PIEDMONT -- The approximately 85 hungry or homeless people who are served at a College Avenue church will now dine in fresh, updated surroundings, thanks to the efforts of the Piedmont/Montclair Rotary Club.

Club members. along with help from local businesses and other community groups, have renovated the old, dingy dining room in College Avenue Presbyterian Church at 5951 College Ave. in Oakland. The church serves a hot meal every Friday to those in need. It will also serve meals on Thanksgiving Day. The dining room has limited capacity, however.

"Sometimes, there have been 100 or more people wanting a meal, and tickets have to be issued to control the size of the group the church is able to serve," said Jeffery Trowbridge, the community service chairman for the club.

A few months ago, the club decided to take on the dining room renovations as one of its major projects for this year, with the church's blessing. The renovations were expected to wrap up this weekend. Weekly meals continued during the renovation.

"The last time the room was touched was in the 1950s," Trowbridge said.

The old asbestos-filled floor was removed by a professional company.

"Acoustic ceiling tiles were stained and falling down. The fluorescent light fixtures were broken. Outdated, cracked wood paneling covered over broken plaster underneath. Old sprinkler heads and the floor needed to be replaced," Trowbridge said.


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The Rotarians got to work soliciting in-kind donations of materials and labor. About 10 club members pitched in painting, patching and cleaning. Piedmont's Recreation Department Director Mark Delventhal, a 29-year club member, spent his weekends along with other members, working at the church.

"Creating a clean, fresh place to meet tells people in need that they are important and we respect their dignity," Delventhal said.

The high school students of the Piedmont Community Service Crew, under the auspices of the Piedmont Boy Scout Council, helped with the project. Oakland companies that donated labor and materials were Robert's Electric, W.A. Rose Construction, Mark Miller Painting and KD Stucco. Church volunteers also helped.

The Rotary donated $3,500 to the project, with an in-kind value from local businesses of more than $10,000. The church will pay for the floor; the scarred, dingy linoleum is being replaced.

It was a challenge finding spaces for the diners and the numerous groups that meet at the church weekly as renovations progressed.

"But they figured it out," Trowbridge said.

People need not be a Rotary member to volunteer for a Rotary project, Trowbridge said.

The small club of 19 members is anxious to expand. It was founded in 1959. For more information, call Trowbridge at 510-893-5300.