Work in progress
* S.O.S. planning to turn old junior high into community center
One local non-profit organization is looking to expand and do more good things for the community.
In June, Serving On The Streets (S.O.S.) purchased the former Brazil Junior High School for $15,000, with the hopes of turning it into its new central location, along with creating a community center.
"The school was bought out of a need to expand because we are at capacity right now," S.O.S. Director Jenni Chamberlain told The Brazil Times about the present location at 100 N. Forest Ave., Brazil. "We plan to turn the whole school into a community center, and our hope is to offer more of what we do, but on a larger scale."
Chamberlain said work has already begun on the school, with repairs being made to drains on the roof, as well as leaks in the gymnasium offices.
"The Brazil Water Department has been very helpful to this point by shutting off water in areas of the school so the leaks can be repaired," she said. "The United Way Day of Action has also participated, along with our youth group, in cleaning up the weeds and trash around the school, along with painting and cleaning up the playground equipment."
Chamberlain, who is a lifelong Brazil resident, told The Brazil Times the renovation of the school is being planned in phases, with the current cleanup and repairs being Phase 1. Also included in the current phase are plans to repair and tar the roof, along with more generic cleaning needs inside the gymnasium.
"We hope to have the roof and leaks repaired before winter so no further damage will be done," she said. "We also plan to sanitize the floors in the gym and purchase radiant hanging heaters to clean up current water damage."
At the July meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil, Chamberlain and Kenna Consulting and Management Group, Inc., Indianapolis, Grant Administrator Donna Anderson presented a proposal for a $500,000 Community Focus Fund Grant, in which the city would have to be the formal applicant.
"With our organization having a 501(c)(3) classification, a governmental entity would have to be the applicant since federal dollars are involved," she said about the grant, which is through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. "In this situation, if the city agrees to apply on our behalf, we would be the subrecipient. Also, S.O.S. will be responsible for making sure insurance is in place, while the city will have to handle the grant money until the grant runs out."
Chamberlain added that while this grant is very competitive, S.O.S. plans to move forward with the renovation of the old junior high, regardless if they are awarded the funding.
"If we don't get the grant, we will continue to work on the school, it will just take longer to do so," she said. "However, with this program we can re-apply for the grant in the spring, but we are hoping to receive it this time around."
Another requirement to obtain the grant is that a $56,000 match must be provided, which Chamberlain said some in-kind donations have already been received.
"We are allowed to receive $25,000 in in-kind donations, which includes labor and materials, but the rest has to be in cash," she said. "We were able to raise the money to purchase the school in two weeks, and we have sent out another letter asking for support in raising the match. If we can't get it all through donations and fundraising, we do plan to apply for a loan for the remainder."
Although not required, Mayor Ann Bradshaw said the city is considering providing some funding toward the match.
"This is a great project being done by a wonderful organization, and I would love to see the city help out in any way it can," Bradshaw told The Brazil Times. "However, we need to take a look at the finances to see what is available, and ultimately it is the council's decision on whether or not to provide funding along with being the primary applicant."
Since the meeting, a rumor began to spread claiming the old junior high would be turned into a homeless shelter, which Chamberlain said is not the case.
"There are no plans to use the building as a homeless shelter," Chamberlain told The Brazil Times. "We are hoping to come together as a community to do something great for the kids. The building will also house the local Salvation Army"
Included in the plans for the center is the creation of classroom, computer labs and to allow for an open gym on the weekends.
"We would like to have something going on every evening that will be at no cost to the public," she said. "It will be a supervised environment that will allow for after-school programs and other activities to benefit the children in our community."
The council will conduct a public hearing on the matter during its Aug. 11 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers of City Hall. If the council agrees to be the primary applicant for the grant, it must be submitted no later than Oct. 22. Chamberlain added awarding of the grants should be announced in early December.
S.O.S. also plans to have an open house of the old junior high in September for members of the community to see what the plans for the structure are.
"We have not yet set a date for the open house, but we want to invite the public to come see the progress we have made to that point, along with providing the information about the phases in the project," she said. "We hope for this to be a blessing for the neighborhood, not a distraction."
For more information about the project, or to make a donation, contact Chamberlain at 812-208-4976 or email@example.com.
Serving On The Streets will conduct its seventh-annual back-to-school outreach program from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 7, in the gymnasium of the old Brazil Junior High School building.
Backpacks with basic school supplies, along with gently used clothing will be available for all grade levels, and will be provided to Clay County students.
All supplies have been provided through donations, and games and snacks will also be available during the event.