A handful of members from the Cape Coral Police Department volunteered their time and efforts to refurbish a dilapidated gardener’s shed at the Cape Coral Historical Society Museum last week.
On Friday, Sgt. Joe Zalenski and five others with the South District Patrol Bureau spent about seven hours renovating the shed, starting with tearing down the structure to its walls and concrete pad.
“It was in dire need of replacement,” Zalenski, the organizer of the volunteer project, said. “The interior was not meeting their needs – the interior was beginning to rot due to the elements.”
As a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, with Rotarian friends, he explained that it came to his attention that the museum had an outdoor shed that needed to be fixed. Knowing that a few of his patrol officers were handy with a tool, he asked if any of them would be interested in volunteering to help rebuild it.
“We all appreciate the cultural aspects of our town and heritage and wanted to give back,” he said.
The officers tackled the project on their day off and on their own time.
“I’m very proud of my officers for stepping forward,” Zalenski said, adding that he would have had more volunteers, but others were training or out of town. “We had a great time doing it together.”
The project involved ripping out all of the rot and tossing items that were falling apart or were in disrepair. Rusted metal shelving was removed, along with the doors that did not work properly.
“There was just so much rat poo – that’s indicative of the doors. The rats were getting in,” he said. “There were a lot of openings we needed to seal in order to prevent the rodents from getting in.”
The volunteers built several new sets of wooden shelves, along with a work bench.
“We wanted to create it in such a way that it wouldn’t be difficult for the volunteers to use all of the tools and all of the equipment that they have stored,” Zalenski said.
With the new materials, the shed is expected to last longer than the old one.
“It’s much better than what they had in there before,” he said, adding that the new doors along can easily last 20 years if treated properly against the elements.
Anne Cull, curator of the museum, said they were delighted to learn of the offer for the project.
“It was so so great that they would step up and do that for us,” she said.
“We depend on volunteers for a lot of our projects. Things like that are not in our budget,” Cull said.
The museum tried to get the project materials donated, but ended up spending close to $500.
“We’re very grateful of their time and efforts,” she said, noting that the museum saved on labor costs because of the volunteers. “We’re very proud of these young men that they would do that.”
Cull explained that the local master gardeners and the Garden Club of Cape Coral use the shed. The master gardeners take care of the plants on site, and the garden club takes care of the rose garden.
“So, there’s two groups using it, plus the museum,” she said.
The shed had been in disrepair for three or four years.
“We’ve known it’s needed help,” Cull said.
Along with pest proofing the shed, the volunteers organized its contents for the museum.
“We can utilize the space much better,” she said, adding that there is a lot more space now in the shed. “It means that we can find what we want. We know what we have there.”
“Before it was just a jumble of everything,” Cull said. “They’ve put a place for everything.”
A spouse of one of the master gardeners has offered to paint the renovated shed.
“We’re very very fortunate. People in the community are absolutely wonderful,” she said.
“I’m just happy that it’s done,” Cull added. “We can relax about that and move on to other things.”
The Cape Coral Historical Society Museum is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.