We Are Here Foundation helps refurbish building
By Kristyne E. Demske St. Clair Shores Sentinel
We Are Here Foundation President Tom Cleaver, Left, and South Lake Schools of Operations and Transportation Dave Hambaum stand with donated desks in Pare Elementary that will be given to local schools and charity groups. (Photo by Kristyne E. Demske)
Over the years the We Are Here Foundation has been featured in local news articles from C&G News Papers, Macomb Daily, The Voice, Detroit News, & Detroit Free Press just to name a few and we are proud to serve and give back to our communities. Below you will see one of our feature article in the St. Clair Shores Sentinel.
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By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 25, 2017
ST. CLAIR SHORES — What’s better than a charity that helps local schools and the environment?
A charity that helps other charities and community groups.
The We Are Here Foundation distributes donated office furniture, school supplies and more from Staples to school districts in need in St. Clair Shores and across metro Detroit. The foundation also sponsors the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee’s annual Nautical Coast Cleanup. All of its efforts are paid for through the sale of donated boats and cars to the organization.
While many are used to seeing President Tom Cleaver oversee volunteers who are putting in community service from Macomb County Corrections by cleaning up waterways around town, he and his crew have also spent the past winter helping to renovate the Pare Elementary School building in South Lake Schools for use by 501(c)(3) groups.
“Because of Tom, I have this lovely real desk. They did all of our painting. That was just a great gift to us,” said Madeline Bialecki, executive director of The Lake House, which moved into the Pare school space in December.
Pare Elementary School has been empty since June 2009. South Lake Schools tried to sell the building, but could not. As the district spends more than $50,000 annually to maintain the building, it instead began renting out space to nonprofit organizations in an effort to recoup some costs and help the nonprofit groups as well.
The Lake House was the first nonprofit to move in; since then, Wigs 4 Kids, the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum, Kids on the Go, Hands of Hope and Ribbons of Hope, Big Family of Michigan, Shorewood Kiwanis, the We Are Here Foundation, and SCS-TV’s editing and production studio have moved into the building.
In order for that to happen, though, lots of work was needed on the building. Ceiling tiles were falling, walls were covered with dancing fruit and paw prints in accordance with an elementary school theme, and flooring needed to be replaced.
Cleaver said he first met Dave Hambaum in 2014 when the We Are Here Foundation donated more than $300,000 of brand-new office furniture to the Lake Shore School District.
At the time, Hambaum was the head of the district’s operations and maintenance and worked closely with Cleaver. Now, Hambaum is in South Lake Schools as director of operations and transportation, and since he knew that Cleaver worked with those performing community service from Macomb County Corrections, he asked if Cleaver would come by to take a look at Pare.
“I said, ‘Well, winter is slow and I have all the people, so if they provide the paint, we’ll come in and paint it,’” Cleaver said.
With the nonprofit organizations choosing the paint scheme, the We Are Here Foundation and corrections members have primed and painted much of the building, as well as replaced ceiling tiles to turn the cafeteria into a usable conference room space, cleaned rooftop air-conditioning units and provided many of the organizations with furniture.
“Every weekend, we’re here with the Macomb County Corrections painting all of the rooms,” he said.
The We Are Here Foundation is also storing some of its donated new and used furniture at the school, as it has lost its free warehouse space, but with more groups moving in, that is becoming difficult. Cleaver said the foundation is seeking another location with a free warehouse.
“The whole school is filled with great nonprofit groups doing wonderful things,” he said. “We were able to finish the whole school and empty the gymnasium out over this past winter.”
He said he appreciates the work of his community service volunteers.
“Without them, none of this can get done,” Cleaver said.
“The work that they’ve done and the people the We Are Here Foundation and Tom brings in here for community service ... giving back to community service organizations. ... We couldn’t have done the improvements that have happened without Tom,” Hambaum agreed. “It couldn’t have happened without that help.”
To learn more about the We Are Here Foundation, or to donate a boat or car to help support its work, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (586) 463-9400.