Upower: Combining physical fitness & confidence for youth

Growing up, there was never any question about whether or not I would be able to play softball for my high school. I played co-ed tee ball when I was 8, then graduated to slow-pitch for a community center team in middle school, and finally moved on to fast-pitch at Roosevelt High School. I had my very own uniform with a bright green “22” on the back of my gold-and black-striped jersey and stretchy Kelly green pants.

Sure, I didn’t have the nicest mitt in the outfield and sometimes getting to and from practice or games was difficult with two working parents and no car to transport myself. But I never questioned that playing sports was something that would ever be out of reach for me or anybody else. That it was a privilege within itself. Until I heard about Upower.

Andrea & Deiosha

Andrea & Deiosha

Upower is a nonprofit organization that brings fitness activities, specifically CrossFit, to high school teens in underserved communities. For families living on low incomes, opportunities for physical activity can be few and far between. Not all teens can afford participation in club or varsity sports, so Upower partners agencies that serve youth and local schools with fitness outlets to offer this free afterschool program that focuses on improving physical fitness in a safe environment for youth.

This year, a guidance counselor at Roosevelt High School looking to recruit more teens for the program put Jill Beck, co-founder and coach at Upower, in contact with Joanna Tarr, Children’s Advocate for the youth living on our Sand Point Housing Campus. “Being able to work with someone who knows these kids as much as Joanna does enables us to make sure the kids are successful. That’s why the partnership is important,” says Jill.

Attendance is mandatory for students and coaches. The experienced fitness coaches – in which there are at least two in every class – act as mentors for the teens, so they’re expected to have a “90% attendance rate, which is the same as the students. When you can’t come to work, you don’t just NOT show up! We’ve established that with our kids. They want to be accountable,” says Jill.

When it comes to the instructors, “We expect them to develop those relationships with these kids. When they develop a relationship, talk a little bit of trash back and forth, then that’s great.” Jill earned her spot as a crowd favorite. “Jill was there, always on top of things, making sure you had a goal in the first place. I bonded a lot with Jill,” says Andrea Rodriguez Fabian, 16, one of the Roosevelt students living at Sand Point who participated in the program.

Another participant, Deiosha Sparks, 15, says of the coaches, “They don’t let you slack or anything. They make sure you have done something new each day. They let you do what you do best. And you’ll be coming home sore and sweaty but after that day you’ll be like, ‘Wow, did I just do that?’ You feel really good about yourself!” Even Joanna noticed the positive effects of the workouts. “They would come home every day a little sweaty, looking a little tired, but with big smiles on their faces.” Even though school is out for summer, those smiles were still present.

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest-to-bar pull-ups!

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest to bar pull-ups!

“They push you hard to reach your goals, and they try to make it fun, too. I had some trouble with the pull-ups but I managed to try it out and put myself out there,” says Andrea. Andrea started the program stepping onto a 12-inch box, but by the end of the program was jumping onto an 18-inch box! Deiosha says, “It made me reach higher for my goals. Because I’m very active, but I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength, so it made me push harder to try something new.” Like chest to bar pull-ups. “I had never gotten my chest all the way up so one day I did it and I was really excited.” Deiosha says excitedly, reliving the moment as she speaks.

The classes are designed to help kids maintain a healthy weight and develop healthy habits – lifting their physical confidence – which can positively affect their academic performance. Beyond the goals of physical fitness, the UPower classes use an inclusive approach: the belief that anyone can be an athlete, as long as they believe in themselves. And this belief can also have an impact on the mental health of teens. “It’s about cheering on other people,” says Jill. Obviously, it works. “My confidence,” Andrea smiles when I ask her what she gained from the program. Andrea also recognizes the intensity of the classes, but encourages others to participate if they have the opportunity. “At first it might seem hard, but by the end it’s all worth it for your own benefit,” she says. Deiosha nods in agreement. “It’s very positive because it makes you think you can do things you never thought you could do.”

