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AFGS Building Fund Update

January 29th 2012
Norm Deragon
Woonsocket, R.I. -- The Woonsocket-based American-French Genealogical Society will soon realize energy savings and better climate control in its Franco-American Heritage Centers as a result of a $100,000 grant from The Champlin Foundations.
The grant is funds the first of a three-phase heating and air conditioning project for the three story building. Engineering work has already begun and construction is expected to begin in the spring. The first phase includes an upgrade to the electrical system, conversion of the new library annex and lunch room from steam heat to a hot water system, and the installation of air conditioning in the main library. The Society is also exploring converting the building heating system from oil to natural gas. An application for Phase II of the project will be submitted to The Champlin Foundations in March. Phase II includes converting from steam heat to hot water heat and the installation of air conditioning on the second floor. Phase III, which converts steam heat and add air conditioning on the third floor, is expected to be addressed in 2014.

January 24th 2011
Norm Deragon
Chair, Building Committee

Another year has passed us by and it was a very good year for AFGS and our Franco-American Heritage Center. We completed several important projects and are now looking ahead with anticipation of what we hope to accomplish during 2011.

Over the past couple of months committee members are completing the finishing touches to several projects. They include paint touch ups in several rooms, replacing electric outlet cover plates, cleaning out storage closets and installing shelves.

Upcoming projects include the replacement of entrance doors on the parking lot side of the building, conducting an engineering study of our heating and ventilation systems to determine more efficient ways to heat and cool the building, and finding the source of several small leaks that seem to appear whenever we have heavy rain. This despite the replacement of the roof on both sides of the building and the sealing of masonry around the structure. It has truly been frustrating because neither the AFGS staff nor the roofing professionals have been able to find the source. But we aren’t giving up and are confident the mystery will be solved soon.

We launched Phase III of our building fund campaign in October. The economy has definitely impacted our efforts and donations and pledges have been slower than anticipated. We are hopeful that the new year will bring us the additional support we need to finish renovating our heritage center. The goal is $250,000. This will enable us to renovate the restrooms on the first and second floors, replace old, energy wasting windows in the lower level, upgrade our heating system and install air conditioning in the research center, and other renovation projects. Members received a color booklet detailing our past accomplishments and plans for the future. If you misplaced the booklet, visit our building fund page on the AFGS website ( and download a copy.

To supplement our fundraising outreach we are planning a number of fundraising events and will be submitting grant applications to a number of foundations and organizations seeking support for our various projects. We are confident that we can reach our goal and in turn develop a number of exciting programs to fulfill our mission of providing cultural and historical programs to augment our vast genealogical resources.

