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Gym project allows volunteer to give back

December 01, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Three years ago, Dick Gruber told the Girls Inc. board of directors he would be glad to contribute in any way he could to the building of a new gymnasium.

"I said then I would help when they were ready," Gruber said. And he kept his word, bringing his more than 30 years as a contractor to the table as volunteer project manager. That's right, volunteer.

Gruber said he knew professional contracting experience would be crucial to keeping costs under control at the more than $1 million project.

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"This community has been great for me and I wanted to return the favor," he said.

Girls Inc. is an organization open from September to June for local girls ages 5 to 18. It also offers a summer program.

Once on board, Gruber directed his efforts to get the best prices and plans. At the same time, grants and funds also were being sought to get the project off dead center, he said.

Gruber's prior professional contacts with engineers, architects and other contractors are paying off.

"I know them all, so it's easier for me to make the pitch," Gruber said. "They have been very giving."

Building supplies have in some instances been donated or offered at greatly reduced prices, he said. The general contracting firm for the project is Excel Construction Co. of Hagerstown.

These early money-saving efforts should result in big payoffs later, Gruber said.

"If we can save money now, we'll be able to provide a better facility and meet more needs for Girls Inc.," he said.

The excavation and site preparation for the 108-by-82-foot addition to the west side of the existing building at 626 Washington Ave. began Nov. 17.

The super structure should be up in January, Gruber said.

"In all my 33 years, this could be the easiest job I've ever had, simply because of all the support and willingness of contractors to help," Gruber said. "That even includes the City of Hagerstown and that's because the need is so great."

Gruber, 60, is a Williamsport native. Now head of Gruber Consulting, he previously owned Gruber Building, Cleaning and Restoration until he sold out two years ago.

Minimizing his role in the expansion, Gruber credits the devoted board members - pioneers and foot soldiers, as he calls them - who always are there to meet Girls Inc.'s needs.

One of those devotees is Gruber's wife, Lynne, who has been involved for many years at Girls Inc. During that time, Gruber was listening whenever his wife talked about the good work being done at the agency.

"There are a lot of longtime supporters who give their time and money to keep Girls Inc. going," Gruber said. "And that support will need to continue and grow, since there will be a lot more operating expenses when the addition is complete."

In addition to the gym, expansion of the current physical fitness and athletic programs will be possible when the new building is completed. Work also will be done on the roofline of the existing building, creating a bonus 3,500-square-foot, second-floor area that can be finished into classroom/office space.

"We have actually set $1.5 million as our goal, with a portion of those funds set aside for an endowment for future needs," said Girls Inc. Director Maureen Grove.

"We all need to remember this is just a building. It's what goes on under the roof that matters," Gruber said. "Girls come back and say that what they got here made a real mark on their lives."

That's what it's all about, Gruber said.

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