Thanks to a $100,000 anonymous gift, the West Virginia University Hillel is nearing completion of a massive renovation project at its University Avenue house.
The project, which began Dec. 15, is done except for an exterior painting of the building. Inside, there are few areas of the three-story converted warehouse that have not been upgraded.
Among the changes:
• The kitchen and bathrooms were expanded and modernized;
• wiring was brought up to code;
• windows were replaced;
• the back deck was refinished;
• walls were rebuilt; and
• heating was upgraded and air conditioning installed.
“The only thing we haven’t done is paint the outside which will be done in a month or so,” said Bennett Millstone, president of the West Virginia Hillel Commission. “We’re getting bids on that right now.”
The color scheme will be left to the Hillel students. “They’ve done a lot of work,” said Millstone.
Hillel students have long wanted to put a fresh face on their digs, said Co-Director Heidi Solomon.
“They sort of got the process started,” she said. “We knew the building was old and had a lot of issues. For a long time we thought maybe we could raise enough money for a new Hillel house and that was the plan for a long time, but reality sunk in.”
So the students worked to keep the building clean. They painted the interior. Most of all they lobbied the commission board for funds to make improvements.
Their efforts have finally paid off.
“It’s a great transition,” Solomon said.
The Hillel house is located at an intersection of University Avenue where WVU plans a major gateway to its Downtown campus. Work on the gateway has already begun.
The commission originally scheduled a more modest $25,000 renovation project, which was to begin this summer. But the board decided to move up the start of construction after the anonymous gift came in last November.
Millstone won’t identify the donor, who is a West Virginia resident, just now, but he said a “grand viewing” is being planned for the fall when the name will be disclosed.
To date, $75,000 has been spent on renovations.
West Virginia University has approximately 20,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students. Of those numbers, Hillel estimates 900 students are Jewish.
Beyond the scope of this project, Hillel hopes to get an unused elevator in the building back into operation.
“It hasn’t worked for 20 years,” Millstone said. “We know who put it in and what companyy owns the rights to it. I would love to do that, and make it [the Hillel building] handicapped accessible.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)