November 2010
By the time you read this column the AFGS will be celebrating three years of building ownership. We’ve come a long way since the day during Thanksgiving week of 2007 when we gathered in our lawyer’s office with the elders of the First Universalist Church to sign the paperwork (and the check, of course) making us building owners. With the transfer came big challenges and many more dreams about our growth potential.
I am pleased to report that we have met many of those challenges and are realizing at least some of the growth potential for our Society.
Watch your mail for the AFGS Franco-American Heritage Center Building Development Plan. With this publication we launch the third phase of our building fund with a goal of raising $250,000 to complete the remaining renovations and improvements to our Center. Much has been accomplished as you’ll see. You will also have the opportunity to review the work yet to be completed. I’m pleased to report that with the completion of the new roof on the older section of the building the exterior is sealed and much more energy efficient.
If you can’t wait until your mail carrier arrives with the booklet, you can read it on our web site,
We have come this far primarily through the generosity of our members who together donated more than $250,000. We need an equal amount to help us complete the work of creating a Franco-American Heritage Center that will not only house the invaluable genealogy and historical holdings of our Society, but will also allow us to begin the renovation of the upper two floors. This will allow us to host activities that will further spotlight our rich French-Canadian heritage.
As we approach the season for giving, I hope you will keep AFGS in mind. We will keep you updated on our progress. As always, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Building fund update May 1, 2010
by Normand T. Deragon Chair, Building Committee
News for 78 Earle Street
The board of directors has approved a recommendation from the building committee that the flat roof on our building be replaced rather than patching sections. Ultimately the Society would have to replace the roof in the future. Based on discussions with roofing contractors, it was decided that replacing the roof now would be less expensive in the long run. The committee also believes that the replacement of the roof and repairs to flashing around the bell tower would eliminate spot leaks around the structure, particularly in the former sanctuary. The roof work will also include removing the crucifix from the roof, which is rusted and becoming an eye sore.
Another important project approved by the board last month was the replacement of pipes that feed the water and gas lines in the building. Presently, water pipes are located under the cement flooring in the lower level and are starting to leak. This is a recipe for disaster should a pipe burst, particularly when the Society is closed. New piping will be installed above ground and all the old gas pipes in the walls (from the 1920s when gas light fixtures were on the walls) will be deactivated. This will provide us with a much safer environment within the entire structure.
The Society is also upgrading the emergency exit doors on the Earle Street side of the building (first floor). New crash bars and a new lock will be installed making for easier egress from the building in the event of an emergency.
Much has been done to improve the appearance and integrity of our building over the past two plus years. We have replaced the roof over the "new" section of the building, repaired and reset the masonry around the outside, installed new fire and security alarm systems, constructed new ADA-compliant rest rooms in the lower level, upgraded emergency lighting and exits signage throughout the building, renovate first floor rooms into a meeting/training area, and special collections study.
Prior to purchasing the building the second phase of fund raising was launched. The campaign ultimately raise over $100,000. That combined with the money raised in phase one enabled us to purchase the building outright and execute the repairs listed above. Despite all those expenditures, we still have about $3,000 left in the building fund!
However, $3,000 will not pay for the projects that are on the drawing board. The building committee is interviewing engineering firms to conduct efficiency study for our heating system to determine the most efficient and environmentally-friendly means of upgrading the system throughout the building to include climate control to prevent mold and other potential damage in the library, particularly during the humid new England summers. We also continue to explore the best means of providing full accessibility to the building. This will involve some sort of lift system, for those who are not able to negotiate stairs. We will also address new flooring in the lower level and a number of cosmetic upgrades (in other words painting and polishing where needed).
Out of town members and local members who haven't been to the Society in a while are amazed at what we have done in such a short period of time. Non-member visitors have nothing but praise for the structure and the potential it presents. There is no questions that we have a "diamond in the rough," and are working hard to develop the Franco-American Heritage Center the board of directors had in mind when it created the Vision Plan for the AFGS three years ago.
None of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors. The majority of the contributions came directly from AFGS members. If you have not visited AFGS, we invite you to stop and see first-hand why we are so enthusiastic about the Society's future.

Building fund update March 18, 2010
by Normand T. Deragon Chair, Building Committee
The repair priority has shifted to the flat section of our roof. A leak over the former sanctuary continues to be a problem and another has developed over the windows in the first floor conference room. We have contacted several commercial roofing companies have been to the building and we will be awarding a contract for repairs or the possible replacement of the flat roof section.
We have finished the installation of a drop ceiling in the lower level of the building in the hallway outside our library. The project also included new electric outlets in the hallway, the installation of better lighting, and new emergency exit signs and lights. Tile flororing will be installed outside the restroom area and carpeting outside the library hallway entrance. We are also installing brighter lighting in the parking lot.
The building committee has hired a HVAC engineer to evaluate the building’s heating system and make recommendations about the system’s capabilities and limitations. The evaluation will address the most efficient way to heat and cool each floor. The engineer’s report also will provide cost estimates and segment the projects by floor so they can be addressed in phases.
We have received word from the Rhode Island State Senate Fiscal office that a$3,000 grant has been approved. The grant will be used to offset the cost of the emergency lights and exit signs that were recently installed in the lower level and first floor.