In order to create that positive attitude in class, instructors focus on creating activities that are inclusive of all levels of fitness and socioeconomic backgrounds. “For example, we held a Nutrition Challenge in the spring. Our nutritionist didn’t make it about shopping at Whole Foods, because not everybody can afford that. The first week of our challenge was to substitute water for sugary beverages. That doesn’t cost you anything; that actually saves you money!” Jill explained.

Inclusion seems to be a common theme at Upower. Every new student is interviewed in order to get to know them and their ambitions, as well as any existing obstacles such as lack of workout attire, which is graciously donated to UPower by members of Northwest Crossfit (NWCF).“They feel normal when they’re not wearing ‘kind-of, sort-of’ workout clothes,” says Jill. The space is also donated by Jake Platt, NWCF owner.

Moving forward, Jill tells me that, “We look forward to expanding the partnership for the upcoming school year. We’re there to provide a positive place for these kids. We don’t know what’s going on with them or what challenges they have, but we reward good attitude and effort and pushing yourself to be better than what you were an hour earlier. We hope to act as a stepping stone that can help the kids break the cycle of poverty.”

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Genesis of anti-racism work at Solid Ground

Because racism is a root cause of poverty, Solid Ground works to undo institutional racism both internally at Solid Ground and in the broader community. In this brief video, former Executive Director Cheryl Cobbs Murphy tells the story of how this nonprofit human services agency became committed to anti-racism social change organizing.

Cheryl Cobbs Murphy 2007

Cheryl Cobbs Murphy with Ron Chisom at the 2007 Seattle Human Services Coalition’s awards ceremony

Solid Ground committed to this work in 2001, and over the last 13 years we have:

  • Trained staff in Undoing Institutional Racism and cultural competency.
  • Formed a multi-racial, staff-driven Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) to organize internally and identify and prioritize anti-racism actions to better serve our clients.
  • Engaged staff and community members to recognize and take action against racism in our own lives and communities.

In 2007, the Seattle Human Services Coalition recognized Solid Ground’s anti-racism work, presenting Executive Director Cheryl Cobbs Murphy the inaugural Ron Chisom Anti-Racism Award.

It was 40 years ago…

Come meet founders, myths and urban legends at:

VOICES of COMMUNITY, Thursday May 8, 7-9pm
The Fremont Abbey Arts Center (4272 Fremont Ave N)

Hear from the horse’s mouth, or at least from the dog on Waiting for the Interurban, about  40+ years of innovation, partnership, hell-raising and action to end poverty.

Thanks to Fremont Brewing Company for creating a special 40th Anniversary Ale that will be on sale!

Sgt. Pepper cover with FPA faces

 

Santos Place improvements

When Community Action was launched through LBJ’s War on Poverty in 1964, weatherization programs were a key component of our work. For many years Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground) offered Minor Home Repair and weatherization services. Now, we are delighted to be completing the first phase of preservation and energy updates to Santos Place, a former Navy barracks that provides transitional housing for 42 formerly homeless men and women at Magnuson Park.

The scope of work includes installation of a new roof, insulation in walls, and new windows and siding. These improvements, along with a new boiler system, will generate about $25,000 in annual energy savings for the building and create a facility that is warmer in the winter and a cooler during warm weather.

South side of Santos Place with protective plastic wrap

South side of Santos Place with protective plastic wrap

South side of Santos Place, before new siding is installed.

South side of Santos Place, before new siding is installed

The first phase of preservation is funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce, City of Seattle HomeWise Program and Solid Ground. Ally Community Development is our developer, Environmental Works is our architect, and Walsh Construction Co. is our contractor.

Housing shapes up at Magnuson Park

Sand Point Housing construction continues apace at Magnuson Park. Solid Ground is adding permanent supportive housing for previously homeless families, single men and women. We hope to have the two new buildings complete late this year and leased up soon thereafter.

Framing of Building 5 along Sand Point Way.

Framing of Building 5 along Sand Point Way.

Building 4, nestled in the courtyard of Brettler Family Place.

Building 4, nestled in the courtyard of Brettler Family Place.

Building 5 takes shape south of the long barracks building on Sand Point Way.

Building 5 takes shape south of the long barracks building on Sand Point Way.

Building 5 from the balcony of the Lowry Community Center.

