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HACE’s New Community Room for Lehigh Avenue Apartments


J.Smith/ El Hispano

Philadelphia –  Dr Martin Luther King’s “legacy of community service” was recalled by Maria N. Gonzalez, the President of the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE), during ribbon cutting ceremonies, Monday, of a  multifaceted Community Room in their Lehigh II Apartments at 2622 – 44 N. Lawrence Street, below Lehigh Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets.

   Named the “Lowe’s Community Room at Lehigh II” in recognition of the contributions in supplies and materials for the rehabilitation of the 300 sq. ft. space made by Lowe’s hardware store at 3800 Aramingo Avenue, the community room offers a range of amenities, including a 50” flat-screen television, six computers and will eventually have books, films, magazines and other educational materials where Ms. Gonzalez said, nearly two hundred residents “can come to learn and play.”

   “At HACE community service is not something we do once a year, it’s something we do all  year round,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who went on to praise HACE’s staff, board members and volunteers who “support us in our mission for a prosperous community.”

  As part of a $2 million rehabilitation to Lehigh Park Apartments I and its neighbor Lehigh Park Apartments II, that includes new elevators, a laundry room, security cameras and lighting, Property Manager David Gonzalez noted, “part of challenge is funding to make things happen.”

   But in the case of this community room project, Mr. Gonzalez recollected an “old Spanish” saying he often heard growing up in a poor family from New York city, “querer es poder,” or the willing something and wanting it gives power. “So what you care about, that’s when you have to grab the bull by the horns and make such transformations possible.”

  A Marine Veteran, Mr. Gonzalez additionally suggested that the “team” effort behind the creation of the community room resonated with lessons he learned  in the military: “Without a team you can’t get anything done.”  He added that it was the commitment of Lowe’s Manager Patrick Kirby and the “can do” attitude of Site Manager Frank Campos that made the ‘Lowe’s Community Room Lehigh II” a reality.

     “We’re very fortunate at HACE to have a dedicated staff, board, volunteers and partners that support us in our mission,” said HACE Pres. Maria Gonzalez.

   “The Community Room is amazing,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who has been instrumental in providing support from the city for similar development projects throughout her eastern-north Philadelphia district.  “The place has a totally different feel to it,” she added. “It’s complementary to what we’re trying to accomplish across the street at Lehigh Park.”

   The former President of HACE, Guillermo Salas, applauded the “difference” that HACE’s new community room would make in the lives of children and adults. “This is something that children will benefit  from for a long time to come.”

   Philadelphia Police Community Relations Officer in the 25th District, Ed Correa echoed the sentiment, that the “community involvement” of HACE was having a profound influence on a Lehigh Avenue neighborhood often referred to as the “Badlands.”

  “The police can’t do it alone and we can’t arrest our way out of problems,” said Officer Correa.  

  ‘We have a lot more to do,” said David Gonzalez, “and part of our mission is going to be focused in the next year to be to do a lot more with Lehigh I and we’re going to continue to do that and let nothing get in our way.

  The Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Barnes and Noble, Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart also made contributions of supplies and equipment to refurbishing the Lehigh I and Lehigh II Developments.