Building fund update September 12, 2009
by Normand T. Deragon Chair, Building Committee
Lower Level Restrooms: Bids were received from three contractors. Pine Street Construction of Cumberland was the lowest bidder ($21,000) to be the general contractor for the project. The Society saved $600.00 by doing most of the demolition work. Project was scheduled to be completed by Labor Day, but delays by city inspectors pushed the completion date back about a week.
Additional Repair Work: Pine Street Construction was retained to construct a drop ceiling in a portion of the lower level hallway and to replace the rotted door frame and door that leads to the roof. Total cost: $1,000.00
Building Exterior Signage: On August 24, the Woonsocket Zoning Board of Review approved the AFGS variance request to install signage in excess of the size allowed on a residential zoned property. This clears the way to install the signage designed for the Snow Street side of the building. The zoning board added the condition that the signs must never be lighted. Application fee was $100.00. Mandeville signs was contracted to create and install the signage for $4,500. This is about $400 less than the original quote because we handled the zoning issues ourselves. A permit is needed from the city for the actual installation, which has been approved. The installation should be completed by the end of September.
Roof Leak: The source of the leak was finally located over the summer. The roofing contractor, Jim Keegan, was at the building and made repairs this past week. We are hoping this concern is now addressed. The next major rain storm will provide the answer.
First Floor Painting and Carpeting: In anticipation of the Hall of Fame ceremony on October 16, the building committee agreed to spruce up the first floor conference room and hallway by painting the walls and ceiling with the “AFGS colors” and asking the previous flooring companies to solicit new bids for the hallway and conference room only. The committee will remove the old carpeting to reduce the cost. Bids have been received and they will be reviewed and the job awarded next week. We will seek volunteers to assist with the painting. Project should be completed by early October. Florescent and emergency lighting has already been installed in the hallway.
First Floor Cleaning: After painting and carpet installation the first floor must be thoroughly cleaned in preparation for attendees of the Hall of Fame ceremony. A cleaning party will be needed for this task.
Building Fund: Cash balance as of August 31 was $32,500. Payments will be subtracted for the restroom balance, hallway drop ceiling, roof door replacement, signage, carpeting, and lighting.
The Society received an inheritance of $18,000 from the Poulin Family Estate, $10,000 from the June Rockwell levy Foundation, and individual donations are now coming in with membership renewals.
Building fund update January 7, 2009
In June 2000, the AFGS launched a campaign to raise funds for the purchase of a permanent home. By November 2007, the Society had raised over $200,000 in cash and pledges for that purpose. The donations were primarily from our 1,400 dues paying members who reside across the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. Donations primarily from members and friends continued to pour in throughout 2008, including two grants from the State of Rhode Island totaling $9,000.
On November 21, 2007, the American-French Genealogical Society closed on the purchase of the former First Universalist Church on 78 Earle Street in Woonsocket, R.I. The purchase price was $100,000 and the Society purchased the building outright without a mortgage. AFGS had been renting space in the lower level of the building to house our extensive genealogical and historical holdings.
Although the purchase price of our building was low, the Society was aware of the funds needed to repair and renovate an 84-year old building that, because of dwindling church membership and a lack of financial support, had been neglected over the past decade. The AFGS was prepared to utilize the balance of its building campaign funds and some of its cash reserves to make necessary repairs while continuing to raise funds through member donations, grant applications and targeted events.
During 2008, the AFGS made the following repairs and renovations to the building:
1. Replaced the leaking roof over the main section of the building $32,500
2. Repaired damaged bricks, masonry joints, and capped unused chimneys $11,100
3. Engaged structural engineer to assess weight capacity on first level $850
4. Repaired water-damaged wall in the former chapel area and lower level ceiling $650
5. Upgraded building security alarm system $1,500
6. Replaced and expanded building fire alarm system to comply with R.I. fire code $31,400
7. Replaced hot water tank and made repairs to heating system $1,600
8. Converted former lower level kitchen to member lunch room $1,100
9. Energy conservation measures (insulation and caulking of windows and blocking of air vents behind radiators and sealing off of fireplaces $1,800
On the drawing board for 2009:
1. Reconstruct the lower level restrooms $35,000
2. Renovate first level training and meeting room $5,200
3. Re-zone building heating system to use more efficient hot water boiler $17,000
4. Replace selected older wood-frame windows $18,000


Web site building fund update September 12, 2008
Norm Deragon

It has been a busy summer in and around the AFGS building in Woonsocket. On the outside, the masons have completed work on the east side of the exterior, sealing loose bricks and sealing concrete skirting around the roof and sides of the structure. They also capped chimneys that serviced several fireplaces that are no longer in use. The work should prevent weather damage and improve energy efficiency this coming winter.

