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Helping Hand seeks mold-free headquarters

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Sale of its former home frees nonprofit to search for a permanent site

By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown has closed the deals and now owns the properties at 212 and 214 W. Dixie Ave. sought as part of a downtown redevelopment plan.

The purchases will help former tenant Helping Hand of the Heartland, now Helping Hand of Hope, as it searches for a permanent home in Elizabethtown. It is operating out of temporary quarters in the former Herb Jones property on East Dixie, said the Rev. Art Leach, chairman of the countywide charitable agency.

“The sale gives us some cash,” he said. “Not enough, but it’s a start.” 

Leach said Helping Hand left the facility because staying longer would have posed a serious safety hazard.

“Obviously, we couldn’t go back into that building,” he said Friday. “It has black mold in it.”

The mold is so prevalent the city will have to thoroughly clean the building before it can be considered for future use, he added.

Barbara Proffitt, a Helping Hand board member, said the sale is mutually beneficial.

“I think it’s going to be good for the city,” Proffitt said. “Because it’s next to (City Hall), it will do nothing but enhance their facility.”

Helping Hand of Hope, which formed after Helping Hand of the Heartland and North Hardin HOPE merged earlier this year, pays roughly $2,000 a month to use the temporary facility, Leach said.

The city procured the former facility, which was built as a church, and an adjacent vacant lot for $150,000 from Helping Hand of the Heartland and the Elizabethtown Human Relations Commissions Inc. Elizabethtown City Council approved the purchases last week.

The council also authorized the purchase of a third property — referred to by city officials as the “purple building” — at 133 W. Dixie Ave. for $90,000 from Melvin and Jeness Campbell.

Mayor Tim Walker said the city has not closed on the purchase of that  building, which sits near the intersection of Dixie Avenue and Mulberry Street across from the Hardin County History Museum. He also said it is too early to determine how the building will be used because the city does not yet own it and has not assessed it for use. He has said the city may try to lease it to a small business.

The former Helping Hand headquarters — once home to First Presbyterian Church before it moved to Pear Orchard Road — also will be assessed for use once Helping Hand of Hope has time to remove the remainder of its contents, Walker added. The city has talked about restoring and preserving the church for its historical significance, but Walker said the land could be used as a means to expand City Hall.

Leach said Helping Hand of Hope plans to remove its property from the building once it determines the safest way to do so.

As for Helping Hand’s future, the organization is trying to determine if it wants to maintain buildings in Elizabethtown or Radcliff or create one centralized headquarters, Leach said.

Most of the merger of the two organizations is complete, Leach said. Helping Hand of Hope is combining its banking accounts and trying to solve software issues to combine databases, he said. Leach also is waiting to receive tax-exempt status confirmation from Frankfort.

“It’s one organization,” he said. “It’s not two organizations (anymore).”

The preferable location for a permanent facility would fall on U.S. 31W between Elizabethtown and Radcliff, but finding an affordable site has its challenges, he said.

“Property along there is expensive, so it depends a whole lot (on the land),” he said. “That would probably be a bigger driver than the building.”

Because of that, determining a dollar amount needed to move the facility is nearly impossible.

Leach said Helping Hand of Hope would rather invest in a new building that is up to modern standards than continue to pay rent on temporary space.

“The sooner the better,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.