Friday wasn’t the end of the journey for Statesboro’s first homeless shelter, but it was a significant milestone a long time coming.
Community and business leaders gathered with members of the Open Hearts Community Mission’s board of directors Friday afternoon to break ground on the property at 39 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where the shelter will be built.
Delia Mobley, the chairwoman of the Open Hearts board, said during the ceremony that a number of community members and organizations have donated a total of $400,000 so far.
According to a brochure given out at the groundbreaking, the construction materials and expenses are projected to cost $500,000, with $100,000 more needed for the shelter’s furnishings, operating expenses and a reserve fund.
Once it’s open, the shelter is expected to be able to host up to 30 people at a time. There will be separate wings for men and women along with two family rooms for parents with children.
Mobley opened her remarks with Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
“Basically, that is how it’s been with this board, this project,” she said. “We knew what we wanted to accomplish and what we’ve hoped for, but we didn’t know about how we were going to get there. So we have relied heavily on prayer, and our faith.”
They also relied heavily on community support, and they have received it.
Mobley recognized a number of people for their contributions. The family of Lester Brannen partly donated the property for the shelter, and money from the first year of Open Hearts’ biggest fundraiser, the Chocolate Run 5K, paid the balance of the cost, Mobley said.
The third annual Chocolate Run, by the way, is this morning at Georgia Southern University’s Recreation Activity Center Pavilion.
Real estate broker Nick Propps helped secure the property for Open Hearts. Attorney Marc Bruce helped facilitate the deal. Sheppard Lumber Company of Brooklet will donate framing lumber.
“I didn’t have to ask for that lumber,” Mobley said. “They contacted me and said, ‘We’d like to help out your mission.’ And I thought that was such a blessing.”
Benton Metal Depot will provide materials for the roof. Two builders agreed to donate their time to building the shelter: Tim Durden (the licensed contractor) and Mobley’s husband, Chip Mobley.
Jennifer Paddock of Palmer Architects donated her services to draw up the plans for the shelter, including the architectural rendering and floor plans. Joey Maxwell has worked for free on the site plans and making sure the project is in compliance with city requirements. Ellis Wood and Ken Brown took down the old buildings on the property for free.
“As you see, in our efforts to build a mission to bless others, we in turn have been blessed by the generosity and support of so many giving and talented people,” Delia Mobley said. “To the Sunday school classes, the churches, the schools, the civic clubs, to the children who have collected money in lieu of gifts at their birthday parties, to the little ones who have donated the earnings of their lemonade stands — thank you.”
Mobley emphasized that the shelter’s mission is not simply to provide for the basic needs of the homeless, but to help them get back on their feet. Already, Open Hearts has been doing that by temporarily housing people in need in motels and helping them apply for jobs and otherwise addressing their immediate needs so they can change their circumstances, she said.
The mission, founded three years ago, has served more than 400 people in need, according to the organization’s brochure.
In an interview after the ceremony, Mobley said those services also include programs to help people obtain their GED diplomas, determine their career skills and get matched with jobs suited for their abilities.
The shelter’s plans have to be approved by the state, and Mobley said she hopes that process will be complete in the next several weeks, which would allow construction to begin. By the end of the year, she hopes the shelter will be up and running.
“Perhaps by this time next year, we won’t have to worry about the folks that are out in the cold,” she said.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.