St. Sebastian Parish Center in Woodside hopes for ‘Hail Mary’ from community to make crucial repairs

St. Sebastian
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A Woodside parish center that provides a space for hundreds of school sports teams, senior citizens, prayer groups and self-help groups is looking to raise money to make some much-needed repairs to its building.

St. Sebastian Parish Center at 39-60 57th St. is asking the Woodside community and those who grew up using the center for money to replace the de-humidification system of its popular swimming pool. According to the center’s director, Harry Connor, the system is about 15 years old and on its last leg.

“It’s done, it’s shot,” he said. “We’ve been Band-Aid-ed it for many years. Without it working properly it makes an unsafe environment to the structure of the building.”

Connor said only two companies make the specific system they need; the cost of it, along with installation, is $300,000. The center has started a crowdfunding page on YouCare and has set a goal for $1,000,000.

“If that goes we can’t run a pool and the building itself been undergoing financial issues that the church has been so generous,” Connor said, “[We’re] so lucky to have pastors that have always supported the center just off of church monies. But things are changing; the neighborhood has changed [and] the money doesn’t come in as much over there.”

St. Sebastian’s Parish Center will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and Connor said any additional money would help replace other parts of the three-story structure, including the roof and boiler. Any extra funds would also be used to help pay their “astronomical” monthly bills for heat and air conditioning.

Along with the swimming pool, the parish center also features a basketball court, weight room, exercise room and several meeting rooms.

Most of the center’s income comes from memberships. The space is used for the church’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports teams, weekly senior citizen bingo nights, Girl Scout meetings, prayer meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, among other functions.

Connor said that it’s one of the biggest parish CYO centers in Queens and Brooklyn. Nearby St. Sebastian’s Parish Academy also uses the building five days a week for its physical education classes.

Connor said the Woodside community has a history of supporting the center. When the church was breaking ground on the center in 1966, they wanted to match the half-a-million dollars they already had so the space would be fully funded before officially opening. The parish went door to door and easily raised $500,000, Connor said.

In the 1990s, when the church needed to renovate its building, they again raised close to $1 million. Connor and the Parish Center committee is also exploring new ways to “bring fresh money flow into the build” so they don’t have to only rely on memberships.

According to the YouCare page, competition from other health clubs popping up in the neighborhood has hurt the center and in 2015, it ran on a deficit of $294,000. With this fundraiser and new ideas to bring in money, the director hopes to reduce the annual operating deficit to $99,000 or less.

“If we had to close the pool for any extended period of time it would have a devastating financial impact,” the fundraising page read. “In order to avoid losing the use of the pool, or worse the Parish Center itself, we need to raise $1,000,000 as quickly as possible.”

Connor said the center is also hoping that people who no longer live in Woodside but have fond memories of the space feel compelled to give.

“Woodside has a history of coming through when things are needed,” he said. “We’re throwing up a Hail Mary and hoping people come through for us. I just hope that Woodside will, as they always have, come through one more time. That’s what I’m counting on.”

Donations can be made online and the center is also accepting checks made payable to:

St. Sebastian Parish Center
c/o Harry Connor
39-60 57th Street
Woodside, NY 11377

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