Evergreen preschool will have room for more after relocation, but is fundraising for survival
The Evergreen preschool, a nonprofit serving area families since 1989, needs donations for relocating between buildings on the Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in the Cambridge Highlands. The money will go toward costs and improvements – from buying easels and paints to essentials such as a heating and air conditioning system and flooring – for when Evergreen completes its move in the fall.
The fundraiser has raised $19,775, a little under a third of the additional $65,000 that became vital after coronavirus changed the lending environment. Evergreen had been able to raise $150,000 from local donors and board members and considered fundraising complete until unexpected costs emerged.
“Pre-Covid, we had multiple banks that were scheduled to fund us larger amounts, but our timing was such that we were filling out applications in the middle of Covid, and the banks became much more conservative,” said Tucker Lewis, a member of Evergreen’ s board of trustees. “They unexpectedly pulled their offers and we were left considerably short,” especially as “unavoidable” conditions popped up on the job site.
“We need the support of all of our friends and community to get the job done,” Lewis said.
The pandemic also forced enrollment cuts. While the new building allows for seven more kids than pre-pandemic levels, its finances also demand a surge to 70 spots from the 39 that Evergreen was allowed after its in-person reopening in the fall. That’s the “equally scary part” after construction costs, Lewis said – though also of interest at a time Cambridge is struggling to achieve its yearslong goal of more early education.
Evergreen says it is taking out a 30-year lease for its new building, a former convent on the Sancta Maria grounds at 799 Concord Ave. The new facility is close to its current building but will be bigger, with more spaces for specialized activities such as art and music, and a large library.
Perhaps most importantly, the new building will have windows; Evergreen now has none.
“It is this amazing program in a windowless building. It is kind of sad. And honestly, [for] a lot of people, that is kind of the reason they won’t come here,” Lewis said.
In the new, three-story building, there are 42 windows, which Lewis calls amazing in a new way: “There is so much light that comes in,” Lewis said. But the newly installed windows alone is estimated as costing $100,000.
There is also a garage door between the motor room where the kids play and the outdoors, “so they are going to be able to run in and out” and have a big maker space, Lewis said.
Lewis – the owner of Somerville’s Bloc, Forge and Diesel cafes – thinks Evergreen is “the greatest preschool on the planet.”
“I have donated a lot of money, sweat equity and time, and it is definitely rewarding,” said Lewis, who noted that she’s gone on serving on the board even though her own kids aged out of the school, and is just one of several people working on the project in the same situation. “It just feels like a worthwhile place to give, [which] will speak to how deeply we all care and are committed to this and what we think of the school.”
- The Evergreen crowdfunding page is here.