Muncie Council gives Whitely $500,000 from ARP for non-profit center

MUNCIE, Ind. – The Whitely Community Council received $500,000 funds from the city’s American bailout for the development of a center to house non-profit organizations helping low-income people throughout the city. The effort will particularly target people living in poverty near the center located in the Whitely neighborhood and northeast Muncie.

Muncie City Council’s vote on Monday to award the funds was unanimous and supported by the city administration.

“The best way to serve people is to meet them where they are,” said City Council Chairman Jeff Robinson, who led efforts to make the award the neighborhood organization.

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He said the city’s contribution will serve as an initial contribution for the center, which will seek to raise $2.5 million for the project in 2023.

Plans include renovating the offices of the Whitely neighborhood group on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Centennial Avenue to include space for nonprofits to serve the needs of the city’s poor. According to Ken Hudson, executive director of Whitely Community Councilto understand:

  • Open Door Health Services, which would provide a health clinic in the building.
  • PathStone, which offers financial literacy services and homeownership advice.
  • The Innovation Connector, which allows the development of entrepreneurial projects within communities.

Mental health services would also be part of the center’s mission, he said.

Hudson told The Star Press that the property to be developed in the center was purchased in 2018 by the council, initially as a potential site for a grocery store to address the lack of fresh produce markets near the neighborhood. The Whitely neighborhood organization later developed a food pantry, which serves much of the city.

Hudson said the neighborhood pantry has served people in need from all over Muncie, including people from the Industry District, students at Ball State University and people from the West Side.

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“You are welcome if you have a need,” said Hudson, who has served as the neighborhood association’s executive director since 2017.

Other programs instituted by the active organization include:

  • The neighborhood “Tool Shed” in which lawn mowers and household tools are maintained for neighborhood residents to borrow and use for property maintenance.
  • Community safety programs in collaboration with the police.
  • Health and wellness initiatives involving BSU and Open Door.
  • Efforts to advance education among families in the neighborhood, which Hudson says are key to breaking generational poverty.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Whitely Community Council developed a bill assistance program, using donations and assistance from Heart of Indiana United Way, to help people who needed help paying their rent. or their utility bills. The organization assesses requests made online and provides assistance based on need and the amount of money available.

Ken Hudson, executive director of the Whitely Community Council, spoke to Muncie City Council on Monday night about plans for a new community center to serve much of northeast Muncie.

Hudson noted that the organization sometimes gets big requests, like a hydro bill of about $3,000, more than the local program can handle. But the association helps to find other groups that can contribute to help solve such a situation.

Robinson said the Whitely neighborhood group serves as a model for other neighborhood associations. He became aware of the effort to create the center about a year ago.

“I immediately saw this project as a transformative project for this region,” Robinson said.

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Mayor Dan Ridenour said he was also aware and supported the project. Deputy Mayor Richard Ivy serves as Deputy Chairman of the Board of Whitely Community Council. Robinson discussed the use of ARP funds with the mayor, who did the math on the giveaway’s affordability and determined it was something the city needed to do.

“We will do everything we can” to help fund the center, Ridenour said, adding that he expects the facility to have a positive impact on the future of the entire community.

Robinson said he also spoke with other city council members about the project before formally proposing the funding at the recent meeting.

“I didn’t want to bring something that would fail,” he said.

An artist's rendering shows plans for the renovated center in the Whitely neighborhood.

City Council Republicans and Democrats expressed support for the center and the city’s contribution to it.

Andrew Dale, chairman of the steering committee for the development and establishment of the centre, said that fundraising for the development of social services at the neighborhood level would be launched next year, and that having the money of the city in hand will help enormously to give confidence to the other contributors in the project.

Local foundations will be approached in the effort as well as a challenge to the whole community to help make the plan a reality. Similar efforts have been made in cities the size of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, but such a program in a community the size of Muncie is unique, Dale said.

The steering committee will refine construction plans and work on community outreach, Dale said.

A letter to the city council describes the center site as “3.6 acres of land, on which three buildings exist. The main building, which is one storey, is in good condition and has approximately 17,318 square feet of usable space. The other two existing buildings include a 3,456 square foot one-story warehouse and a 408 square foot detached garage.

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The letter goes on to state: “It is believed that, alongside the continued efforts of the Whitely Community Council, this property contains remedies for many of the current conditions in the neighborhood which are impeding improvements in the quality of life for low-income people. “

Hudson said people are more likely to use resources for their betterment when the people helping them are in their neighborhood and known to those who need help, rather than having to travel further afield. to deal with strangers.

He said the Ivy Tech Community College and the Red Cross could also be part of the community services hub through the center and are part of the groups discussing the center.

Hudson said he hopes construction could begin in 2023 and be completed in early 2024.

David Penticuff is the local government reporter at the Star Press. Contact him at [email protected]

Virginia S. Braud