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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

PHIL COOMBE, RIGHT, points out the massive work ongoing at the Daniel Pierce Library’s 25,000-square-foot addition in Grahamsville – with much of the work and materials donated at little to no cost.

Volunteers Make
Addition Possible

By Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE — August 8, 2006 – Raising a child may take a village, but building a library takes an entire region.
Nearly 30 members of Local 417, the Newburgh-based Hudson Valley ironworkers’ union, converged on the Daniel Pierce Library in Grahamsville this past weekend to erect the 108-year-old library’s 25,000-square-foot addition.
Hailing from as far away as Kingston and Middletown and as close as the library’s hometown itself, the ironworkers spent Saturday and Sunday lifting and welding 80 tons of rebar and steel beams into place.
For free.
On their days off.
“They are unbelievable,” observed Jim McCarthy, the Grahamsville resident and longtime ironworker who helped coordinate this effort.
He added that the pool of talent – completely consisting of men who chose to come – represented the top tier of ironworkers.
“Most of these guys are foremen,” said McCarthy, himself the father of two ironworkers (both on site that weekend). “When the guys get here, they all know what to do.”
And they’ll be back – for at least two more weekends.
“Their attitude is absolutely phenomenal,” remarked Phil Coombe, one of Grahamsville’s most beloved and accomplished residents and the chief promoter and organizer behind the library’s much-needed expansion.
Expressing pleasant surprise at how many locals were amongst the tradesmen’s ranks, he also gave credit to board members, neighbors and the many other volunteers who brought food to the workers, organized fundraisers and graciously tolerated the noise and dust.
Those sentiments were echoed by former library board president Claudia Swain, who had briefly returned from her current home in Rhode Island just to help with the project.
Offering ice cream and iced tea to parched workers at the busy worksite Sunday morning, she delightedly observed, “It’s mind-boggling how much the human element adds.”
Mind-boggling, too, are the figures: a three-story addition built into the hill behind the circa-1900 library and its 1980 addition will expand the cramped library and also house the Time and the Valleys Museum, all at an estimated cost of $7 million.
Thanks to the ironworkers and donations of supplies and equipment from businesses around the region, Swain estimated the total price will now be closer to $2 or $3 million.
And much of that has already been raised through the tireless efforts of Coombe, who McCarthy said collected around $400,000 at just one dinner not too long ago.
Evidently, the benefits – and needs – of an expanded library and a town museum are obvious.
“All these people understood that you have to give back every once in a while,” said McCarthy of the donations of supplies and equipment aiding the ironworkers that day.
And thanks to an entire region of volunteers, there will be something to show for all of this, said a beaming Coombe.
“I think people are going to be proud.”

To donate or for more information, contact the Daniel Pierce Library at 985-7233 or 328 Main Street, Grahamsville, NY 12740.

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