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With volunteers, residents and clients crammed into HOPE’s Lancaster offices, and construction about to begin on a new addition, Elaine Adkins knew her team needed more space.
That’s why Adkins, executive director of the charitable organization Helping Other People Effectively, called an emergency meeting Friday for her volunteers. Almost 50 volunteers showed up at HOPE’s Pageland Highway building, unaware why Adkins had called the meeting.
“I just wanted to tell you I appreciate what you’re doing for HOPE and for the community. It’s amazing,” Adkins said. “Because ya’ll have been so helpful, I wanted to do a treat.”
That treat showed up in the form of a large Sunshine Express bus, on which everyone boarded. But Adkins waited until the bus was moving before telling everyone where they were headed – HOPE’s temporary headquarters.
HOPE, which helps county residents by giving them food donations, has seen a sharp increase in the number of families who come looking for help.
Adkins said in January 2008, 426 families were helped by HOPE. This year, in just the first three weeks of January, 472 families have asked HOPE for help.
To accommodate the surge and to avoid interrupting service because of construction on the new addition, HOPE is leasing a temporary building – the former Lancaster Children’s Home at 721 Arch St. The 6,000-square-foot building will house HOPE’s operations for the next year.
Adkins expects construction on its new permanent building to take up to 12 months to complete.
HOPE will officially open at its new temporary location Feb. 2.
“This will be a great setup because it has a large kitchen, a large pantry and you can pull up to the door to drop off donations,” Adkins said.
Clovis Steele, who has volunteered with HOPE for more than 15 years, said the offices have been too crowded lately. She looks forward to having more room for storage and interviewing potential clients.
“We’ve been very, very busy. Our waiting room is just full a lot more often,” Steele said. “We’ve had one client after another. Everyone has to pitch in.”
New volunteer Betty Robertson said the increase in space will be a positive change for HOPE.
“This is great. I can see that they are so proud,” Robertson said. “It was so packed at the old place. I know this will help.”
Adkins said HOPE’s operations have outgrown its building on Pageland Highway.
After discussions with members of YouthBuild, a youth program that helps low-income students learn job skills through the construction of various buildings, HOPE’s board agreed to let YouthBuild build an addition on HOPE’s building.
The YouthBuild program recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, which allocated $70,000 toward the construction of a new building or renovation of an existing building for a nonprofit agency in the area.
YouthBuild is a training program for young people between ages 17 and 24 who have not completed high school.
A national program, YouthBuild has operated in Lancaster for the last six years under the direction of Communities in Schools and received its first funding as part of a literacy initiative by the J. Marion Sims Foundation.
Through the program, the students earn their GED and also receive job training at the same time.
The new addition to the building will include two new offices, a new food room and a storage room. One of the planned rooms will have space for several refrigerators, shelving for food donations and a place where food orders can be assembled.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at email@example.com or at (803) 416-8416