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Maryland grant awarded to fund REACH shelter

December 03, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - St. James wrote that faith without works is dead.

The lesson hasn't been lost on members of the congregation of Christ's Reformed Church on West Franklin Street, who embarked on a mission to turn the remnants of the former Cannon Shoe Factory, donated to the church in 1997, into a center for nonprofit agencies that serve the community.

Their faith was rewarded Thursday when Lt. Gov. Michael Steele stopped by to announce a $96,490 grant for what will be one of the facility's major tenants, the REACH Cold Weather Shelter.

Steele is no stranger to the project. He visited the church in October 2003 and heard presentations by the church's Aspiring to Serve committee, which is spearheading the construction project, and by representatives of REACH - Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

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Representatives of REACH explained how the homeless shelter would have a permanent home on the third floor of the five-story building.

During that visit, Steele announced that Gov. Robert Ehrlich planned an office for such faith-based projects. He made no promises, but said that "we're resourceful if nothing else Where there's a will and God's hand, there's a way."

This time, Steele announced that the Governor's Office of Community Initiatives is open for business, and that REACH had been awarded the grant from the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust to assist with completion of the shelter's portion of the building.

"That's the kind of good news we like to bring," he said.

Steele said the governor's office would continue to monitor the project "to determine how it can be used as a model for other counties."

REACH will use the grant money to help renovate and furnish the shelter's portion of the building, according to Nancy Hammond, capital campaign special project coordinator for the agency. The shelter will have a separate entrance and elevator, she said.

REACH needs to raise about $150,000 more to meet its $750,000 goal for the shelter, she said, adding that she was confident the community would help provide the rest.

"The community has been terrific," she said.

Hammond said when REACH officials applied for the grant, they weren't sure how much they might get.

"We're happy to get the money, but most of all the vote of confidence," she said. "When the state looks at your project and says 'this is solid,' that really says something."

REACH hopes to move into the building in February.

State Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, Del. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner and Councilwoman Carol Moller were on hand for the announcement.

"We don't enjoy being a city where we have people who are homeless or have to be on the street," Breichner said.

The humane thing, he said, is to provide a place for them to go.

Wayne Winebrenner, president of Aspiring to Serve, noted that Christ's Reformed's congregation of 650 has given more than $1 million for the building project. The group won an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $350,000 last month and still is raising funds needed to complete construction. Winebrenner said about $1 million would be needed to finish work on common areas between the new building and the church and to finish construction on the building.

The Washington County Health Department will move its Women, Infants and Children nutrition program into the building in January, according to Health Officer William Christoffel. Winebrenner said two other potential tenants are interested in the facility.

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