The building committee has been meeting with heating contractors to determine the best way to reduce oil consumption and find the most efficient means of heating the three story building. Several solutions have been recommended, including converting our large boiler from steam heat to hot water baseboard heat and installing a means of selecting between oil and natural gas to fuel the boiler. One contractor suggests that we could heat the entire building with the one large boiler and keep the smaller boiler (now used to heat the library and part of the first floor) as a backup. Part of the conversion could also include the installation of air conditioning in the library to maintain climate control and eliminate the use of dehumidifiers in the summer months and prevent mold on our books and films. The price tag for this project is about $50,000. This may have to wait until next heating season. However we will continue to seal windows and find other means of sealing the building to reduce energy consumption during the winter months. Last winter the Society used 3,900 gallons of oil to heat our building. We are hoping to cut the usage by at least 30 percent during the upcoming heating season.

Volunteers have been busy working to convert the former kitchen in the lower level into a lunch room. The room will contain a soda vending machine, refrigerator, microwave oven, and coffee maker. The room has been cleaned and repainted. We expect it to be ready for use within a few weeks.

By the time you read this, the contract will have been issued for the upgrade of our building’s fire alarm system. The cost will be about $35,000 and should take about three to four weeks to install. Once completed, the fire alarm system will comply with Rhode Island’s new fire code.

With the completion of the masonry work and installation of the new fire alarm system, the AFGS building fund balance will be down to about $15,000. We will soon be announcing naming opportunities for some rooms within the building and expect to raise additional funds for future projects through our annual holiday raffle, and a vehicle donation program that will be launched in the coming weeks.

Web site building fund update February 14, 2008

The AFGS Building Fund has reached $230,000 in donations and pledges. This leaves us about $20,000 shy of the half way mark in our Phase II goal of $500,000.

Since acquiring the building in late November 2007, the society has begun transforming our permanent home from a church to a Franco-American heritage center. Our first task was to repair the main section of the roof, which had three layers on one side and two on the other. There were leaks in the sanctuary of the church (and what eventually will be the main research center.) The cost: $32,498.

Next we will update the fire alarm system. In order to comply with Rhode Island’s strict fire codes, the Society must increase the number of smoke detectors and other detection and alarm devices, emergency lights and exit lights on all three floors. We also must replace the hard-wired alarm box with a radio-box that will have direct communications with the Woonsocket Fire Department. We expect to seek bids for this project soon. We will then concentrate on making our building more accessible to all visitors.

The building committee and the board of directors are reviewing every room in the building to determine repair and/or renovation costs in order to determine naming rights for designated rooms in the building and the determine project costs as we seek grants from foundations and corporations. We expect to publish a “wish list” to make it convenient for members and friends to designate the purchase of furnishings and accessories for our heritage center.

We could not have made it this far without the generosity of our members and friends. We invite you to visit this Web site often for updates as we develop a master plan for the creation of a state-of-the-art Franco-American heritage center. The committee welcomes your input. You may e-mail your comments and suggestions to

The AFGS Building Fund Committee

Check out the new pictures in our Album

Photo Album of our recently acquired Building also new roof being installed(use slide show)

The Call
Providence Journal
Valley Breeze
Woonsocket Call newspaper article Nov. 27th 2007
Providence Journal November 28th, 2007
The Valley Breeze newspaper article Nov. 29th 2007
French take over Church
Step Up For Society
"The AFGS will fill out new facility, complete extensive renovations "

September 21, 2007

Negotiations are proceeding smoothly toward our goal of purchasing the building in which we currently rent space in the First Universalist Church in Woonsocket, R.I.  We hope to announce good news soon.
Meanwhile, it has been a very good summer on the donation front.  Since mid-July,  96 members and friends donated $13,602 dollars to the building fund campaign.  To date, $78,223 has been donated and pledged since Phase II of the campaign began on April 1, 2007.  In total, since the building fund began the AFGS has collected nearly $200,000 in donations and pledges.  But we need much more in the coffers to both purchase a building and make any necessary repairs and renovations to convert it into a Franco American Cultural Center.  If you have not yet done so, won’t you please consider making a donation today? 
Donating is easy and secure here on our Web site.  To access the donation pledge form, simply click here now.


