Fair Hope Children's Ministry gets roomier new place to do good

Fair Hope Children's Ministry gets roomier new place to do good

DANVILLE — For years, Fair Hope Children's Ministry, which provides clothing and other items to children throughout Vermilion County, has been operating out of the Bowman Avenue United Methodist Church parsonage.

"It's been very good for us," longtime volunteer Roberta Williams said of the small two-story house at 908 May St.

But Williams, who schedules client appointments, and Director Karel Volpert said the nonprofit organization has needed for the past several years a different building — one that has more space, that's handicapped accessible and that's on one level.

Currently, "we have to store our spring and summer clothes on the second floor and our winter things downstairs in the basement," Volpert said. "We are a volunteer organization, and lot of our volunteers are older.

"And like me, they can't do stairs," she continued with a laugh.

After four years of searching, the ministry has acquired a new facility, at 1225 E. Voorhees St., through a donation. Now members hope to raise about $200,000 to completely renovate the building.

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Fair Hope is a cooperative ministry of the Batestown, Bowman Avenue, Catlin, Farmer's Chapel, First, St. James and Union Corner United Methodist Churches.

It began providing new and gently used clothing and bassinets and cribs to children in Danville and the surrounding communities in 2004. It now provides clothing, from newborn through size 18; layettes for newborns, which include a handmade quilt, personal care items and clothing; play yards for infants; convertible car seats; and backpacks and school supplies.

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, it provided:

— 515 families with basic clothing needs for 1,040 children.

— 40 portable play yards.

— 100 layettes.

— More than 250 backpacks and school supplies.

Clients are referred to the ministry by local social service agencies, including the Center for Children's Services, Center for Youth/Family Solutions, Crosspoint Women's Shelter, the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency, the Illinois Department of Human Services, Love INC, Her House, the Women's Care Clinic, the Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center, The Dwelling Place and the Danville Salvation Army, as well as schools, churches and health care facilities.Each client is scheduled for a 30-minute shopping appointment. Volunteers assist clients, launder and mend donated items, shop, knit, crochet and sew quilts and restock racks and shelves.

The ministry is funded through donations from churches, community groups, service organizations and businesses, grants from local foundations and individual donations. Donations of clothing and school supplies are also welcomed.

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Williams and Olivia Humphreys, the group's secretary, looked at a number of buildings over the past four years. But for some reason or other, they weren't suitable.

They looked at the Voorhees Street property — which once housed George's Buffet, then later was used a union hall — early on. But at the time, the price was too high given that the building needed a new roof and other work.

More recently, they heard through the grapevine it was still available, so they took another look at it. When the owner heard they had still not found a building, he offered to donate it.

Ken Merrill, the group's treasurer and building committee chair, said the facility has 9,500 square feet, is one level and handicapped accessible. Williams pointed out it's on a city bus line.

"People have donated to us so generously," Volpert said. "It will be nice to be able to put everything out on the floor where they can access it easily. We'll also have room for our storage and organization."

While the shell is structurally sound, Merrill said it needs a new roof, new plumbing and electricity, a new furnace, ceiling and doors and walls that need to be reconfigured.

Williams said the group has enough money to fix the roof. While the committee hasn't put together a renovation budget yet, she estimates it will take another $200,000 before the building can be occupied.

"We're hoping we will have it done in a year, or sooner, but that will depend on when we can raise the money," Volpert said, adding the group is working on a couple of grants.

Anyone wishing to make a donation may contact Volpert at 217-497-7616 or Williams at 217-474-1357.

"And if anyone wants to donate their construction skills, we'll gladly accept that," Merrill added.

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