Building 5 from the balcony of the Lowry Community Center.

Once completed, the new facilities will bring to 200 the total number of homes at Sand Point for formerly homeless people!

Supportive housing taking shape at Sand Point

The final phase of Solid Ground’s housing development at the former Naval Station Puget Sound is taking place along Sand Point Way and just to the east of our Brettler Family Place.

Building 5, view from the south

Building 5, view from the south

Building 5, now being framed in the area just south of the long brick historic barracks building, contains five family homes as well as housing for 33 single men and women.

Building 4, which is nestled into the southeast side of Brettler Family Place, contains 16 homes for families.

When the facilities are completed in December, Solid Ground will be operating 99 homes for formerly homeless families and 75 for formerly homeless men and women on the campus. All residents receive supportive services to make the Sand Point campus a a model stepping stone from supportive housing to long-term personal stability.

Building 4, view from the north; this meadow will eventually be turned into a playground for the 200 children who will live on site.

Building 4, view from the north; this meadow will eventually be turned into a playground for the 200 children who will live on site.

For more information, go to our website.

Solid Ground names new leadership team

Gordon McHenry, Jr., Solid Ground President & CEO

Gordon McHenry, Jr., Solid Ground President & CEO

Solid Ground is pleased to announce that Gordon McHenry, Jr. has been named President & Chief Executive Officer. McHenry most recently served as the Executive Director of the Rainier Scholars, a Seattle-based academic enrichment and leadership development agency. Rainier Scholars increases college graduation rates for low-income students of color by providing comprehensive support from 6th grade until college graduation.

Solid Ground also announces that Sandi Cutler has been named Chief Operations & Strategy Officer. Instrumental in the growth of Bastyr University and other agencies, Cutler brings significant strategic, operational and organizational development experience.

The hirings highlight a time of intentional introspection and change at the King County nonprofit, as the agency implements a new strategic plan calling for increased collaboration and coordination among its services.

“We are thrilled to bring this talented leadership team to Solid Ground,” stated Lauren McGowan, Solid Ground Board Chair. “We undertook a national search and in our own backyard found leadership whose careers and life stories embody the notion of creating opportunity for all to thrive,” she said.

“People in our communities continue to suffer from the prolonged economic downturn,” McGowan said. “As an agency, we are being called on to do more, often with less. Gordon and Sandi have the vision and skills to expand Solid Ground’s response to poor and oppressed people, as well as our advocacy to address root causes of social injustice.”

“Fundamentally, it’s about leadership,” McHenry said. “We envision Solid Ground being perceived as a key leader when it comes to addressing economic disparities.”

McHenry previously served in a variety of executive leadership roles in The Boeing Company, most recently as Director of Global Corporate Citizenship in the Northwest Region. A lifelong member of the Seattle community, McHenry has served on many local boards, including the Central Area Motivation Program (now called Centerstone), United Way and The Seattle Public Library. He currently serves on the boards of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and Seattle University.

McHenry’s father was the first African-American engineer promoted into management at Boeing, as well as the first person in his family to graduate from college. His mother grew up and was educated in a segregated community in Texas. Their experiences gave their children deep respect for education and a strong belief in being active community leaders.

Cutler’s father led efforts to desegregate public schools in the Central Valley of California. His legacy bore fruit in Cutler’s early work as a political activist and management of progressive political campaigns and reform efforts.

“I am delighted to team up with Sandi Cutler. His activist roots and organizational development experience will help Solid Ground strengthen our community by giving more people the firm foundation they need to succeed,” McHenry said.

Ruth Massinga, Interim CEO since August 2011, will continue working with Solid Ground through the fall on several strategic initiatives.

“Ruth stepped out of retirement and guided us through a strategic refocusing. We are indebted to her for the gift of leadership,” McGowan said.

Additional housing coming to Magnuson Park

The Solid Ground Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to move forward with the final phase of housing construction at Magnuson Park/Sand Point. Fifty-four new units are planned. This will bring the total number of housing units for formerly homeless people at the former Navy Base to the 200 outlined in the City of Seattle’s Reuse Plan.

