PPE4NYC Shifts Operations to Historic Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn
For the past four months, our PPE4NYC volunteers have been producing face shields out of a rustic wedding venue in the Hudson Valley. Red Maple Vineyard had generously offered up their enormous, renovated barn space, and it was the ideal location to assemble and store PPE while practicing social distancing. Now, as the venue begins to welcome guests back for various events, our Operations Team is relocating to the historic Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn.
The property is currently owned by Hudson River Housing, an affordable housing assistance organization that we connected with a few months ago when providing some of their staff with PPE. Afterward, they kindly offered up the barn for our use, which came as a relief to PPE4NYC CEO, Krishna Koka, who had been storing upwards of 30 boxes of PPE in his basement during the transition period.
With furniture strewn about, art propped up against the walls, and a thick layer of dust coating everything, our volunteers spent a week cleaning the barn to make it the perfect working space. After all, the COVID-19 situation is continuing to evolve, and we need to evolve with it — securing this production location is exactly what we were looking for to fulfill our mission of providing Personal Protective Equipment to every individual that needs it.
Seeing as Poughkeepsie, New York, is the hometown of both PPE4NYC’s CEO and COO, there couldn’t be a better solution for us than relocating operations to the Trolley Barn on Main Street. Also, we’re thrilled to place ourselves right where we’ve been lucky enough to find more than 50 volunteers. Here, we hope to keep building the sense of community that is so valuable at a time that feels as solitary and desolate as this one does.
Beyond logistics, the Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn stands as a reminder of the importance of creativity and innovation in ever-changing times. First constructed in 1873 as a central station for horse-drawn trolley lines in the city, the location had to adapt when the mid-1890s brought with it an electrified and expanded transit service. The then-owner, James William Hinkley, clearly understood the importance of keeping pace with the rapidly-evolving world of transportation and commerce; if he didn’t, then he would not have been able to meet the changing needs of Poughkeepsie.
While operations held steady until 1935, the rise of automobiles posed another challenge to the Trolley Barn. For the following 20 years, the Hinkley family serviced the community with a line of buses, marking the next attempt at reimagining the original horse-drawn trolleys for a more modern world. However, the bus lines soon were dissolved, and following a half-century stint as an automobile warehouse, the Trolley Barn was empty by the early 2000s.
Then, under Roy Budnik’s leadership, the space was obtained for Hudson River Housing and reimagined as a hub for the community, hosting an art gallery and several dance and theater groups. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the revitalization that Mr. Budnik had spearheaded has taken a temporary detour.
Krishna Koka, our CEO, was lucky enough to be able to meet Mr. Budnik. One day when he walked into the space, he stumbled upon Budnik taking a moment to sift through the memories the location held for him.
Mr. Budnik expressed to Krishna that he was so glad to hear that people were doing good work in this building once again; for Krishna, this meant the world. When you consider Budnik’s involvement with Poughkeepsie, perhaps no one better understands the impact that people working unitedly can have on a community.
After chatting briefly, Krishna and Mr. Budnik each went their separate ways. As Koka watched the man who had seen the town grow and thrive despite adversity walk off, Krishna was assured, “We’re going to be alright.” After all, with people like Budnik willing to give their lives over to the preservation of worthwhile and meaningful pursuits such as the arts, how could we not be okay?
We are excited to put our roots down in a place with such a strong history of servicing its community regardless of what the need looks like, and we are deeply grateful for the donation of this space for our use. Most importantly, we hope that this is the next step in the Trolley Barn’s history of serving the needs of its community while enabling us at PPE4NYC to continue to build our own.
Thanks again to everyone fighting the spread — be sure to stay safe.
-The PPE4NYC Content Team