Monday, April 18, 2011

Unsung Heroes: Joe and Donna Chekan

Joe Chekan was a trustee when the C-RS purchased the former St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in 2004.  He and his wife Donna had been married there 35 years earlier.   As the first Chairman of the cultural center, he undertook a monumental task.  The parishioners of St. John’s left a vast amount of old and broken furniture, unworkable appliances, obsolete plumbing and electrical fixtures and devises.  Joe’s first task was to clear the building of this debris that was blocking further renovation.   Several large dumpsters were rented and with a lot of volunteer and hired help, the unneeded equipment was disposed of.

Meet Joe and Donna Chekan
During the years of vacancy, flocks of pigeons were present in both bell towers and on ledges and perches inside and outside the building.  No further progress was possible without solving this messy problem.   Joe arranged for professional company to eradicate the pests safely.  A team of well-organized professionals dressed in space type suits was brought in to banish the pigeons and to clean the accumulated leavings.  A few pigeons continued to show up but as their access portals were sealed they left for a better habitat.

Joe and Donna
The cathedral had many doors to provide access.  The locks on these doors were old and some did not work.  Joe contracted a locksmith who repaired and replaced old locks and made the entranceways secure.

The basement windows were basically glass block but each window had metal louvers in the center that leaked cold air and invited vandalism.  Bids to replace or repair the windows were beyond our expanded budget.  Joe remedied the louver problem by obtaining fiber wood cut to exact sizes and then screwing the panels into the existing metal frame.

Water leaking along the basement was a recurring problem.  Part of the situation was remedied by keeping the sewer opening on the outside open and clear of debris.  Later procedures included a rerouting of the upper drainpipe to the rear of the building.  Water leakage was the source of a continual damp odor. 

Other challenges at the cultural center included the exterior repair of the walkway and wall on the right side.  The grass and bushes on the side needed maintenance particularly in the summer and these jobs were shared by Joe and by volunteers.   Of course during this time his devoted wife Donna stood by his side and was his right hand working along side Joe.
Donna with her grandson

Joe stepped down as Chairman of the Cultural Center in 2005 but continues to volunteer whenever his busy schedule allows.  As an added benefit, his wife Donna graciously comes with him.   Thank you Joe and Donna!
Written by:  Maryann Sivak

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