Thank you for your support.

July 08, 2007

During the past ten weeks, over 100 generous members and friends donated or pledged over $40,000 to the campaign. Donations and pledges are continuing to come in weekly. We are very grateful for the commitments that our members and friends have made to our Society and their belief in our vision for the future.
On May 20, the First Universalist Church voted to sell their building, which is also home to AFGS. The Society has been given the right of first refusal to purchase the building. Once the congregation obtains an appraisal we will begin discussions about the possible purchase. The congregation has indicated that they plan to have the appraisal completed by the end of July and would like to close the sale by the end of September. 
Given this tight timetable, it is more important than ever that we step up the campaign. It is critical that we have as much capital available as possible should the negotiations turn out favorably for AFGS. That would mean that we may be able to purchase the building and move forward with our vision for our Society.
If you have not already done so, won’t you please send in your pledge or donation today? You can download a pledge card from our Web site,, or donate directly on our secure Web page. If you have questions about the campaign, contact Norm Deragon, the AFGS Building Fund chair, by e-mail at, or by phone at (401) 524-7315.

May 7, 2007

Donations to Phase II of the AFGS Building Fund campaign have been arriving steadily. As of Saturday, May 12, a total of 90 cash donations and pledges have been received for a total of $33,624.
On May 7, interest was posted to the two building fund bank accounts. As of that date, the AFGS Building Fund total (Phases I and II) was $133,942.50.
The board of directors and building fund committee express their sincere appreciation for the support of our members and others who have contributed so generously to the campaign.
An Honor Roll of Donors will soon be posted on the Web site and will be posted in the library and distributed through the Society newsletter.
On May 20 our landlord, the First Universalist Church, will hold its annual meeting. On the agenda is a discussion by the congregation on whether to sell the church building. The AFGS was given the right of first refusal on the purchase should the church decide to sell. We will keep you posted on any developments.

April 17, 2007

Phase II of the AFGS Building Fund campaign is entering its third week. The AFGS Building Fund Committee is very pleased to announce that as of Saturday, April 14, donations and pledges received since April 1 total $14,778. Forty-two individuals have made donations and/or pledges to the fund.
During the first week ending Saturday, April 7, we received donations and pledges totaling $3,784 with 21 one-time donations of $1,468, and 2 pledges totaling $2,316 to be paid over three years and one year. 
During week 2, we received 19 donations totaling $10,994. There were 15 one-time donations totaling $6,230, including a very generous $5,000 donation from the Savoie Family Foundation. Four pledges totaled $4,764. 
The committee is compiling an Honor Roll of Building Fund Donors to Phases I and II of the campaign. We will be publishing this list and posting it on the Web site in the near future.
On behalf of the board of directors, the committee extends its deepest appreciation to all who have supported this campaign to date. 


American French Genealogical Society

Building Fund Campaign

Please join us by making a generous contribution to the campaign. The on-line brochure reviews AFGS and its commitment to 
"Preserving our Past...Building our Future".   
Click on How You Can Help for information on the different ways you can help with this goal. By donating, you will help establish a permanent home for our Society to grow and prosper.
Keep in mind that critical decisions about our future will be made in the coming weeks. We need your support now to make certain that the Society can continue its important work. 
Please download the pledge card and mail it today, or Pledge online   Either way you will help the AFGS in 
"Preserving our Past…and Building our Future".
AFGS Building Fund Progress Gage

American-French Genealogical Society
Building Fund Committee
P.O. Box 830
Woonsocket, RI

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