Donations help build a better Cushing

Michael Collins, Harry Hunt, Fred Grennan, Tom Jennings, Bernie Egan-Mullen and Chris Mercurio

Tom Jennings has worked at Cardinal Cushing Centers for nearly three decades, but he’s never been busier than he is now.

“It’s been more exciting to work here in the last two years than in the last 20,” said Jennings, who serves as Cushing’s director of facilities. “In the old days, we were doing regular repairs, but because of the fundraising and generous donors, we’ve really been able to make an impact recently. This year alone, we had $3 million in capital improvements.”

Jennings and his crew oversee 22 buildings and 11 residential units within seven houses, in addition to the grounds. Thanks to major gifts, they have been able to perform upgrades to the track, pool, basketball courts, and recreation area and are in the middle of an extensive classroom remodeling project. They have already replaced 160 windows in the school and have gutted and renovated six classrooms. A $1 million investment to install a new heating system, complete with new piping, has also been a big project. Up next, they’ll be repainting exterior spaces and replacing doors.

“Some of these spaces date back to the ’50s, so it was overdue to turn them into modern classrooms,” said Jennings. “It will be a great space for staff and students. When we can do these improvements that directly affect the kids, that’s what makes this job special.”

The team is also installing a new heating and cooling system in every residential home, and remodeling some of the kitchens. One house is closed for complete renovation with new flooring, new bathrooms, and electrical upgrades.

“When we finish that one, we’ll move on to the next, and in three to four years, we’ll have done all the units,” said Jennings.

“Doing the houses over is pretty nice,” said Fred Grennan, who has served as assistant director of facilities for the last five years. A professional painter by trade, he found out about a job opening from his wife, Annette, who works in Cushing’s Life Opportunities Unlimited (LOU) day habilitation program in Braintree. He has worked at Cushing for 12 years.

“The people really make it enjoyable to work here,” said Grennan. “It’s not like going to work.”

Working with contracted projects managers and architects, the facilities team has also been involved in the rollout of some of the major building projects at Cushing, such as the new MarketPlace, the renovated auditorium, and the new Washington Street residence.

“It takes a lot of planning to get it all done, but it’s been exciting to see,” Jennings said.

A licensed plumber and gas fitter, Jennings was originally hired as a plumber at Cushing and has served as director of facilities for more than 20 years.

“For me, personally, it was always about the kids,” said Jennings. “I come from a long line of school teachers, so to be in this setting, working to improve the kids’ lives, that’s what keeps me here. Things have changed a lot over the years, but the mission has never changed. And that’s to do the best we can for those living and learning here.”

Jennings was hired at the same time as carpenter Harry Hunt, who later went out on his own, but Jennings recruited him back about five years ago.

“We were originally brought in when they wanted skilled labor — a carpenter, plumber, and electrician,” said Hunt. “I left after three or four years and did some subcontracting here for a while, but the timing seemed right to come back.”

Hunt hasn’t had a slow day since he returned.

“I’ll never run out of work here,” he said. “I can do quite a bit without Tom having to hire someone else out. My favorite jobs are the remodeling ones, and a lot more of those projects are getting done.”

Bernie Egan-Mullen assembles a cabinet
Bernie Egan-Mullen assembles a cabinet
Michael Murphy begins painting the walls of a classroom.
Michael Murphy begins painting the walls of a classroom.

About Cushing Centers

Since 1947, Cushing's caring community has been a place where exceptional individuals of all ages and abilities have found possibility, opportunity, and hope, receiving support to achieve independence and meaningful relationships across home, work, school, and leisure.

Stay in the Know!

Join the Cushing Email Newsletter.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.