Carnevale spurs another gymnasium renovation project in East Providence schools

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A close up view of the worn floor of the Riverside Middle School gymnasium.

A close up view of the worn floor of the Riverside Middle School gymnasium.

EAST PROVIDENCE — After unifying the community around the idea of renovating the then-dilapidated East Providence High School gymnasium last year, city native and young philanthropist John Carnevale is once again hoping residents will coalesce around another athletic facilities improvement push.

Mr. Carnevale, an engineer by trade who doubles as a skilled activist through his non-profit D’amores Step initiative, has started a fund-raising drive eyeing the refurbishment of the gymnasiums at both Martin and Riverside Middle Schools. His goal is to accrue some $50,000 through various means, from city and state governments to the public at large.

The first step in the latter takes the form of a pasta dinner to be held Wednesday, June 18, at East Providence High School’s Kanelos Dining Hall. Live music and raffles are also part of the offerings. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children under five are admitted free.TownieProject-Pasta2014 (2)TownieProject-Pasta2014 (2)TownieProject-Pasta2014 (2) copy

For Mr. Carnevale, these gymnasium projects serve as not only a way for him to give back to the community into which he was born and where he was raised, but also as a means to spur thoughtful dialogue about what needs to be done to improve schools throughout the city in the near and long terms.

“This isn’t just about athletics. It’s an important piece, but we know we need to support all the buildings. They need to be taken of better. We’re not putting that off to the side and just dealing with the gyms,” Mr. Carnevale explained. “But this also about building the community back up, bringing all people together.

“Everything in this city surrounds East Providence High School and the way people feel about it. We know there are a lot of problems with that building. The gym project was a way for people to start feeling better about it. With this latest project, it’s a way to bring the community around both of those schools as well.”

The plans for Riverside and Martin at the early stages are a bit different. Left basically untouched since it was built back in the mid-1960s, Riverside’s gym is due for a near-complete overhaul from sanding and lacquering the floor to painting the walls and ceilings to replacing the bleachers. Martin, built in the late 70s, had a new hardwood floor installed about 10 years ago. There, the plan is to renovate the seating and splash on a fresh coat of paint. Another part is to restore the outdoor basketball courts that once stood on the grounds. In addition, both gyms would have new lines and logos painted on the playing surfaces.

A prototype floor design for the renovated Riverside Middle School gym (by Jeff Carreira).

A prototype floor design for the renovated Riverside Middle School gym (by Jeff Carreira).

“I do this for a living. I’m an engineer, so when we take on projects like this we ask questions. What are the needs of the community? What are the demographics? What’s the financial condition of the city? In this case, we think it’s an important part of the educational experience,” Mr. Carnevale said.

Asked if he were concerned about tapping into the goodwill of residents so soon after his last project, Mr. Carnevale said he was not, adding he isn’t seeking the entire sum from the community. Money and supplies, as was the case with the EPHS renovation, can be garnered from other philanthropic organizations and governmental agencies. No, he believes the well of their willingness to improve their schools and their city in general isn’t about to run dry anytime soon.

“We need to show them this is a worthwhile project. We need to engage the community, because the money is out there to do good stuff,” he said.

Tickets for the pasta dinner can be purchased in advance at the offices of either middle school or by emailing lmendillo@cox.net or at the door the evening of the event.

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