Site plan for Sand Point

We will begin pre-development activities and submit funding applications to the City of Seattle, King County and State of Washington, as well as an application for federal tax-credits. If all goes as planned, we hope to break ground in February 2012 and complete construction in late 2012.

This part of the project will be constructed on two sites, one building which dovetails with the Brettler Family Place footprint and another across the street from Santos Place. The 54 permanent housing units will be for families and singles.

Solid Ground will continue working with the developer, Common Ground, and architect firm, Tonkin Hoyne, who partnered with us on Brettler Family Place.

Brettler Family Place: The finished product!

We’ve recently celebrated the Grand Opening of Brettler Family Place and shared with you photos of the event. But we realized that those shots were primarily of speakers and guests, so we wanted to give you a better view of what the completed Brettler Family Place looks like. The following slideshow gives you the goods. Also, we have been documenting the past year of construction. Can you tell that we are proud of this development?

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While Brettler Family Place ends homelessness for 51 families, we are not quite done with our housing development at Magnuson Park. Stage 2 of this project will include 20 additional housing units for families, as well as 34 units for single men and women, including veterans, seniors and people living with disabilities.

The overall cost of the entire project is in the neighborhood of $30 million. Thanks to many generous people and institutions in our community, we are very close to completing our fundraising. In fact, we have only $515,000 in private funding left to raise! If you would like more information on the project, contact Ali Friedman: alif@solid-ground.org.

First tenants move in at Brettler Family Place

If you listened carefully this morning, you could hear the soft padding of young feet in jammies in the hallways at Brettler Family Place. Tea kettles whistled and warm voices called “wake up,” where once the drone of air compressors and the pop of impact drivers filled the soundscape.

Kelly, our first resident!

For the past year, the sounds and sights of construction have dominated this little hillside on the western edge of Magnuson Park. Now, homemaking has taken over. Because yesterday, the first dozen families moved from shelter and transitional housing facilities across the region into their new, permanent, affordable homes at Brettler Family Place.

“This is the beginning of something great for me,” said Joyce, who called her car ‘home’ not too long ago. She was all smiles as she approached her apartment for the first time, its third floor views extending across Magnuson Park to Lake Washington and the Cascade mountains.

Monday afternoon, six new families received their orientation by staff at Solid Ground, who developed the 52-unit Brettler Family Place, and Mercy Housing, who are managing the property. They went over ground rules and guidelines for making this new community a safe, welcoming, environmentally-friendly one. For some, it was the first permanent housing they have ever had; for others, the first in a long time.

Orientation with staff of Solid Ground and Mercy Housing

The first 12 families got their keys on March 7. Within a few weeks, 51 units will be filled with formerly homeless families. In the context of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, this represents significant progress: Within a few weeks, homelessness will be over for these 51 families. The supportive services on site will help ensure that they maintain their new position on solid ground.

And all around King County, as these families exit the facilities they have been living in, other families anticipate moving into now-vacant slots at transitional housing programs. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of candidates for those programs.

Throughout the spring, the landscaping at Brettler Family Place will take root – and the yard, which still reminds you of a construction zone, will fill in. The Lowry Community Center will open to host casual get-togethers and formal events. Kids will ride their bikes in the park. And life will start to settle down from the crisis-driven cycle of homelessness to something more even-keeled. From beautiful buildings will come a vibrant community.

Landscapers still working at Brettler Family Place

The process of transforming a formal military airfield, one of the nation’s foremost “swords in ploughshares” conversions, will come a step closer to fulfilling its promise of 200 housing units for formerly homeless folks. Sometime in the next year, Solid Ground hopes to launch the final phase of the development, constructing additional family units as well as housing for veterans and other singles.

When the Naval Station Puget Sound was first listed for base closure in the mid-1990s, there was a tremendous outpouring of ideas about how to best use the remarkable facilities and setting. Throughout a multi-year, city-wide planning process, the Sand Point Liaison Committee – under the leadership of former City Council member Jeannette Williams – helped the city craft a plan that incorporated recreational, cultural, educational and other uses. The notion of housing formerly homeless people on the site was proposed early on in the planning process. While there was some trepidation at first, it was soon roundly accepted by the Committee, which represented most of the community clubs and neighborhood organizations in the NE part of the city, as well as other park stakeholders.

