CFES members Kim Calhoun, Sarah Dalton, Emily Lewis, Tara Lamber, Rick Dalton and Karen Dalton, stand together outside the town post office building which will also serve as the organizations home.
The Essex Post Office will soon share space with the College For Every Student (CFES) center.
The building at 2303 Main St. was purchased by CFES on Sept. 7, and plans were approved by the Essex Planning Board on Oct. 4. Rick Dalton, president and CEO of CFES, said renovations began shortly after the purchase.
Crews have torn down the older walls, floors and ceilings inside the building. Crews have begun work on the vacant retail space on the first floor and the future office spaces on the second floor. The demolition of the former movie theater behind the building has begun to make room for a CFES conference center.
The organization, currently housed at the Essex Inn on Main Street, works nationally to teach students and their families about the benefits of a college education and strives to create ways for them to attend college.
Willsboro Central School Superintendent, Stephen Broadwell, said CFES has offered students a “unique opportunity” to have a national organization in the area. Students at WCS get to meet with adult mentors through the program, visit different college campuses, and learn about financial aide.
“Our students in grades 6 through 11 have the opportunity to know what they’re looking for in a school,” Broadwell said.
CFES is the only national non-for-profit organization of its kind to focus efforts on rural students and not just those in an urban setting according to Dalton.
“The pull is to have a center for an organization like ours to be in an urban center like New York City or Boston or connected to a college campus,” Dalton said. “We’re making a statement about the importance of rural communities and rural youth in the future of our nation. That’s why we are here.”
New face for old building
The purchase of the building and estimates of construction cost adds up to about $1 million paid for through fundraising and endowments.
The upstairs will provide office space for the nine CFES employees. The space in the back of the building, once the town’s movie theater, will be torn down and rebuilt to become the CFES Conference Center. The center will be constructed with state of the art technology, built to be energy efficient and capable of hosting over 100 people. Dalton said this space will be utilized by the organization to host educators, students and members of the town.
“This will give us a place to convene,” Dalton said. “We’ve always done things at partner colleges, hotels, and restaurants. Now we’ll be able to do it all here and control our own destiny.”
The conference center will be available for the community members and organizations to hold meetings locally. Meetings people currently hold in places like Saratoga, Albany and Lake Placid can be hosted in Essex.
Town Supervisor, Sharon Boisen, said the CFES has been an asset to the community through it’s partnerships with area schools.
“It’s a huge asset to the community to have CFES based here,” Boisen said.
Boisen said the organization has been beneficial in many ways, including the refurbishing of Main street properties and bringing in nine families to live and work in the area.
“Hope with continued work CFES center can encourage more people to come into the Essex community,” Boisen said.
Dalton hopes it can provide an economic stimulus to area restaurants, businesses and hotels by providing a place for groups to meet.
“We want a building that all of us in Essex can be proud of,” Dalton said.
Dalton said he and his crew plan to move the CFES offices from the Essex Inn to the new center by mid November and open the conference center by February.
A dedication ceremony is planned for May 10, and the CFES plans to host it’s first event early February for a College Connect meeting.