplies, was educational.
“It was interesting being able to talk to businesses,” Carpenter said. “I learned a lot about time management. We had to push the project back a couple of times.”
His efforts were guided by previous experiences such as helping his family move last summer and working as a lifeguard on school breaks. He’s no stranger to cleaning products and was ready to lead the charge against leftover mess.
Once planning was completed, Carpenter and his team of volunteers took just 12 hours to complete their work. They scrubbed the place spotless Sept. 23, then painted and installed hardware a couple of days later.
More to do
Carpenter’s work still isn’t done — he’s promised to raise $300 so the City Mission can use its own contractor to replace the carpet in its transitional unit. But he’s confident he can meet that goal, and when he does, he knows the result will be meaningful for someone in need.
“I [recently] got to meet someone who lives in the apartments,” Carpenter said, and they talked for a while.
“It feels good knowing I had an impact,” he said. “People come to the City Mission looking for help.”
After he completes his senior year, Carpenter hopes to attend Brigham Young University in Utah and major in computer engineering with a minor in computer science. But even after he leaves his hometown, he plans to continue to find opportunities for community service, just as he has since he was little. After his work at the mission, he knows how important volunteer work can be for helping a nonprofit meet its goals.
“It gave me an appreciation for the work nonprofits do,” Carpenter said. “It’s difficult to respond to changing circumstances when you have limited resources.”