Living in transitional housing is not the best time to collect lots of stuff

I had the privilege of serving as the alternate representative for the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness to the Liaison Committee. In that role I saw how initial fears about locating housing for formerly homeless people in the park transformed into concerns about how we could work together to build the best possible community for these people. Since Spring 2000, when families and singles first moved in to repurposed Navy buildings, neighbors from the surrounding community have invested their time, talent and love in making the Sand Point Community Housing program successful. Individuals and groups from “up the hill” continue to help shape and support this growing community.

But for the families who moved in yesterday, that is all just old business. For parents like Justine, their sights are set on the future.

While Justine thinks about a better future, Analiyah thinks about a nap.

Justine is a 20-year-old single mom, who, along with her young daughter Analiyah, moved into her first real home yesterday. “I’ve never had my own permanent housing before,” Justine said. Kicked out of her family as a teen, she’s had a handful of challenging years. But now, Brettler Family Place is giving her the stability to pursue a nursing career. She’s almost finished with her prerequisites at a local community college. Her sense of hope, and that of her new neighbors, is as powerful as the promise of spring. And like the blooms that will soon overtake the park, new life is shooting up at Brettler Family Place.

Townhomes, views to Lake Washington

A fond farewell, a fitting tribute

Talking up the campaign for Brettler Family Place

Today Solid Ground bids a fond farewell to Zanne Garland, our Individual Giving Manager. Zanne has pretty much revolutionized our fundraising approach and our ability to engage individuals, companies and groups in our work. She has more than doubled our Annual Campaign Revenues and helped raise the funds to build Brettler Family Place at Sand Point, which will provide permanent housing for 51 families starting later this Spring.

Those of you who have had the chance to get to know her will agree that Zanne is both a blast to spend time with and a rising star whose brilliance has graced our community for the four years she has been with us. She’ll have a positive impact wherever she goes; for the next few months, that will be traveling the world with her husband, Jackson.

In honor of Zanne’s great work at Solid Ground and in our community, Solid Ground has created the Zanne Garland Fund to support the completion of the Sand Point Housing Capital Campaign. Please consider honoring and carrying forth Zanne’s leadership and service with a gift to this fund. Click here for our Sand Point Capital Campaign donation page, and if you choose to make a gift to the Zanne Garland Fund, please specify that your gift is in honor of Zanne.

 

Brettler Family Place will open in a few weeks, providing permanent housing for 51 families!

 

Transitional housing: a personal success story

Editor’s Note: For many women and children, escaping domestic violence (DV) is a root cause of their homelessness. Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing program serves primarily women and their children who are working to survive domestic violence and rebuild stable lives. The following story was written by a recent resident of Broadview and our Sand Point Family Housing program. While she is not sharing her name in order to protect herself, she is very open about her experience. Her story is direct, honest and moving as it documents the difficult path DV survivors must walk to reclaim their lives. We are honored to be able to share it with you.

In September 2008, my daughter and I went into hiding from my daughter’s father by moving into Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter. Despite the fact that this shelter was confidential, my ex had searched the neighborhood and found my car parked there. Because of this, the advocates at Broadview relocated us to a shelter in Kent.

Three months went by as my daughter and I resided safely in Kent. I spent every day trying to find some type of transitional housing; our time in the Kent shelter was strictly limited. My income level couldn’t afford us to pay market rent. We gratefully received public assistance and I also received SSI, as I have a disability. On top of that, I did part-time nanny work as much as possible. But with all of these, it was still not enough to pay market rent. My daughter and I don’t have family in the Northwest. I knew that our only viable choice was to find transitional housing. Continue reading

Skins, interiors & Community Center at Sand Point

All of the buildings on our Sand Point campus are now framed in, including the Community Center. Brick and siding is progressing on the 52 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless families, while interiors are making great progress as well. Some of the townhomes have cabinets installed and are feeling nearly finished! The apartments are still getting wired, insulated and buttoned up with wallboard. It is a real hive of activity, with completion date about four months away! Enjoy the photos…  And if you want to support the project, go to our website and click on the orange donate button! Thanks!

