Still $102,000 shy of its fundraising goal, the county’s senior services organization took a leap of faith this week, breaking ground on a new headquarters in New Whiteland.
After a five-year fundraising effort, the goal is within reach, said Kim Smith, executive director. Johnson County Senior Services, through many small donations and a handful of large donations, has raised $418,000 for the much-needed facility, she said.
Given the generosity she has seen so far from the community, Smith is confident more money will come through to meet the organization’s $520,000 goal.
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“We have been really blessed by individuals who have stepped up and given their money and their time. We had many anonymous donors who are just doing this out of the goodness of their heart for service to the lord,” Smith said.
The single-level, 5,000-square-foot building is expected to cost about $500,000. The additional $20,000 will go toward a construction contingency fund, furnishings and office equipment, she said.
Stakeholders and community members gathered Thursday to break ground at the site of the new building, a 1.33 acre property on Tracy Road, across the street from Break-O-Day Elementary School. Construction is expected to start in a few weeks and wrap up in the fall.
Thursday’s celebration was a long time coming, Smith said.
A 5,000-square-foot building may not sound like much, but any upgrade is a blessing compared to the organization’s current home in Franklin.
For years, Senior Services has operated out of a 1,500-square-foot house at 731 S. State St. Franklin College donated the house, built in 1855, to the organization 18 years ago. In the years since, its operations and needs have more than outgrown it, Smith said.
Slightly less than half of the new space will be used for offices, board rooms, a break room and other administrative spaces. Senior services has two full-time employees, including Smith, and 11 part-time drivers and dispatchers. The larger space will boost staff morale and provide a less-cramped workspace, Smith said.
The remaining space will be used for a food pantry, freezers and other necessities that will help the organization serve more seniors on an ongoing basis. At its Franklin office, Senior Services only has enough space to store and package food for about 1,500 seniors a month.
The new property will also allow for 24 public parking spaces, compared to none at its current location. Since Senior Services delivers food and offers transportation to local seniors and people with disabilities, plenty of onsite parking is a necessity, Smith said. Last year the organization gave rides to 13,530 county residents who needed transportation to medical and non-medical appointments as far north as Southport Road in Indianapolis, and as far south as Edinburgh, she said.
The pandemic underscored the needs of seniors, Smith said. Those needs continue to be great as the coronavirus is still present in the community, making it necessary for the at-risk group to continue staying home and receiving deliveries of food and durable medical supplies from organizations like this, she said.
In late March, senior services started using a 2,500-square-foot building owned by the City of Franklin, to store food and supplies to serve 8,700 people in April alone, Smith said. With the new, permanent facility, the organization will be able to serve that many people on a long-term basis.
The City of Franklin needs the building back, so the organization will return to its 1,500 meal capacity next week until construction of its new building is completed unless organization leaders can find some other temporary housing, Smith said. Since the needs of seniors remain elevated due to the pandemic, they are hopeful they can, she said.
They are grateful for the community support they have received so far, and ask the public to keep seniors in their thoughts and continue showing support even as the pandemic seems to be winding down.
“They have always had the same kind of needs that some of these folks have experienced in the past months,” Smith said. “They are always in need of food and they are always lonely.”
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Here is a look at how you can make a donation to Johnson County Senior Services.
731 S. State St., Franklin, IN 46131
Click on the “Giving Programs” tab
Click on “Donate”
They can take debit or credit card donations over the phone.
Visit Key Bank:
1750 Northwood Plaza, Franklin
Tell the teller you would like to make a donation to Johnson County Senior Services’ account.