Franconia:Bancroft House Moves Ahead With Barn Storage Project

The pandemic has delayed the demolition of an old storage barn, seen here, and construction of a new one at the Bancroft House, a temporary shelter for women and children in Franconia. (Courtesy photo)

A project that has been years in the works and was most recently delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic is moving ahead at the Bancroft House, which in 2022 celebrates four decades of providing temporary shelter to homeless families in the North Country.

Called the “barn project,” it entails demolishing the 19th-century storage barn that is deteriorating and has become a haven for critters of all sorts, and replacing it with a new storage structure.

The goal for 2020 had been to complete the fund-raising and finish the project that summer.

The timeline changed, though, and so did the fund-raising goal and costs.

“We had a goal back in 2019 or 2020 of having $100,000,” Kevin Johnson, who serves on the nonprofit Bancroft House’s board of directors, said Wednesday. “That, we figured, would just about cover the demolition, construction, and disposal costs. Then COVID came along and all of our quotes, all of our estimates, basically went out the window. But we have been so successful in raising up to our goal of $100,000 that it wasn’t something we can say we’ll just hold off, we’ll put it off for another three, four or five years. We want to get the project done and moving along.”

While quotes from contractors and fuel charges haven’t been nailed down precisely and the total cost remains unknown, there are options to keep the storage project on schedule for a summer 2022 completion, he said.

“We have cash reserves that will cover, we hope, any overruns, but we may be forced into a position to take out a small loan to get the job done,” said Johnson.

A banker that the Bancroft House has an account with said what the Bancroft board will likely ask from the bank could probably be done on a line of credit, he said.

“Have we hit our goal?” said Johnson. “Yes and no. Do we know how much it’s going to cost? Not really, but we’re moving ahead anyway.”

A storage pod locker to house inventory from the existing barn is expected to be delivered on Monday to accommodate the construction phase.

Demolition on the old barn is expected to take place within the first two weeks of June, followed by work on the new foundation and the construction of the new barn, which will be 20- by 34-feet, making for a total of about 600-square feet, the same size as the existing barn and mostly in the same footprint.

The Bancroft House will also be holding its yard sale on May 21 (rain date June 4), and Johnson said it will coincide with the second annual, tri-town yard sale organized by the Franconia Notch Area Chamber of Commerce.

“That was incredibly successful last year for the community at large,” he said. “We will have that and hopefully raise some money for the barn. And then we’ll take all the inventory left over from the yard sale and put it into the storage container.”

The Bancroft House is still accepting donations for the new storage barn because it doesn’t yet know what the final cost will be, said Johnson.

The storage barn will provide secure space for linens, toiletries, and other household items for Bancroft House residents who might lack them.

“We plan on having an open house after the barn is complete and giving people a look-see on what we’re going to be able to offer to the homeless community in the area,” said Johnson. “It’s a major project that’s been talked about for years and it’s finally coming to pass. We’re pretty excited about it.”

The Bancroft House, founded in 1982 and offering a safe, temporary shelter for women, children and families in need, has the capacity to house up to four families.

A typical family is given a stay of 30 days in the house, which offers a full kitchen, stocked food pantry, laundry room, and a computer to use for housing and job searches, with extensions of up to 90 days.

Currently, because of the close proximity of the residents, Johnson said the Bancroft House is requiring that residents be vaccinated.

While some in the local homeless population are not vaccinated, the Bancroft House is still able to keep three of the four family quarters full.

“The need has been persistent and consistent,” said Johnson. “We are still managing to keep the occupancy up and give people the chance to put their lives back on track.”

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