A new home for The Lake House

Arrangement helps support group, local school district

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 8, 2017

 The Creative Space is used for crafting, kids crafts and euchre.

The Creative Space is used for crafting, kids crafts and euchre.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local cancer support center is getting 2017 off to a good start in a new location with more space and a network of other nonprofit agencies.

The Lake House — a gathering space for those touched by cancer that provides support, education, therapy and social activities for its members — moved Dec. 28 from its initial 2,800-square-foot space on Little Mack Avenue to 5,200 square feet of space inside the former Pare Elementary School in South Lake Schools, which has been empty since June 2009.

“We outgrew our space,” said Lake House Executive Director Madeline Bialecki. “It was just the one room, and we were really limited in what we could offer because we could only offer one thing at a time.”

With visits doubling in the last two years, The Lake House board formed an ad hoc committee a year ago to find new space. That led them to Pare Elementary, where they are renting three classrooms and two offices from South Lake Schools.

South Lake Superintendent Ted Von Hiltmayer said that Pare Elementary, 23500 Pare St., was for sale for five years, but several deals to purchase the building fell through, and so the district began investigating how else the building could be used.

The district spends $50,000-$60,000 annually to maintain the building — including water, electricity and to keep the heat on — so by renting out the rooms, it is hoping to recoup some of those costs.

“Schools are nonprofits, so it seemed to make a whole lot of sense,” Von Hiltmayer said. “Basically utility the building so that somebody’s in the building, (and) we get to keep the building as an asset to the district.”

The district is working with some other nonprofit groups to rent other rooms in the building as well. 

“Right now we have as many as ... four nonprofit organizations that may be interested in coming into the building,” he said.

Bialecki said The Lake House is working with the school district to turn the building into a sort of “nonprofit incubator.”

“For nonprofits, for us to be able to have some synergy with other nonprofits, it’s wonderful,” she said. 

She said they’re looking to partner with the school district in other ways as well, including contacting the high school’s culinary program to cater The Lake House’s open house.

A month into the move, Bialecki said they’re working out the kinks and making the space their own with help from a local decorator and other volunteers. 

“The community has been incredibly generous,” she said. “It’s been good; it’s been hectic.”

Now, she said, they have one room just set up for support group meetings with a door that closes for privacy and to block outside noise. Another room is set up for crafts, so tables and supplies don’t have to be taken down for each session. Each room has way more storage space than The Lake House’s prior location.

“Our members are very happy with it,” Bialecki said. 

Von Hiltmayer agreed that the arrangement is working out well for both sides.

“South Lake isn’t getting rich on this. It’s just a way to offset our costs,” Von Hiltmayer said. “We’re doing something good, we feel, for the community.

“These are organizations that are working in our community, that are doing good things for students in our community, for people in the county.”

Nonprofit organizations interested in space at Pare Elementary should call (586) 435-1600.

To help raise money for The Lake House, which provides services to members at no charge, there will be a comedy night, Laughs for The Lake House, April 27 at Assumption Cultural Center. Tickets cost $50. Call (586) 777-7761 for tickets or more information.

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