Upper Cape Students Build Canopy

            The sound of nails being hammered and the smell of freshly sawn wood permeated the air on September 16, as students from Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne continued their in-field carpentry education led by instructor Andrew MacLeod at the Cushing Community Center in Marion.

            MacLeod, who previously owned a construction company and is a third-generation builder, said the students were motivated and enjoyed hands-on learning available through such schools.

            The Cushing Community Center has been metamorphizing since it came into the possession of the Town of Marion in 2016 as a donation from the Benjamin D. Cushing VFW post that was disbanding. What a difference six years can make.

            Since then, the town and significant grassroots volunteer efforts have phased in construction projects that have included necessary updates and repairs to the existing structure, ADA-compliant features, an outdoor walking path, a pavilion and the latest addition, a permanent canopy over the walkway to the main entrance. The end game is to provide the community with a center that serves people in all age groups.

            MacLeod said that the Upper Cape Tech students were from the junior and senior classes and were receiving real-world experiences that will lead to real-life skills. “We treat it just like any other job site,” he said. Those experiences include educating the students on proper safety measures, staging of materials and tools and the proper use of tools.

            Marion Town Administrator Jay McGrail said that it was important to phase in various projects and to find creative ways to secure funding. “I couldn’t cover the labor costs if the school didn’t agree to take this project on,” he said.

            This isn’t the first time Marion, as a member municipality in the school’s district, has benefited from the expertise available at Upper Cape (as it is known.) “They worked on Fire Station 2 on Point Road; it was top-notch construction,” said McGrail.

            Marion Facilities Director Shaun Cormier also praised the work done by the students. “The staff is very experienced, up-to-date on all the building codes and standards … we’re very happy to have the help, it’s a huge relief.” Cormier added a smile that his department is only himself and one other person.

            McGrail said that the town has earmarked $50,000 for a study of the parking lot, another improvement project on the horizon. But sooner than that will be an $80,000 garage addition that was approved at Town Meeting to provide dry storage.

            Without the commitment of volunteers to help him navigate all the moving parts of a construction project at the site, as well as selecting the right projects to advance, it would be very difficult, McGrail said.

            Enter Harry Norweb, Dianne Cosman and others.

            We caught up with Norweb who was quick to say, “it’s a team effort.” Norweb had been involved with the Marion of Council on Aging Board of Directors, which subsequently was dissolved when the Council on Aging staff expanded. But the need for community involvement to develop the former VFW site into a fully functioning community center did not abate. “The ideas got bigger and more diverse.”

            Today McGrail says he depends on Norweb and Cosman. Norweb pointed out the involvement of Nancy Braitmayer. Town departments are also part of the mix, Norweb said, from DPW member Jody Dickerson, Select Board Executive Assistant Donna Hemphill and Cormier.

            For now, Norweb said, they are focusing on what makes sense for the center in helping it become “vibrant.” He also took a moment to express his gratitude to Upper Cape, saying he strongly believes in technical education. “It’s a hot button for me.” He concluded by saying that having the students at the Community Center was, in a word, “exciting.”

By Marilou Newell

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