The Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center announced winner of 2019 Design for a Difference

Published: Apr. 1, 2019 at 8:06 PM CDT
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"We are proud to announce the 2019 Design for a Difference recipient is the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center," said the announcer at the 2019 Spring into Design event.

On Wednesday, lots of cheers and excitement coming from the showroom of FLOOR360 in Madison as the

was named the recipient of this year's Design for a Difference makeover.

is a national program that partners with local designers and organizations that donate their time, talents, and good to transform local non-profits so the organization can better serve communities. FLOOR360 spearheaded the project in the Madison-area for the last five years.

Choosing the non-profit to be the recipient of the makeover by no means easy as there are so many organizations deserving of it. Bob Tobe is the President and CEO of FLOOR360 said it's a big decision.

"We use some tangible things like do they own their space? How many families or people do they serve? What do they do? What programs do they offer? And how will our redesign help those programs?," said Tobe.

He said this year's charity, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center checks all the boxes.

The Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Madison's near east side, has been a community stable for half a century. During that time, not much has changed with the facility, that is until now.

"We really realized that the building has been loved to the point of some injury," said Steve Silverberg, a board member of the neighborhood center. "It is such a beautiful, old, funky building and so many good things are happening here."

The old church was gifted to the community nearly 50 years ago. On any given week, organizers at the center report more than 800 different people use the facility and its services. Some of the program includes 12-step programs, home brewers and senior exercise classes.

Gary Kallas is the executive director of the Wil Mar Neighborhood Center. He believes something magical happens within the four walls of the building.

"This is a place where people's lives become empowered and enriched," said Kallas.

He's been working at the community center since 2001 and said this makeover is long over due. Like so many other non-profits in the area, they are often run on a shoe-string budget and any money raised usually goes into programming first. That means the building itself isn't always a top priority.

Everyone has their own wish list they'd like to see accomplished in the makeover - everything from fresh paint, bright colors, organizing the space, and even getting the piano fixed.

With so many ideas thrown out there, this is where the experts come in. Angela Skalitzky is the Vice President of Retail and Design and has been the Design for a Difference Project Manager since 2015.

"We're really excited to come in and preserve the charm of the space while really reviving it to this day and time where people can really enjoy it," said Skalitzky.

A team of designers will hold their first planning meeting later this month and will begin work on the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center Makeover in October.

NBC15 will be following the progress both online and in newscasts. The final reveal will happen later this fall.

Design for a Difference is always looking for volunteers and donations.

to learn how you can help.

Past winners include:

2015 - Respite Center at the Center for Families

2016 - The Rainbow Project

2017 - Centro Hispano

2018 - East Madison Community Center