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Composite view of apartments from the west

A great place to live for people who need a home!

This Saturday is the Open House at our new housing development at Magnuson Park – Sand Point. This video explains more about the project, which initially will include Brettler Family Place, 52 apartments and townhomes for formerly homeless families, as well as a Community Center.

MORE INFORMATION:

Family Open House at Sand Point: Sat., 10/16/10, 1-3:30pm

Have you wanted to check out the construction of housing for formerly homeless families at Magnuson Park / Sand Point but just haven’t gotten out there yet? Do you work in the area and want to show your friends what’s going on? Have you donated to the On Solid Ground at Sand Point Capital Campaign and want to see the progress to date? Do you want to introduce a friend to volunteering or supporting new housing at Sand Point or Solid Ground in general?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this FREE Open House at Sand Point is for you! We’ve invited about 12,000 neighbors and all of our donors.
Join us to celebrate the construction of new housing for families and individuals at Magnuson Park / Sand Point!

Block party at Sand Point, summer 2008

Block party at Sand Point, summer 2008

WHAT:
Family Open House

WHEN:
Sat., 10/16/10
1:00 – 3:30pm

WHERE:
Santos Place
Community Room
6940 62nd Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115

TOURS:
Starting every 30 minutes, tours include a 20- to 30-minute walk up to see the progress of the construction (not a hard-hat tour!).

COOKING DEMONSTRATIONS:
~1:30pm: Learn how to create a fun, healthy kids’ school lunch.
~2:30pm: Learn how to make a delicious, budget-friendly, French appetizer from the new neighborhood restaurant, Chloé, a French Bistrot.

SUPPORT FAMILIES:
Please bring gently used or new pots, pans or dishes for the Sand Point Housing resource room to support formerly homeless families and individuals.

RSVP to Zanne Garland:
zanneg@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6862 – but it’s also fine to just show up! Several Solid Ground staff will be present to answer questions about the progress to date, timeline, fundraising goals, volunteer opportunities, and other ways to support formerly homeless families and individuals. This is not a fundraiser, but we’ll be happy to sign people up for our mailing list for progress updates.

VOLUNTEER at the EVENT:
We can use help with checking people in, assisting with cooking demonstrations, assisting or leading tours, set up and clean up, etc. Interested? Also let Zanne know!

MORE INFORMATION:

Brick and siding work begin on Brettler Family Place

Framing is almost complete on the housing units Solid Ground is building at Magnuson Park/Sand Point. As this photo essay shows, the exterior brick and siding is just starting to go on. In the middle of the site, the Community Center is starting to take shape; its walls ought to be raised next week. Here are the latest images from Brettler Family Place:

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Poppy with housing in background

Hope

Brettler Family Place framing almost complete

Here are the latest photos of the new housing Solid Ground is developing at Magnuson Park for formerly homeless families. The townhomes and apartments are almost completely framed in. The Community Center will shape up soon.

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Composite of northern units

Rooms with a view at Brettler Family Place

Marpac Construction is rapidly framing up Solid Ground’s 52 new townhouses and apartments for formerly homeless families at Magnuson Park/Sand Point. The following slideshow includes the first ever images from inside the project, giving a more intimate view of the construction and a taste of the views residents will enjoy when they start moving in next summer. If you want to learn more or give your support to the project, please go to our website.

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Flowering future

Brettler Family Place photo essay

The latest images from Brettler Family Place at Magnuson Park/Sand Point. By next year this time, the air hammers and heavy equipment that resound around these soon-to-be 52 housing units for formerly homeless families will be replaced by the sounds of kids playing!

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Family housing site from the south showing buildings in progress and foundations being readied for construction

Brettler Family Place taking shape at Sand Point

Cool: The 52 units of housing for formerly homeless families that Solid Ground is building at Sand Point/Magnuson Park are really starting to take shape! First floor walls on two of the legs of townhouses are up, foundations for the apartment wings are being readied. You can start to imagine just how many people Brettler Family Place will house! Photos from July 7, 2010…

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